The Date Jar was an idea I had a few months ago, to read more about it the article is linked here.
My better half’s birthday was coming and so, like men all around the world, I was thrown into deep thought, considering all the possibilities and ideas to find the perfect gift. Obviously there were certain things that I shouldn’t get, such as lingerie, sporting equipment or anything that could infer an ulterior motive that could be perceived as even remotely negative.
Luckily, I had a list of things that had been hinted at or dropped into conversation from time to time over the course of the relationship. I had secretly noted these down and made a large list of experiences and presents that had seemed noteworthy. I would recommend for anyone dating someone to do this, simply because it can make your relationship less stressful and will result in everyone being happier at the end of the day. After all, there is nothing worse than feeling the stress of an encroaching birthday only to find out that you have no idea what to get!
One of the things that had been mentioned a few times was that my partner wanted to do a gourmet cooking class, to learn how to cook something new. So I decided this would be a perfect gift idea for a birthday as it is something fun and interactive that we could do together. I started searching around looking specifically for Chinese cookery courses (as it is her favourite food) and quickly stumbled upon many cookery schools in the south that would teach you how to cook Chinese. The next challenge was to decide on which cookery school to pick, each had impressive resumes and top chefs as well as dauntingly complex menus. However, I soon stumbled across an article that Waitrose had started a cookery school, and having had fantastic service and products from both John Lewis and Waitrose I decided to look them up, finding many positive reviews about the level of teaching and the relaxed, fun atmosphere of the course.
Before I knew it, I had made a decision to take my other half to the ‘Chinese Buffet’ cookery day, which is 8 courses cooked over a 7-hour period, allowing for plenty of time for demonstrations, relaxing, eating and wine! Fast forward 2 months and my partner and I arrive at the doors to the school which is tucked above a Waitrose in Finsbury, we were greeted by an impressive artesian buffet breakfast with various yogurts, muffins and cereals, along with a collection of fruit flavoured waters and juices. After eating a little too much breakfast, we were greeted by the head Chef, a portly jovial man who had trained and cooked in some of London’s top culinary spots such as the Ivy hotel.
He quickly ran us through our impressively well-equipped work stations, as well as the fridge that held all our pre-measured ingredients. The cookery class was structured in a way that allowed time for the chef to run through the meal you were about to cook, demonstrating the techniques and talking you through tips and tricks to getting these techniques right. Then you were separated in to pairs to prepare and cook the meal, all the time having the watchful, but unobtrusive eyes of the chef roaming the room and assisting you when needed. In total we had to prepare and cook four separate meals as well as a demonstration and tasting of three more dishes.
The first meal was sea bass on a bed of cabbage; we started by making a complex seasoning as well as preparing all the garnish that was to be steamed with the fish. Once the prep work was done we de-boned the fish and laid it onto a large white plate with a bed of cabbage surrounding it. From here the plate was placed inside a large wok to be steam cooked. During the steaming process we chopped, diced and sliced an array of shoots and vegetables to garnish our fish. After 7 minutes the whole lot came out of the wok and was freshly plated, allowing us a few moments to calm down and enjoy a few glasses of white wine with our fish.
This was followed by us cooking sesame seed prawn toast, served with crispy chilli green beans and chicken hot pot. After another round of wine and dining we braved the kitchen once more to make Sung Choi Bao Pork that was spooned into baby lettuce. For dessert, we served a mango sorbet on seared mango with a bed of coconut rice pudding. The hot seared mango combined with the sticky rice pudding and the smooth sorbet was divine. All of these dishes were surprisingly easy to make and, regardless of your cooking ability, you will be able to dice, mince, puree, chop, steam, sauté, fry, sear and griddle like a pro once you have finished!
So, overall, if you are struggling for ideas, have a look at cookery school. They are guaranteed to create a lasting memory filled with laughter, smiling, wine and culinary delights!
*Something that I should forewarn you about is that if you decide to go on a cookery course, beware of the number of courses you are cooking. We made the mistake of eating all of our dishes we prepared, meaning by the time we had polished of our 4th meal and had the final tasting session we were slightly worse for wear. Not only had we eaten enough in a 5 hour period to feed a family of four for a week, we then finished with tasting sessions of duck and sweet and sour pork, which are quite fatty heavy meals.
For more info on the course please visit Waitrose Cookery School