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Guest Blogger

A Day at OutCook Cookery School – A Taste of The North Special Feature

Regular readers of my blog might remember a little article about Ones to Watch in 2014. One of those was OutCook, a Home Cookery School based in Alnwick, which is now open for business and running a big variety of classes. There’s a couple of reasons I love the concept. It’s a family oriented business ran by local people who know the area, there’s a real emphasis on showcasing local talent whether it be producers or skilled professionals and they can teach people new skills.

The School which is managed by Karen Larkin, Director of Alnwick Food Festival and is above Outlook Home Enhancement Centre on Bondgate Without, opposite the Alnwick Playhouse and quite close to Alnwick Gardens and the Town Centre.
I was lucky enough to be invited along to try a course – Cake Classics, which for me was perfect because anytime I can get the opportunity to learn something new especially with food, I am there! When I arrived I was greeted by Karen and led through Outlook to the Cookery School. There’s no surprise that the Cookery School has been kitted out amazingly, the best kit I have seen for training anywhere. There’s no surprise really, when you walk through the shop you can see the quality plain as day.The space really is immaculate. From polished worktops to gas hobs and ovens you would love to see in your house, the design is flawless. The Kilner jars filled with flour and other dry ingredients were just a great touch. The workspace isn’t just pretty, it’s been designed in a way that maximises space, with hidden drawers that store bins for recycling and food waste as well as a utensil drawer. There’s even a great seating area where you can chill with a coffee or beer and eat your wares. It’s a great place to break the ice and get to know your fellow learners and the tutors. When I say tutors, I don’t mean the likes of people who talked at you at school or college but they talk with you and everything is hands on. You’re made to feel so welcome. ‘A home from home’, Karen calls it. It definitely has that feel.

We had introductions and read the safety details, it’s amazing what the HSE make you put in things these days! Sally and Emma, our tutors for the day went through what the menu was for the day dependent on time, we ended up making a Border Tart which is fantastic and I’ll be making that again and again, a Chocolate and Strawberry Gateau which tasted tremendous with a meringue frosting and some incredible Savoury Muffins which were made with Stilton, Herbs and Pine Nuts. We were also treated to a demonstration for Lunch which was a pastry-less quiche with dressed salad.

We started with the pastry & filling for the Border Tart. Think Almond Shortcrust Pastry (which I had never made before), Sultanas soaked in citrus juices topped with and fresh peel and topped with a Lemon Peel I did scuff myself on the graters trying too hard and I did have some spillage on the flour! I hold my hands up that I was a messy worker!!! The Border Tart is ideal for elevenses or afternoon tea. Perfect thing is , it won’t break the bank to create it. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Next item to make was the sponge for the strawberry & Chocolate Gateau. It’s a lighter sponge in the fact that no butter/oil/fat is used in the sponge mix. The addition of Orange Juice & Zest means that the chocolatiness of the sponge isn’t too rich. Dipping Strawberries for garnish was really fun. Needless to say that extra strawberries were consumed with the chocolate. Yummy! We finalised the filling for the border tart and made the drizzle for it as well. It looked incredible.

Time was flying, everyone was having great fun! Next up was Lunch. We were gathered around the demo hob to see how the Pastry-less Quiche was made. This to me was quite handy to know because I don’t like pastry on a quiche. It normally makes it too sweet for my palate. Strange as that may sound. Gouda replaced Cheddar making the filling less fatty as did the crème fraiche,once the egg mix and ingredients had been assembled, the quiche was cooked in a bain marie. Let me tell you, it tasted great. It was served with a dressed salad, some bread and for me a nice bottle of Stella Artois.

Everyone was relaxed after Lunch and recharged. It was on to making the Savoury muffins. For me, ill be making these a lot because they are superior to scones. Light and Airy like a fairy. Fair to say you could make so many different variations but we used Chive, Stilton, Parsley, Seeds and Nuts. Fantastic. And quick to make!
It was time to make the Meringue Buttercream. Wow. I think its possible the best topping for a gateau I’ve made! I absolutely loved hammering the whisk to make the meringue over a pan of simmering water. It worked off some of the Border Tart!!! We pulsed in some strawberry and some cool melted butter whipped it up and decorated our Gateaux. Due to the stability of the ingredients it needs to be ate quickly. It didn’t take long for the family to devour most of mine when I showed them my wares. I’m glad I took enough tupperware because there was a lot to take home! Not only the food but the recipes too!

Having a look at some of the other classes, there are some great things happening. Gareth Kyle has already done a Tapas class there that sounded like it was an amazing time. Taste of the North Favourite Kirsty Cruickshank was there on Friday 21st March. If you haven’t heard of Kirsty, she is an expert in Fish and I saw her last demo at Alnwick Food Festival.

After the class had finished and I was waiting for Mrs S, I was speaking with Karen about the space and was very impressed with her plans to maximise usage because as an experience it could accommodate a lot. It would be great for team building exercises, parties a night with mates, a dayout with a difference with your children because yes they do kids and grown up kids class too. I loved the sound of the Boys in the Kitchen class that was on a couple of weeks ago and I think I’ll try and see if I can arrange one with my mates back up home. Last time they made fillet steak and had beers. My kinda night.

I would highly recommend OutCook to everyone. Check out their website for a class to attend or get in touch with them to see if they can sort something out for you and your pals or company.

I would like to thank Ben & Julia Keenan & Karen Larkin for making such a wonderful and unique fun space in Alnwick. Cant wait to see you guys soon.

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