Ever wondered how to make the perfect pork pie, proper homebrew or a real curry? We pick the best cookery courses across the UK
Baking weekender, Abingdon, Oxfordshire
Whether you’re a latecomer to baking or a committed Bake Off fan, there’s something to enjoy at Denman College, run by the country’s most-devoted bakers, the Women’s Institutes. Over two days, you’ll be guided through mixing, kneading and baking techniques for a range of cakes, breads, buns and pies. The next weekender kicks off on 8 November.
• From £269pp for two nights full-board (01865 391991, denman.org.uk)
Pork pies and Piccalilli, Buxton, Derbyshire
From streetfood favourite Eat My Pies to scallops with pork pie sauce at two-Michelin-star Hibiscus, the humble pork pie is back on the menu. To learn how to make them, rather than just eat them, try Tideswell School of Food in Derbyshire and its monthly Pork Pies and Piccalilli classes. From boiling up ham hocks and pig bones to make the all-important jelly to shaping hot-water pastry, you’ll leave the class with a telling clutch of porkies.
• £85 half-day (01298 871262, tideswellschooloffood.co.uk). The nearby Devonshire Arms (01246 583258, devonshirepilsley.co.uk) in Pilsley has local ales and doubles from £79 B&B
Cicchetti, Blaenavon, Monmouthshire
Blame it on Russell Norman (of Polpo) if you like, but Venetian small plates have been rising up British-Italian menus faster than flood water in St Mark’s Square. Of course, the best way to get a taste of cicchetti is in the bacari of Venice but this one-day course at The Chef’s Room in Monmouthshire is a great way of finding out how to put your own together. The one-off workshop on 27 September is led by Lindy Wildsmith, co-author of a recent book on the subject.
• £80pp (07928 749611, thechefsroom.co.uk). Other destination restaurants in the area include The Hardwick (01873 854220, thehardwick.co.uk) and The Bell at Skenfrith (01600 750235, skenfrith.co.uk). Nearby Millbrook Cottage (sheepskinlife.com/relax-at/millbrook) is offering 10% off for guests booked on The Chef’s Room courses
Scandinavian Christmas feasting, Bath
Run by French dough maestro Richard Bertinet, the Bertinet Kitchen in Bath offers a broad range of cookery courses but is especially well-regarded for its baking and bread-making expertise. This one-off, one-day workshop on 2 November is no exception. One of a series of classes by guest teachers (upcoming names include chefs Angela Hartnett and Nathan Outlaw, Masterchef winner Shelina Permalloo and chocolate guru William Curley), this one is led by Scandi food writer and chef Signe Johannsen and, while it also covers curing fish, edible gifts and winter salads, there will be plenty of Scandinavian baking involved.
• £165pp with lunch (01225 445531, thebertinetkitchen.com). A new boutique hotel, Grays Bath, opens in the city on 18 October, with doubles from £96 B&B (01225 403020, graysbath.co.uk)
Mini chefs, Masham, North Yorkshire
If your children like cooking and are are at a loose end over October half term, head to Masham. Book in to one of Bivouac’s yurts or shacks and spend a few days enjoying the Yorkshire Dales and expanding your campfire cooking repertoire before signing your fledgling chefs up for a half-day cooking course at neighbouring Swinton Park. Classes include Mini Chefs for six-nine-year-olds, and Basics for Beginners or Confident Cook for 10-14-year-olds.
• Courses from £50pp (01765 680969, swintonpark.com). Yurts from £260 and shacks from £540 (for four nights, 01765 535020, thebivouac.co.uk)
Indian cookery masterclass, Wakefield, West Yorkshire
Prett Tejura’s Wakefield-based but Gujarati-influenced cookery courses have won a wide following. Students on her regular one-day masterclasses are encouraged to steer away from jars of jalfrezi sauce – and the takeaway – and pick up the skills to cook a curry from scratch. All Tejura’s masterclasses cover essential herbs and spices, masala sauce or paste, side dishes and Indian breads. Book in for the one on 16 November and you’ll also get a tour of an Asian food store, to see the ingredients worth buying.
• £150pp with lunch (07903 960914, currycuisinecookeryschool.co.uk). Curryholics can stay over at Wakefield’s Aagrah Hotel (01924 242222, aagrah.com), which has a Kashmiri restaurant and doubles from £40 B&B
Cookery essentials, Edinburgh
For upping your culinary game in a short time, this intensive three-day course covers most bases. Award-winning Edinburgh New Town Cookery School aims the course at novices, teaching everything from knife skills and meat browning to cakes, bread, pastry, fish and veg. The next runs from 4-6 December, catching the Scottish capital at its magical, wintry best. If you have energy left in the evenings, graze your way around the city’s best new kitchens, including Timberyard and The Gardener’s Cottage .
• £420pp (0131-226 4314, entcs.co.uk). Cosy, characterful doubles at 2 Cambridge Street (0131 478 0005, wwwonderful.net) from £95 B&B
Dinner party weekend, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh
Last November the New York Times announced the death of the dinner party. In a world of supper clubs, niche diets, social media and restaurant cultism, hosting friends for supper had become outmoded, it argued. Tell that to cookery schools such as Belle Isle, in County Fermanagh, on the historic Belle Isle estate: Its dinner-party cooking classes are its most popular, and its next (two-day) one is at the end of November, focusing on practical but inspiring recipes and techniques using local, seasonal produce – and adapting these for different seasons and ingredients.
