SHARPEN YOUR SKILLS, OR LEARN NEW ONES, ON YOUR NEXT WEEKEND AWAY. HERE ARE SOME OF OUR FAVOURITE COUNTRY COOKING SCHOOLS.
In a shed on an apple farm, surrounded by lush lawns and with rows of trees stretching into the distance, Tara Mills is doing something she loves: sharing traditional skills. Some weekends, this self-taught cook teaches breadmaking, while other classes include sweet pastries or gardening. “I was fortunate to spend my childhood surrounded by green f ields and a large vegetable patch, with something always bubbling away on the Aga or a cake baking in the oven… this has always been a part of me, baking and growing vegetables,” Tara says. She lives with her partner and three children not far from Glenbernie Orchard, a farm about an hour south of Sydney, where owners Glenn and Jo-anne Fahey grow apples and stone fruit, and where Tara runs her classes. Tara ran a small bakery before deciding to concentrate on the workshops; Mill Lane was launched last year. Half-day classes in French breads and pastry are regulars, as is preserving. A one-day edible garden workshop is led several times a year by Narelle Happ, and Tara has just launched Slow Stitch Saturdays, with basket maker Brooke Munro. Those arriving for a class are offered a cup of tea and a slice of one of Tara’s excellent cakes — usually made with fruit from the farm. Tara is a cheerful and encouraging teacher, imparting clever tips to those with experience and reassuring beginners. The shed, decorated with straw-bale seats, and f lowers and herbs from Tara’s garden, is only metres away from Glenbernie Orchard’s Apple Shack farm shop, and there’s always time during class to pop over and stock up on apples, potatoes, honey or eggs. At the end of the day, students relax over a shared platter and a glass of sparkling wine, or cider made from the farm’s apples, before heading home with a bag filled with class notes and food. “Mill Lane is about building communities and bringing people together,” says Tara, who keeps regular classes to no more than eight students — “That means I can give each student my full attention.” from $195. 259 Darkes Forest Road, Darkes Forest, NSW. 0416 006 122; milllaneworkshops.com For accommodation, try Otford Cottage, a 15-minute drive from the farm. 0431 615 941; otfordcottagebandb.com.au