Courses and deli
How to make artisan cheese in Derbyshire and stock up on cured meat in London
Tim Maddams talks quickly. Which is just as well, as we’ve got a lot to get through. The former head chef of River Cottage Canteen’s course in artisan foods covers bread baking, cheesemaking, preserving, hot smoking and pasta, all in one day. Yet things don’t feel rushed in the airy and well-appointed kitchens of Seasoned Cookery School. Tim gives a series of demonstrations, after each of which we, his 11 apprentices, have a go at ourselves.
We start with focaccia and Tim repeats the old adage that ‘wetter is better’ when it comes to dough, adding the less-well-known advice that it should be sticky ‘like chewing gum on a coach seat in the 1970s’. He also advocates putting an unglazed floor tile in your oven to help regulate the temperature.
While the dough for our focaccia is rising, we turn our attention to making cheese with raw milk from the farm owned by Seasoned’s proprietor Clare Major. Warmed to body temperature and with rennet added, it separates into set curds and whey. We tie the curds up in muslin and hang them on a hat stand to drain.
Next up is pasta. Traditionally it’s made with very hard durum wheat but we’re using finely milled white spelt instead, which is much easier to knead and roll (by hand, of course) before we form it into pinched little diamonds called strichetti. These are to be our lunch, served alongside a simple but delicious sauce made from cauliflower softened in olive oil with chilli and garlic.
Having eaten, it’s time to knock back our breads, make a butternut squash pickle and watch Tim demonstrate how to hot-smoke trout fillets before baking our focaccias and checking the cheeses. The loaves, drizzled with plenty of olive oil before baking, come out of the oven with a glorious golden crust and chewy interior.
One usually eats well on cookery courses but having a takeaway goodie bag is the real treat here. The cheese, I discover, is nice when eaten fresh but it’s even better when it’s treated like paneer and lightly grilled or fried. I can’t wait to get some rennet and start experimenting at home. And, of course, that’s the real bonus: after just one day with Tim we have come away with skills and techniques that can be built on and adapted for years to come. CH.
The artisan food course costs £165. Day and half-day courses are available, ranging from basics such as bread baking to specialities including pasta making and game cookery. seasonedcourses.com