• From £320pp including two nights’ B&B in cottages on the estate, lunches in the cookery school and a dinner party (02895 810546, irishcookeryschool.com)
Craft brewing, London
The US thirst for craft beers has taken hold in London: producers with their own bars include Camden Town Brewery, Crate Brewery and BrewDog. But you can do more than just taste the stuff on London Fields Brewery’s Craft Brewing Experience days. On the first Tuesday of every month, these full-day, hands-on workshops introduce you to the beer-making process with master brewer Ben. You’ll come away with a new understanding of grains, malts, hops and fermentations.
• £95 for the day including lunch (020-7254 7174, londonfieldsbrewery.co.uk). Afterwards, head to The Fox (thefoxe8.com) or Urban Sessions (urbansessions.co.uk) for dinner and more craft beers
Lunch with Mark Hix, Charmouth, Dorset
If you enjoy Mark Hix’s style of cooking, go one better than eating at his restaurants with a Mark’s Kitchen Table experience. When he says his kitchen table, he means it: groups of eight join Hix at his Charmouth home roughly once a month to enjoy a convivial, seasonal four-course lunch, cooked demonstration-style and served with paired wines. You get the chance to quiz the chef and food writer on whatever culinary trick or technique you want to get nailed, from perfect roast chicken to rustling up your own “fish dog”. The next events take place on 2 September and 7 October.
• £175pp including lunch and a signed copy of Mark Hix on Baking (no phone, restaurantsetcltd.co.uk/demonstrations). Doubles at The Abbots House cost from £120, B&B (01297 560339, abbotshouse.co.uk) and the Hix Oyster and Fish House (01297 446910, hixoysterandfishhouse.co.uk) is in Lyme Regis, 10 minutes’ drive away
Wine rides, East Sussex
If you can’t stand the heat – or the idea of being cooped up in a classroom with food-obsessed strangers – concentrate on the drinks side with a Wine Rides pedal through Sussex. Three days of gentle cycling along leafy country lanes are interspersed with two nights’ posh camping (hot showers, toilets, ready-assembled lantern-lit bell tents and hot water bottles) at Sedlescombe and Carr Taylor vineyards. Seasonal three-course dinners, and breakfasts of porridge and bacon rolls are thrown in, as is luggage transfer, and you get a tour and tasting at each vineyard. The next ride starts on 20 September
• From £275pp all-inclusive, or just £90pp if you bring your own tent and food (no phone, winerides.co.uk)
Mushroom foraging, North Yorkshire
We’re getting into the season of mellow fruitfulness where foraging is concerned and, with a wet winter, a cold spring and a warm summer behind us, this is set to be a bumper autumn for mushrooms. Little wonder, then, that foraging experts Taste The Wild has added two extra one-day fungi foraging courses to its calendar due to abundant demand. Running among them in ancient woodland at Temple Newsam, near Leeds (2 and 16 October), during each full day’s outing you’ll learn to identify and cook wild fungi. If you want to take your foraging skills up a gear, the company also runs coastal foraging weekends in the quieter, southern stretches of the Lake District (£280pp, all-inclusive). These cover the edible plants of the local sands and salt marshes as well as shrimps, shellfish, flat fish and sea vegetables. Highlights include with a fishing trip in Morecambe Bay with a third generation local fisherman. The bad news? This year’s coastal foraging trips are fully booked so you’ll have to wait until 2014 to sign up.
• Mushroom foraging courses £55pp, including hot mushroom soup (07914 290083, tastethewild.co.uk
Seafood breaks, Cornwall
The Watergate Bay Hotel and Rick Stein’s Padstow Seafood School are teaming up for these new three-night trips, starting in from November. Stay three nights at the hotel and, while you’re there, you can spend a morning over in Padstow learning how to cook dishes such as seared scallops with Iberico ham or braised ling with lettuce, peas and pancetta. Make it a longer trip, by booking the break that starts on 8 December and, on your way to Watergate Bay, stop off at Outlaw’s at the St Enodoc hotel, Rock, for a Surf & Turf masterclass dinner with Mitch Tonks and Henry Harris (6 December, £185pp, nathan-outlaw.com). The St Enodoc Hotel, on the same site, offers masterclass guests 10% off its room rates (enodoc-hotel.co.uk) and Padstow Christmas festival is place the same weekend.
• Seafood Break from £270pp including three nights’ b&bB&B, one lunch, one dinner and the half-day cooking course (01637 860543, watergatebay.co.uk
Chocolate masterchef, Scottish Borders
Led by 2012 UK World Chocolate Master Ruth Hinks, Cocoa Black’s regular small group courses are for true choc-heads. If you want to pick up some skills you can take home with you, forget dabbling in gimmicky chocolate fountains and fondues; this is a and sign up instead to Ruth’s two-day introduction to the world of the professional chocolatier. From colouring, flavouring and tempering to fillings, finishing techniques and storage tips, you’ll do more studying than scoffing on these intensive weekend workshops – the next of which is on 16-17 September – but will come away knowing a lot more than just your ganache from your gianduja.
• £350 for two days’ instruction (01721 723764, cocoablack.com). Within walking distance of the chocolate school, the Tontine Hotel (01721 720892, tontinehotel.com) has singles/doubles from £60/£110 B&B
Rhiannon Batten is travel editor of olive magazine