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The School of Artisan Food Review: The Flag Bearer for Culinary Teaching
The School of Artisan Food is committed to teaching people, whether complete beginners or professionals brushing up on their skills, to handle artisan produce with care. Located just outside of Sheffield on the Welbeck Estate within the stunning scenery of Sherwood Forest, The School’s very setting lends itself to learning about artisan food.
The School’s Setting
Driving down on a sunny Saturday morning, the photos on the website could not have prepared us for such a magnificent location. Treelined country lanes scattered with historical buildings and stunning scenery. The School itself is housed in the former fire stables dating back to 1870. Each training room is specially equipped for the teaching of breadmaking, cheesemaking, brewing, butchery, charcuterie and preserving. If you’re serious about food and learning how to showcase it in the best way possible, then this is the place for you.
Once parked and acquainted with our beautiful surroundings we were gathered upstairs into the onsite refectory kitchen before the course commenced. An unexpected but very welcomed addition was the selection of homemade loaves of bread, pastries and artisanal preserves to tuck into before heading off to our respective courses. Make sure to skip breakfast to enjoy this pre-course bite to eat!
Fire and Smoke – BBQ Cooking Course
Course cost: £195 per person
Time: 9:30am – 5:00pm
Our chosen course for the day was Fire and Smoke – BBQ Cooking. Headed up by expert butcher Chris Moorby and his son Tom. And who better to run this course then this warm, friendly and relaxed double-act. Chris has worked in the meat industry for over 35 years from production and technical management to product development and quality assurance. Tom began his career in a professional kitchen over 10 years ago and has since worked in award-winning restaurants and hotels across the UK.
We started the course with a brief history of barbeque and the cultural differences throughout the world, including the many types of barbeque (I’d never even heard of an electric barbeque until today!) not to mention the age-old barbeque debate.
What’s the best fuel for the barbie? Now if you’re anything like me, and I’d say the vast majority of BBQ enthusiasts, you’ll pick up the first bag you see that looks a fair price, then get it home and wonder why it goes from red hot coals to cold white ash in the space of 20 minutes. Thankfully Chris and Tom were on hand to give their expert tips on what to look for, where to source and also the pros and cons of lump charcoal vs briquettes. There’s nothing worse than a failed attempt at barbequing to dent the chef’s pride. Armed with my new-found knowledge how to light, setup and maintain the fire, the days of underwhelming BBQ will be a thing of the past!
Sauces, rubs and marinades
After the theory, Chris and Tom then moved onto our first practical task of the day by making sauces and marinades. Our first lesson was sticky bbq sauce. Now, this is something I would have never thought to attempt until now. Tom gave an informative demonstration along with all the ingredients to create a super tasty BBQ sauce.
This followed by another classic, the south American staple accompaniment to all BBQ, Chimichurri. I’ve attempted this a few times but it’s never had the desired taste. Tom’s recipe had a great balance of heat, acid and fresh herbs that went perfect with a whole host of meats and seafood. Luckily we made a big batch each so had plenty to take home at the end of the day along with a load of other recipes.
Meats and poultry
Once we’d finished our homemade marinades, Chris gave a whistlestop tour of the different dry rubs, which were then massaged over a full chicken before being roasted ‘beercan’ style in the huge Big Green Egg BBQ.
If that wasn’t enough as part of the class, Chris then gave us all a hands-on chorizo sausage-making masterclass where each of the course students got a chance to make sausages with his expert guidance. I wasn’t expecting to cover such a vast array of techniques as part of the BBQ course but both Chris and Tom went above and beyond to share their knowledge and keep the day as interactive as possible.
Next Chris and Tom instructed the class how to spatchcock poussin, and how to cook and prep beef on the bone into the different types of steak cuts. Both things I’d always wanted to attempt but feared the possibility of ruining an expensive cut of meat. Armed with my new-found knowledge I’ll be happy to attempt these in a flash.
Seafood & Vegetables
After a light lunch provided by the School, we were back in the kitchen prepping more artisanal produce for our BBQ feast. Next up, the group was tasked with shelling the finest langoustines and slicing salmon fillets from Sheffield’s finest fishmonger JH Mann. Together with Tom canoe-filleting a whole seabass before stuffing with various herbs, spices and marinades ready for the BBQ.
Not only did we learn a vast array of meat and seafood dishes to cook on the BBQ. We also prepped some delicious aubergine stacks with tomato, basil and mozzarella, as well as halloumi and veg skewers for a great meat alternative.
Once all the food was prepped and the marinades had a chance to soak into the dishes, it was then onto the cooking. The equipment at The School of Artisan Food is second to none and it was great to see how Chris and Tom prepared the charcoals, lit the fires then and readied the BBQ for the feast.
From the huge Big Green Egg and XL Drumbeque BBQ to the Hot Box Smoker, The School of Artisan Food had a range of equipment to suit everyone’s needs.
Firstly the Big Green Egg is a professional but expensive bit of kit, so to see this in action and ask any questions about maintaining the coals or cooking techniques was invaluable to anyone looking to add one to their home or kitchen.
The course attendees were then treated to Tom and Chris cooking everything prepared that day. With stuffed seabass, salmon fillet parcels and chimichurri marinated prawns on the big green egg. Spatchcock poussin, homemade chorizo Parrillo and tomahawk steaks on the mammoth drum BBQ, together with Chris’s daring addition – marinated ox heart finished in the hot smoker.
The level of care and attention shone through in each finished dish. Melt in the mouth tender steaks. Juicy prawns and the most succulent roasted chicken thanks to the beer can technique and the Big Green Egg. Together with our homemade marinades, sauces and sides, there was plenty to go round and each guest took a healthy selection of the day’s food home, together with recipes and a School of Artisan Food tote bag.
BBQ Brownie anyone?
School of Artisan Food Review Summary
The School of Artisan food really is the flag bearer for all manner of culinary teaching so I knew we were in for a great day. However, I was blown away by the level of detail from the course tutors along with their friendly and relaxed teaching style, not to mention the fabulous facilities in such a beautiful location. From complete novices to budding foodies, or even anyone looking for a career in food but looking for guidance and expertise, The School of Artisan Food covers a range of courses to suit everyone’s needs. Not to mention the perfect gift idea for that foodie loved one.
Alison Swan Parente, the Founder of The School, ‘wants everyone to have the opportunity to understand food provenance, be adventurous about what they eat and to be confident and creative around food’ – a concept we can all get behind with the artisan food movement exploding in popularity as more and more people seek out food with provenance and quality. ‘Artisan’ is a term used to describe food produced by non-industrialised methods, often handed down through generations but now in danger of being lost. The School is keen to hold onto this precious food preparation and cooking methods, so it teaches its students with a passion that the love of good food may continue through the generations.
Find out more about The School of Artisan Food and their courses via https://www.schoolofartisanfood.org/
The School of Artisan Food, Lower Motor Yard, Welbeck, Nottinghamshire S80 3LR – 01909 532171