Modern British... or traditional?

11 March 2005

It was my first time ever as a student in the kitchen – I think I was sort of interested in taking classes, but never quite enough to actually do it. Since we moved out of London, I gradually started eating/buying more and more local food. I don’t know what exactly made me do so, but I just started feeling uncomfortable buying fresh food from supermarkets – and fortunately we can get decent fish/meat or fruit/veg locally. Somewhere along the way, I got to know about this local cookery school which had quite a good reputation – and I have a lovely friend and neighbour who is a wonderful cook and was also keen to take a day course with me. The school is always popular and you need to book quite far in advance – they are listed in the book A Place to Cook, which covers good cookery schools all over the world with lots of beautiful pictures. The school has so many different courses (day or weekend) and it was hard for us to choose, but we decided to go for Modern British.

Situated in Aldeburgh – which is a pretty town on the Suffolk coast (I took the main picture on the beach) – the school is in a nicely converted Victorian house; the kitchen itself was typical modern country style and very comfortable. It is run buy Thane Prince, who has been a food journalist more than 20 years, including for the Daily Telegraph; and also Sara Fox, who runs a lovely restaurant called The Lighthouse just opposite the school. They were both really good teachers and also very funny!

We were expecting some sort of culinary lessons like filleting or jointing, but rather, it was more demonstration based – which I thought was fine as nothing on the menu (listed below) needed special skills or techniques!

Here’s what we cooked:

Chocolate eclairs
Cheese straws
Quail eggs with cumin salt
Pea soup with cod fillet
Brine-cured pork with orange roasted beets and mashed potatoes
Brown bread ice cream
Lardy cake
Egg custard tart

We made the eclairs and a few types of bread first – one of them was called Lardy cake, which I had never heard of… (I actually didn’t know the word ‘lardy’!) When they put the white block on the worktop, I wasn’t sure what that was – but when I knew it was lard, I was horrified by the quantity (and started thinking about the Fergus Henderson book)! I was still thinking ‘I can’t eat this’ when it came out from the oven, but it was surprisingly delicious and I loved it! The currants go well with the sweet dough and it wasn’t as greasy or lardy as I thought. Hmm, I’m becoming more and more English…

As you can tell from the menu, we didn’t do any fancy dishes – well, I guess that’s what British cooking is. However, I could appreciate how important it is to use the best possible local ingredients – the roasted cod fillet was simply beautiful and very meaty (I don’t think you would normally use this word to describe cod, but it was) and melted in my mouth! The pork belly was so flavoursome with lovely crackling… and the brown bread ice cream! I could eat it every day!

Pea soup with cod fillet – I could eat more of this…

Crackling on top!

Overall, it was very enjoyable, even though perhaps not as hands-on as we had been expecting. Thane and Sara (and the other staff) were enjoying both the cooking and sharing the meals with us – the long lunch was accompanied by very interesting stories from them (including some about well-known chefs!)

There are many pretty towns and villages in this area – I recommend that anyone who can should spend a long weekend taking in English countryside…

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  • I feel so unaware, but I must ask... what is brown bread ice cream? Is it an ice cream flavoured with yeast and hops or are there chunks of bread in a cream-egg custard or is it like bread pudding? It sounds so intriguing, but I can’t picture it...

    Posted by Sarah | 12 March 2005 #
  • It’s the latter. it was BIG in Britain in the 70s/80s. The icecream contains fresh brown breadcrumbs.Nice to see it’s making a comeback. My English friend Penny and were just reminiscing about it the other week.

    your picture of the beach is stunning. I had an argument with my office mates the other day because they all laughed and me and gave me a load of grief when I said English beaches are beautiful.

    Posted by Sam | 13 March 2005 #
  • Keiko, were all that food meant for one meal? No wonder I had indigestion the entire time I was in London last year. Not sure about Lardy cake, but that pea soup looks tempting. Will you be going back for more lessons?

    Posted by Lynn | 13 March 2005 #
  • Keiko, it was good to meet you last week at the course. I must say that the Lardy Cake will not feature in my repertoire...I’d like to enjoy my old age!! The pork was meltingly tender!

