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by Eilidh MacPherson
An invite to the Edinburgh School of Food & Drink was a welcome pre-Christmas outing.
For me it was a trip down memory lane as the cookery school was right next door to the farm where I spent my practical year as a student, working as a tractor driver. As we passed I spied a tractor ploughing in the same field that I ploughed my first furrow, albeit on a Ford 6600 with a two furrow reversible plough!
No time for reminiscing, Jacqui and I were running close to our 10am cookery class and we still had to locate the building. Situated in the stable block of Newliston House, Kirkliston, nestled on the edge of woodland, the Edinburgh School of Food & Drink is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the motorway and Newbridge Roundabout we exited only minutes beforehand.
We met Lizzie, one of the School lecturers in the car park. She explained that as well as offering one day courses, food and wine evenings, hen parties and Glenmorangie sponsored classes for men, the School offers longer courses for a maximum of 16 students at a time, in 4 week blocks. Other student chefs obtain a Diploma over a six-month period.
“One student now works for Gordon Ramsay and another in Claridges, others have opened up their own restaurants, many on the 4 week course head for the ski slopes and cook in the chalets.” said Lizzie.
Venison from Highland Game was on the menu, with three very different dishes to tackle. Ian Pirie was our tutor. Jacqui followed his lead, while I took notes, photos and of course tasted everything!
Cooking a perfect pave of venison accompanied with a Hassleback potato, griddled parsnip and melting onions in a whisky sauce (pictured left) was Jacqui’s first task.
The Hassleback potato, invented by the Hasslebacken Restaurant in Stockholm, Sweden is a modern twist on traditional roast potatoes. Perfectly rectangular parsnips griddled rather than roasted looked cutting edge. The meat was seared on an extremely hot pan before being roasted for 8 minutes. The finished product looked amazing and tasted divine, with melt in the mouth venison, vegetables and a whisky and juniper berry sauce to die for.
A bizarre marinade of Balsamic vinegar olive oil and chocolate was prepared while slices of fillet were rolled into painfully thin slices. The two were married and chilled for an hour. In the mean time a venison stir fry with seasonal vegetables was whipped up and served for lunch.
Although a self-confessed chocoholic, I must admit I wasn’t looking forward to sampling the raw meat chocolate surprise lurking in the fridge – certainly not something I would have chosen from a menu. My fears dissolved as the concoction was rather pleasing to the palette, but a starter size helping would be plenty.
Jacqui and I really enjoyed our outing and are keen to return to a Chocolate Master Class at some point in the near future. We found little tips very helpful – even holding a knife correctly. Changing the wrist action and sliding the knife back and forward rather than up and down has made a huge difference to my vegetable chopping technique. Apparently Chris Barron’s chef knife skills on You Tube are well worth watching!
Another gem of information gleaned is that many chef reckon that olive oil spoils flavour and they use sunflower or rapeseed oil instead.
All the recipes can be found in the cookery book – Venison, by Maxine Clark, published by Highland Game.