On our return, we were almost immediately set to producing a Thai green curry paste, using one of the heaviest pestle and mortar sets I've ever seen, or for that matter tried to lift. We ground the ingredients (sea salt, coriander seeds, coriander root, galangal, lemongrass, green chillis, shallots, garlic and kaffir lime zest) up and added some shrimp paste, learning several very useful skills on the way and also being made to realise that there's a correct order to doing that sort of thing. It's one of those things that's obvious when you are told, and you wonder why it never occurred to you before. Start with the hardest ingredients, grind them, then add the softer ones or you won't get a proper mix...
While we were doing that, Lisa was busy demonstrating how to make Indian bhaji style Cauliflower and Potato Fritters, which she then dusted with Amchoor powder (dried mango powder) and served with a gorgeous sweet curry sauce, that really lifted the flavours brilliantly.
These were handed around in case we were hungry after lunch (!), and yet again no one hesitated. The plate was soon clear yet again, and then there were tempura vegetables with a chilli dipping sauce, but they all disappeared so fast that I never did get an opportunity to take a photo of them before they vanished. Lisa used thinly sliced peppers, courgettes and I think carrots as well, and they were light and fluffy and so very pretty to look at.
Shortly after that we got to see what we had been making all that curry paste for. While Lisa didn't actually use any of the mixes we'd made, she uses the demonstration portion to make Thai green chicken curry, using chicken thigh meat, baby sweetcorn and the tiniest Thai aubergines I've ever seen. The addition of palm sugar to the recipe was an interesting touch and really brought out the flavours of the meat and the vegetables. A further plate of food was passed around, but we really were all running out of steam now, and despite our best efforts there was quite a lot left. And it wasn't anything to do with a lack of flavour. It was really delicious and I can't wait to make my own versions. I just hope I don't have to buy a pestle and mortar that's that heavy...
The curry dealt with, it was time to make Maki Sushi. Lisa cooked the rice for all of us, and mixed it with mirin, rice vinegar and sugar before cooling it in front of an open window. Then we were handed wasabi paste, along with slices of salmon, cucumber, spring onion and avocado and instructed in what to do next. We spread the rice on half of the sheet of nori in front of us, then constructed the sushi to our own tastes, rolling it neatly (or not so neatly from some of what I saw) and wrapped it in clingfilm before setting it in the fridge so that it would cool further.
And then it was time for one last dish, in this case an exotic fruit gratin and coconut rice, with a guava sabayon added at the end. The fruits were so colourful that even before it was completed the dish looked impressive with papaya, rambutans, mango and kiwi fruit alongside a serving of sticky rice that was cooked in coconut milk and sugar, much like a common or garden rice pudding but more exotic.
A light, fluffy guava sabayon was then added to the plate, and Emily scattered icing sugar over the mixture before Lisa took a blow torch to it!
We were then encouraged to eat the results, which seemed almost a shame given how good it looked. However, it tasted even better and it would have been churlish to refuse it!
And then it was all over! We were given certificates, and Lisa had a word or two for everyone, suggesting that I clearly had as bad a cookery book addiction as she did, and that one day there would be a place for people like us, and that hopefully it would have a library!
After that I took a wander to the reception, bought myself an apron, and browsed the books, eventually fixing on "A Taste Of Relais and Chateaux", which is gorgeous. I probably won't be using it to make Heston Blumental's "A Taste of the Sea", though Michel Roux's cheese souffle recipe looks very nice and very achievable.
All shopped out - and cooked out - I took a stroll through the gardens which are so lovely that even on a grey, cloudy day it's a pleasure to be in them.
After that I reluctantly got into my car and drove home, exhausted and stuffed full of food. I had a wonderful day and would love to go again, preferably for the four day residential course. Better start doing the lottery!