Trundling through the verdant English countryside on a train headed for the Cotswolds is always a welcome escape from London, but when it's married with an invitation to cook up a storm at the Daylesford Cookery School, it makes the journey all the more worthwhile.
Pulling up to Daylesford’s Cotswolds estate, one gets an inherent feeling that an enjoyable time will be had. From the moment I visited on a drizzly grey February morning, I was sold on the Daylesford life. The estate is comforting, homely and wholesome.
From its beginnings as a family farm in Staffordshire and then the Cotswolds more than 40 years ago, today the Daylesford empire encompasses the organic farm with its on-site shop - packed to the rafters with everything from fresh produce and handmade cheeses to a beautifully-crafted lifestyle range - as well as a stunning restaurant, a year-round calendar of hands-on workshops, the luxuriously indulgent Bamford Haybarn Spa, on-site accommodation in the form of the Daylesford cottages and, of course, the eponymous Cookery School, which was established in 2010.
During the cookery course, guests spend the day whipping up a smorgasbord of delicious dishes under the tutelage of Daylesford's team of chefs.
The calendar of courses itself is a sight to behold, covering almost anything one could possibly want to learn in a kitchen; which makes selecting your preferred course the most difficult task. From cheese-making and artisan breadmaking, to nose-to-tail butchery or masterclasses on how to throw the perfect dinner party, visitors to the Cookery School have the benefit of learning not only from Daylesford’s team of chefs but an experienced faculty of bakers, cheesemakers, butchers, foragers, market gardeners and even an in-house sustainability expert.
With the shop and restaurant relatively quiet given the early hour, I headed to the cookery school ready to don chef’s whites for the 'Eat to be Healthy' workshop, which focuses on Daylesford’s passion and dedication to growing, producing and cooking real food, organically.
Celebrating delicious, seasonal recipes that are naturally free from refined sugars, dairy and wheat flour, Eat to be Healthy explores fast, simple recipes that utilise fresh ingredients and pack a big punch on taste with minimal effort. Led by chefs James Hearfield and Jason Christie, the day began with a bowl of homemade pistachios, orange and cardamom granola and coconut yoghurt, a delectable blend of nuts and seeds, toasted with just a smidgen of maple syrup and a thousand times more delicious than anything found in a shop.
With the day’s menu comprising a warming winter soup, sprouting salad with Bagna Cauda, Keralan fish curry with cauliflower rice and a grand finale of an Earl grey winter tea jelly finished with charred blood orange, roasted pistachios and cashew cream, one would be forgiven for thinking such a feast would require hours of slaving over a hot stove. Quite the contrary; each of our given recipes was as speedy to create as it was to devour (almost…) and after in-depth tutorials from our chefs, a wealth of shared tips - from the secret to the perfect stock to how to season properly - and plenty of vibrant conversation about the topic in hand, the day flew by and six hours felt more like two.
While every recipe was something of a taste sensation, it was the Keralan fish curry that really struck a chord. In fact, since my day at Daylesford a mere three weeks ago, I've already made it twice, making it a firm new favourite!
As well as learning an arsenal of recipes to overhaul my eating habits, the course certainly set the cogs in motion in terms of thinking outside the box. While I love to cook, living alone and lacking in time means I often don't make the effort to cook and I end up stuck in a rut. Inspired by the course, I’ve already stocked up my spice cupboard with a plethora of spices to inject fabulous flavours into the delicious new dishes I'll soon be preparing.
The next Eat to be Healthy course takes place on 10 March. Price is £185 with 20% off full day courses until 31 March. For a full calendar of events throughout the year and to book, visit www.daylesford.com/cookeryschool.
Kingham Train Station is located just 3 miles from Daylesford. There are regular connections to all major UK cities. Visit WWW.NATIONALRAIL.CO.UK for timetables and information.
*During my visit, I was hosted by the lovely team at Daylesford Cookery School. All views, words and images are my own.
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