    One of the main benefits of a day like that is meeting likeminded people and picking up good tips. Incidentally have you tried the Balsamic Vineager (8 yr old) they sold... it completely changed my opinion of it, I was never a fan before. It is available on line from the FRESH OLIVE COMPANY.

    I hope to go gack for another course next year! are right, the beaches in the UK can be very beautiful, but it would help if the weather was always as good as it looks in Keiko’s photo!!

    Posted by Mimi | 13 March 2005 #
  • I love it all! But Keiko, maybe you could help us out a bit and mention some places to visit/stay? With related websites? I have been trying to get my husband to take me to London, but the english countryside sounds better. I especially like that last pick with the cracklings on top.

    Posted by rowena | 14 March 2005 #
  • Keiko, this looks like a remarkable experience. I’m always curious about recipes...are you planning to post any of these?

    Posted by Julie | 14 March 2005 #
  • what camera do you use for these shots?

    Posted by rae | 14 March 2005 #
  • Hi Sarah - Thanks for visiting, as Sam explained for me (thanks, Sam) it’s basically vanilla ice cream but the breadcrumbs give it more texture and flavour. I’ll make a post about it sometime (hopefully soon).

    Hi Sam - English beaches are beautiful! I think that’s partly because I’m from the north of Japan where the beaches are similar, I much prefer them to the tropical variety. It was absolutely stunning when we went to the west coast of Scotland (oh, that’s not England, is it...)

    Hi Lynn - Yes, we (well, at least I) ate them all. I’m not planning to take any more lessons, but I’d quite like to learn some patisserie skills one day.

    Hi Mimi - It was lovely to meet you at the course too, I remember you didn’t/couldn’t eat the lardy cake... I don’t think I could eat *lots*, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I’m glad you liked the balsamic vinegar, my recent favourite recipe is caramel balsamic icecream (I’m going to post about this soon).
    I hope you enjoy the next course too!

    Hi Rowena - I’m happy to hear that you’re planning to come over, we must meet up! You could come to see my naughty cat too :) I couldn’t find any good
    sites for Suffolk, but besides Aldeburgh, Orford is another pretty town on the coast and there are plenty more lovely places to visit. I’ll try to post about them before you come.

    Hi Julie - It was good fun, I don’t think I’ll get round to posting all the recipes, but if there are any that you particularly want to see, let me know and I’ll try to post them.

    Hi rae - As I mentioned before, I use Minolta A2.

    Posted by keiko | 16 March 2005 #
  • hi Keiko, I have to laugh abt your ’lardy’ experience. Just last week I decided to make traditional Southern Fried Chicken *exactly* how it was in the cookbook. So I used lard for frying - same as the one you used. It was delicious! Although when I saw how it quickly solidified after it cooled I almost could feel my arteries constricting. haha!

    Posted by celiaK | 25 March 2005 #
  • Hi Celia - thanks for sharing your *lardy* story! Your Southern Fried Chicken sounds so delicious, even though we know all that lard is in our body... Did you buy it at supermarket?

    Posted by keiko | 27 March 2005 #
  • Hi, just wondering... would you be able to post the recipe for the brown bread ice cream? it sounds really good and i’ve always wanted to try making my own ice cream :D

    Posted by faith | 6 April 2005 #
  • Hi faith - I’ve put the recipe up as a new post, please let me know when you try it out!

    Posted by keiko | 12 April 2005 #
  • Beautiful lighting on the first shot.

    Posted by Smoove D | 14 May 2005 #
  • Hi, Keiko, Johnny here. I’m already a devoted fan...has Matthew changed his eating habits by now? I love your pictures. Amazing. xx

    Posted by johnny bull | 14 July 2005 #
  • Hi Johnny - thank you for your kind note, I’m a bit embarrassed by a compliment from somebody professional like you - I have loads to learn! And no, Matthew hasn’t changed anything as you might know...

    Posted by keiko | 15 July 2005 #
  • I agree with Johnny. Your photos are absolutely fantastic.

    Posted by Gerald | 31 July 2005 #
  • Hi Gerald - thanks so much for your kind note.

    Posted by keiko | 1 August 2005 #
  • I’m going to London soon! I’ll have to tell my friend to make all those for me when I get there! ...but I’m afraid shes more specialized in little effort chinese food haha :)

    Posted by noogies | 9 February 2008 #

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