On Monday this week I went to the Best. Blogger. Event. Ever. * I was one of five very lucky people invited to Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons for a cookery lesson with Raymond Blanc and team, courtesy of John Lewis and Kenwood.
It was so lovely to meet all the other bloggers and find out more about their work and their sites. My partners in culinary crime were: Caroline from All That I’m Eating (check out her budget eats), Tara from GetTheSkinny, Becky from English Mum and Louise from Crumbs and Corkscrews. As you can probably imagine, we had a whale of a time.
The evening of total fabulosity started with tea and cake, and then champagne and canapes (I could merrily live on those and nothing else…), and then we were lucky enough to have a guided tour around the beautiful Le Manoir kitchen gardens, hosted by chef Mark Peregrine. Mark is the head honcho at the Raymond Blanc Cookery School, and might just be the most tactful person I’ve ever met, as well as having a rather good dry sense of humour. He needed it, of course, as the bloggers collectively demolished more champagne and various bits of
the kitchen food during the event…
Then Monsieur Raymond Blanc himself joined us and talked about his passion for good food, healthy cooking, heirloom varieties of plants and seasonal ingredients. The level of enthusiasm was infectious. After some more walking around the grounds of the immaculately beautiful manor house it was time to head into the cookery school itself, for the lesson to begin. We were also introduced to chef Adam Johnson (you know, Adaaaam from off the telly), apprentice Becca, and the rest of the crew, who all turned out to be brilliant fun.
We started with Raymond showing us how to make an upside down chocolate crumble cake, and giving us a quick tour of the new top-of-the-line Kenwood Sense mixers used by the cookery school. They’re like the iPhone of the mixer world, and in addition to being on my best behaviour (not crashing around the kitchen and cussing as I would at home), I was being very careful with the machines and trying not to force or damage them. I needn’t have worried, they’re very robust, but I didn’t heat up the milk and cream mixture to boiling point before putting into the mixer bowl on top of the eggs and chocolate pieces, so my chocolate custard filling didn’t melt and cook together quickly enough. That’s what you get for being too polite: weird not-working custard. Let that be a lesson to all of us, people…
Now, normally I can whip up a half decent chocolate custard at home with one arm behind my back and one eye shut, but I defy anyone to make one of these with the real Raymond Blanc standing at their actual elbow without getting all wobbly. So I did what any sensible person would do, which was have another glass of boozeahol and let Mark Peregrine fix the blasted mess while Raymond wasn’t looking. Then I drank the leftover chocolate custard, which was delicious. While I was distracted elsewhere (probably wiping custard off my chin or somesuch), a very skilled and subtle unseen professional person whisked the dish off to the chiller, gave it an icy blast, then unmoulded it perfectly and probably somehow made the surface impossibly glossy with an industrial blowtorch, thus giving the impression that I’d made a passable dish. Ha!
Next we moved on to making a Comte cheese souffle tart, under the tuition of Adam Johnson. Technically this dish was a bit more complicated, but at this point I decided I’d better get my act together and make some passable pastry and whip up a proper souffle filling to salvage some sense of ‘yeah, I can cook a bit, honest.’ Okay, the pastry was a little, er, rustic, but it didn’t need any patching and it successfully baked blind without too much shrinkage. And it tasted good, and that’s the important bit.
Then it was on to making the lovely fluffy filling, and making full use of the Kenwood Chef Sense’s whisking ability. It got the egg whites to soft and then firm peak stage in a matter of moments, with glossy finish, even aeration and no fuss at all. So I made a handsome looking souffle filling, folding the perfectly beaten egg whites in just like my mum taught me. Anyway, turns out my mum taught me all wrong and there’s a better way to do it a la Peregrine. He was totally right, of course. Don’t tell Mrs Golightly senior though, or we’ll never hear the end of it. The tart puffed up just right in a nice hot oven (the cheese souffle, not my mum), and all was well.
We were also given a demo of the dough hook, which was used to make some impressively speedy kirsch babas. If I owned one of these machines I would definitely be making a whole lot of interesting bread doughs with it on a regular basis, in addition to industrial quantities of macarons, so I was watching with interest.
At the end of the evening we were given our chocolate crumbles and cheese tarts all beautifully boxed up and ready to take home. And I don’t think any of us really wanted to leave, because Le Manoir is just so gorgeous. Merci bien. What an incredible experience!
If you’d like to know a bit more about the new Kenwood Chef Sense stand mixers, they’ve launched exclusively at John Lewis.
- They have a soft start mechanism, a cleverly designed full depth splash guard with a feeder chute, and sensors that detect heavy loads and react to prevent overloading of the motor and food being pushed up out of the bowl.
- In addition to this, they’re the only mixers on the market with a dedicated ‘fold’ function, and they’re backwards-compatible with a range of Kenwood kitchen attachments, so Kenwood fans will be able to continue using these.
- Plus they have lovely clean styling, quiet functioning, and they don’t rattle or ‘walk’ all over your worktop.
- I want one, they’re drool-worthy.
Special thanks to everyone at Le Manoir, my fellow bloggers and the John Lewis and Kenwood teams for an absolutely amazing evening.
*Seriously, if you are a PR person and you can top this then please get in touch. Probably best if I don’t hold my breath in the meantime though, eh?