Learn to cook with Preston experts

PUBLISHED: 08:35 09 August 2010 | UPDATED: 17:40 20 February 2013

Learn to cook with Preston experts

Learn to cook with Preston experts

Our culinary challenged reporter Emma Mayoh gets a taste of a new cookery course in Preston

Thank goodness for Colin Burbidge. If it hadnt been for the wine enthusiast my cheese flan would have flopped, my lamb would have been burnt to a crisp and the Chorley cakes would have been done for.

Its safe to say that while I can rustle up a decent meal - on the rare occasion Im let loose in the kitchen - Im more of a novice than a Nigella. My abilities dont extend much beyond a chicken stir fry or a bigger than youll ever need Lancashire hotpot. The few successes I have had have been more because I have stuck to a recipe like glue, and had a bit of luck, than any culinary excellence.

But with the help and keen eye of Colin, the person unfortunate enough to have his cookery station next to me on the Taste of Lancashire course at Preston Cookery School, I managed to cook a banquet of tasty dishes made from produce grown, reared or made on our doorstep.

Our group of nine were the first lucky people to take part in a new series of one day courses at the school, based at Preston College. Over the coming months there will be more including butchery, curries and spices, sugar craft and sustainable fish. Its all aimed at getting more people interested in learning to cook or to sharpen their skills as well as trying to increase the number of people visiting the city. It is hoped the school will become a destination for locals and tourists.

It has been developed by accomplished chef and former Preston College pupil Marc McCrone, who used to work at Savoy-owned Simpsons in the Strand, along with award-winning pastry and patisserie chef Sandra Grice and experienced chefs and brothers Jason and Simon Whittle.

Simon, more used to working with an expert team in the several restaurants he has worked in the region, had the task of steering us through any culinary pitfalls as well as promoting local Lancashire produce. And there was plenty of that.

We were going to be cooking everything from Bury Black Pudding with scallops from Fleetwood, roast Goosnargh duck leg from farmer Reg Johnson with pickled vegetables from Fylde-based Growing with Nature, a tasty flan using Mrs Kirkhams cheese and traditional Chorley cakes. There was also Morecambe Bay shrimp and smoked eel from the Port of Lancaster Smokehouse cooked up for us to try into an unusual shrimp cappuccino and eel crostini.

The course is designed to provide you with a starter, a few main meal options and a dessert for you to try at home. Simon talked us through the recipes and showed us step-by-step how to create these seemingly expert dishes. We were also introduced to our tools for the day, including the scary set of kitchen knives which Im pleased to say did not get the better of me.

When we started cooking the fun really started. Everyone mucked in and helped each other. The first half of the day we cooked the black pudding and scallop starter and the duck dish - which went remarkably well. We were then allowed to enjoy these for our lunch with a choice of wine, beer or soft drink, or a locally brewed ale from Bowland Brewery in Bashall Eaves - a particular favourite.

After lunch it was back to the kitchen to make some more Lancashire treats. We did Bowland lamb with minted peas, sauted kidneys and Marsala sauce - my particular favourite. This was a dish I would never dreamed of tackling unsupervised but now - after nearly setting my hair on fire when I was flambing the meat - Id feel completely confident trying this at home. We moved onto the Chorley cakes, a surprisingly easy dish which we all enjoyed fresh from the oven with ice-cream Simon had whipped up for us in a spare minute. The remaining dishes we had made but not got around to eating were wrapped up for us to take home.

The day was a lot of fun and made me believe that maybe I can be more of a Nigella.

Of course, I had Colin keeping a watchful eye over me, providing me with ingredients when he spotted my umpteenth bewildered expression. I did make a few mistakes - the flambing incident was probably my worst - but I survived it unscathed. We were all sent away with a goodie bag filled with the ingredients to make the dishes again at home.

This is a really good way of encouraging us to keep buying local food. It is also a way of getting you cooking more at home, although Im not sure my friends and family will be too pleased to hear that.

If you would like to take part in one of many courses at Preston Cookery School please contact 01772 225413 or visit www.prestoncookeryschool.co.uk for more details.

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