If you or the foodie in your life already has copious kit and competence or for those whose New Year aspirations include enhancing their culinary skills to become superannuated home cooks or excel in the food industry, these are the courses to elevate your knowledge and repertoire. As chefs love to say, these are seven ways to “up your culinary game to the next level”.
Acquiring knife skills is indisputably key to making kitchen prep quicker and more enjoyable. A workshop teaching how to hold and use the most commonly used kitchen knives and sharpen them is invaluable one upmanship. It should include how to turn vegetables and turn eyes when entertaining, how to fillet fish, how to bone and stuff a chicken ballotine.
Nose-to-tail dining is no longer the preserve of St John’s chef-patron Fergus Henderson who first coined the phrase and inspired countless chefs to buy whole carcasses for more variety of prime cuts and less waste. A good course will teach about native breeds and sustainably reared meat as well as traditional artisan butchery skills.
Would-be home butchers will want to know how to select meat based on source, appearance and breed as well as how to break down the carcass, hang and age meat even utilising a variety of animals as well as making ‘butcher perks’ from the Fifth Quarter including sausages and charcuterie.
Separating the curds from the whey and making cheese at home surprisingly doesn’t require a great deal of equipment. The simplest fresh cheeses are quick to make and exceedingly impressive to serve up to friends. There is more to learn when making washed-rind, hard or blue cheeses and it is best to sign up with an artisan cheesemaker for true insight.
Keeping a bee colony has never been so fashionable and the best courses explain the equipment needed, where and how to set up an apiary, bee management and the bee life cycles, besides, naturally, how to extract the honey. Some in the UK even offer the chance to design and make one’s own willow skep hive.
Originally used to ensure food could be stored safely, curing and smoking is now considered a toolkit essential for introducing new tastes and textures to kitchen skills – not to mention impressing friends and even kick-starting a new food business.
Acquiring the techniques to preserve ingredients at their seasonal best is exceedingly pleasing. Expect to cultivate a knowledge of traditional dry curing methods for pancetta style streaky bacon, chorizo, cider cured gammon, as well as hot and cold smoked fish and seafood.
Understanding lactic fermentation and knowing how to make homemade pickles safely and creatively is a game-changer and couldn’t be more culinarily on trend. Not only are fermented vegetables from cucumbers to sauerkraut nutritionally valuable, they are always welcome in salads, sandwiches, on cheese boards and, especially in the case of kimchi, cooked as a part of a wide variety of meals to provide added zing.
It may sound like the most covetable way to earn a living and one long round of fabulous feasting. Yet there is far more nuance to becoming a food writer. From gauging what makes a timely story with a desirable ‘hook’; how to pitch, research and write to word count and deadline – these are essential skills.
Producing restaurant reviews requires deep culinary understanding and a commitment to banishing words that purely describe enjoyment rather than conveying what it is about the flavour, technique, ambience and service that makes the occasion memorable. I run my own classes in small Covid-safe groups with lunch and also online.
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