I admit that as I entered the Culinary Cottage, near Abergavenny, the thought of a full day’s Cookery Course, taught by Penny Lewis, had been a little daunting at first.
For Penny regularly cooks for royalty, including recently, the Queen and Prince Phillip, but I needn’t have worried.
For any nerves about the day ahead soon dissipated like the steam from the coffee simmering on the immaculate blue Aga.
Penny Lewis’s immaculate yet homely blue and white kitchen, was further enhanced by the picture perfect setting of her lovely cottage surrounded by views of the Skirrid mountain, a fast flowing stream and fields full of sheep.
I’d first seen Penny at work at The Abergavenny Food Festival, and had been impressed by her calmness and obvious knowledge and was thrilled to get a place on one of her popular courses.
Penny Lewis’s patience and kindness soon got us into the swing of things on her deceptively well-organised Culinary Cottage Cookery Course. I’d enrolled on her ‘Tasting’ Course, designed to give people a taste of her many different courses.
I admit, there were a few ‘F’ words, but nothing rude, only the likes of Food, Fun and Focaccia.
As we glanced through the recipe folder we were given, I wondered which of the many dishes we’d be learning that day. We all gasped when Penny said, ‘You’ll be cooking all of these today, some for your lunch, some for dinner and some to take home.’
‘She’s got to be kidding’, we laughed.
Feeling very ‘chef-like’ in our posh ‘Culinary Kitchen’ aprons, now tied at the front with a starched tea towel tucked into the front, we got down to business. After being taught the benefits of poaching rather than roasting a chicken, and with the chicken cooking away, we were soon making focaccia bread. While it was rising, we started on delicious ‘Champagne Jellies’, and then on to cheese pastry for our quiches, and so it continued, dish after dish.
All through the day, Penny kept giving us little gems of advice on buying and preparing all manner of dishes, not just those we were making that day. She remained completely unflappable, a true professional with a great willingness to pass on her amazing skills and years of experience.
Before we knew it we were sitting down for a 3 course lunch, served in Penny’s lovely dining room, and marvelled at the quality and quantity of the food we’d already prepared in a matter of hours.
After coffee in the lounge, we returned to the kitchen, eager to learn more. Although we’d never met before, we all felt like friends by now, and there was a bit of banter about whether ‘the boys’ or ‘the girls’ could make the best ‘Lemon Drizzle Cake’. There was no winner as both were perfect, and better than any we had ever tasted.
Our quiches were a roaring success – I could hardly believe I had actually made mine, it looked so professional, I was thrilled.
We were soon happily rolling Thai fishcakes in floured hands; blitzing an emerald ‘Salsa Verde’; scoring rumps of lamb; marinating courgettes; shelling broad beans and making our meringues into roulades – to name just a few.
The hours flew by and after a quick tidy up, it was time to once again to take our goodies into the dining room. Penny had lit candles and it was truly astounding to us all, to be eating so well, on a delicious four-course meal that WE had prepared, not a chef – us!
While we all signed the Visitor’s Book, Penny returned to the kitchen to prepare our ‘goodie bags’, lovely ‘Culinary Kitchen’ bags, full of our remaining dishes, bread and cakes, etc.
The young husband, whose wife had bought him the Cookery Course as a Christmas present, couldn’t wait to show his family the many things he’d made.
We’d learnt so much, used loads of top quality ingredients, been fed 2 huge meals, had a ‘Goodie Bag’ and above all, it had been so enjoyable.
We all agreed that at £100 per day, the Culinary Cottage Cookery Course, had been excellent value for money, and we all got out our diaries to see when we could fit in the next one!
The Culinary Cottage does a number of different day courses and longer residential courses, staying in the immaculate and cottagey rooms upstairs.
We all agreed it had been worth every ‘Penny’.
*Infinite Travel will be happy to arrange a course at Culinary Cottage along with other activities in South Wales and accommodation in the area.
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