It’s a little disconcerting chopping up your food while it’s watching you. Still, there was no time to be squeamish as we began filleting our plaice, scoring down the spine and letting the flexible knife slide under the flesh, close to the bones as instructed, trying to ignore the plaintive gawp staring back up from the worktop.
I’ve never cooked fish from scratch in my life. It looks like a messy job, and is clearly several leagues away from chucking tuna chunks into a pasta dish or popping a bit of smoked salmon on a cracker with cream cheese. Ashamedly, all my meat and fish comes to my house fully cut, prepped and ready to make a meal out of with minimal effort. There are certainly no eyes involved.
Spring fish masterclass
I sought to remedy this by joining Cambridge Cookery School’s ‘spring fish’ masterclass, held at their bright, shiny kitchen down Purbeck Road. It’s a wonderful space, with sleek white units and state-of-the-art appliances, colourful crockery and herbs growing in pots on the window ledges.
Our chef for the day was Tracy Cullum, and our small class of four soon got chatting over tea and home-made cinnamon buns, before getting stuck in. With Tracy at the helm, talking us through every step of our recipes, I felt in utterly safe hands. The group shared tips on avoiding watery eyes while chopping onions (contact lenses, apparently), and soon we’d filleted a goggle-eyed plaice, sleek mackerel and gutted a fat trout (he’d be stuffed and served whole).
Mussels were also on today’s menu and we checked each one was closed, or would close after a firm tap, before tumbling them into a pan with softened onions, saffron, white wine and garlic, with cream and parsley to follow.
By now our group was getting hungry, and Tracy poured the wine as we sat down Cambridge Cookery School at one of the benches to enjoy the fruits of the morning’s labour, pleased with the results.
About Cambridge Cookery School
Cambridge Cookery School, which was named UK Cookery School of the Year in 2013, began in founder Tine Roche’s kitchen in Cambridge back in 2008. The inspiration for setting up was simple, as Tine explains.
“I love eating well, so greed drives me!” she laughs. “I love the pleasure my food gives others. Sharing my passion and skills is hugely rewarding; the gratitude we get from guests can be quite overwhelming.”
The school’s classes are for absolutely anyone, whether you’re an expert in the kitchen or a stranger to the stove. The main aim is to get people cooking, which Tine believes is in danger of becoming a lost art.
“People are spending less time cooking and more time watching cookery programmes on television. I think it’s vital to get people cooking, for the health of the nation, in particular for future generations. Buying ingredients instead of meals also saves money. And as anxiety relating to food – from worries about sugar and salt to hidden nasties such as horse meat – is steadily increasing, cooking from scratch is the only way to grab back control over what we put through our bodies.”
Cambridge Cookery School also runs cookery survival courses to equip teenagers with basic skills for university and beyond, and several new classes have been added to their already dazzling array for 2014, including a veggie masterclass, curries of the world and perfect tarts.
For the latest classes, visit: www.cambridgecookeryschool.com