Cookery course review: Fish in a Day

Published on Blue Tomato on 5th December 2011:

Ann Colquhoun at Food Safari's Fish in a Day

Fish in a Day is the first of Food Safari’s London-based courses, which brings the Suffolk seaside to the city table.

Polly Robinson, the director of Food Safari, began the project as a way of bringing field to fork experiences in Suffolk to people who really care about their food. The London version of Food Safari, run in conjunction with culinary anthropologist Ann Colquhoun, works in much the same way except instead of visiting the producers, they are brought to the course.

The fish and seafood were all, with the exception of the Cornish crabs, from Maximus Sustainable Fish and were brought up by Robinson on the train on the day. There’s a big focus on sustainability and Robinson and Colquhoun happily discuss how to select and cook your fish over fresh coffee and biscuits. Then it was on to the practical aspect.

During the course of Fish in a Day, you learn how to prepare (gut, fillet, skin) round and flat fish, separate squid, pick crabs, and sort mussels individually. After all the “dirty work”, it was on to the cooking. In groups, you’re assigned recipes to cook with the ingredients that you’ve prepared, including bouillabaisse and goujons. After finishing off some six fish and seafood dishes, you’re finally allowed the chance to enjoy the fruits of your labour with a well deserved glass of wine or two, selected by Telegraph wine columnist Victoria Moore.

Fish in a Day is not only educational in the culinary sense but also leaves you culturally and environmentally sound. The course is great as a gift or for team building alike, and perfect if you want to brush up on some fish and seafood skills, learn to make classic recipes and accompaniments and have some fun along the way.

Fish in a Day cookery course

Published on Looking to Cook on 14th November 2011:

Ann Colquhoun at Food Safari's Fish in a DayFish in a Day is the first of Food Safari‘s “field to fork” experiences to arrive in London via Suffolk. Founded in 2009 by Polly Robinson, Food Safari takes people who love food to visit producers and learn more about the ingredients that they cook with. The London version, run in conjunction with Culinary Anthropologist and author of Eat Slow Britain, Anna Colquhoun, works in much the same way except the producers are brought to the course.

The class has four key aspects:  introductions to producers, preparation of ingredients, cooking the dishes and sampling the results.

Sustainability is a big part of this course. All the fish and seafood, with the exception of the live Cornish crabs, were sourced from the Suffolk-based Maximus Sustainable Fish. Robinson and Colquhoun enthusiastically discuss how best to sustainably select and cook your fish over fresh coffee and biscuits before moving on to the practical aspect.

Colquhoun explains and demonstrates everything before you begin and there’s a lot to learn. Everyone get hands-on experience in how to fillet and skin round and flat fish, prepare squid, pick crabs, and sort mussels. The most tasking part is perhaps the fish. When it comes down to it though, all you need is a sturdy but flexible fillet knife to follow the skeleton of the fish, producing two fillets from round fish and four from flat. Mackerel, sea bass and lemon sole are used for practice and the fruits of your labour are then used as ingredients for cooking.

Working in small groups, we were assigned recipes for bouillabaisse, grilled squid and lemon sole goujons to make from scratch. Alongside the mains, you also learn some classic seafood accompaniments including aioli and charmoula.

After finishing six fish and seafood dishes, it’s a relief to be able to finally sit down and enjoy your efforts with a well deserved glass of wine or two.

The amount of hands-on experience gained from a Fish in a Day course makes it quite an intensive course but it is not only educational in the culinary sense – it will leave you more culturally and environmentally aware. The course is great for team building but perfect if you want to brush up on some fish and seafood skills, learn to make classic recipes and accompaniments and have some fun along the way.

*Fish in a Day is held at Anna Colquhoun’s teaching kitchen in Islington and costs £170 per person. The next dates are 24th and 25th March 2012, 3rd and 4th November 2012. To find out more, visit

Summer puddings workshop at Leiths

Published on Foodepedia on 22nd June 2011:

Strawberry champagne jelly at Leiths

The frequent interval of rain and shine over the last couple of months has been fostering in me a sense of perpetual spring. The smallest hints of summer are constantly and rapidly snatched away by morose clouds bearing melancholic rain. There’s no denying that we are in the month of June, but those thundery showers have certainly put a dampener on things.

The unpredictable weather hasn’t stopped Leiths from putting on a summer puddings workshop though, and for a sweet tooth like mine, the offer to attend was never going to be met with much resistance. So there I was on a surprisingly sunny Saturday morning, a large collection of Tupperware in tow, arriving to attend the workshop led by Maxine Clark.

Maxine, or Max as she likes to be called, is the co-author of the Leiths Meat Bible. She’s been with the school for some 20 years but still oozes with enthusiasm. In fact, she says that she can lead an entire workshop just on jelly combinations and given the number of ideas she freely disseminates in the space of five minutes, you can believe her too.

After gathering in the library with coffee and pastries, Max introduces the workshop menu to the group in the airy teaching kitchen. It’s a trio of desserts we were making: rose petal and raspberry meringues with raspberry compote and framboise mascarpone, sparkling Champagne and strawberry jellies with elderflower cream and cherry tartlets with Black Forest sauce. I want to say berry good but that will probably raise a few groans.

Berry meringue at LeithsThe dessert selection doesn’t read like much work but when Max starts talking about the methodology and the techniques involved, it begins to feel a little daunting. The meringues in particular appear to be laden with a multitude of sins that seem daunting even for someone who enjoys making lemon meringue pies by hand. There’s lots of things that I had never considered like if you start whisking the egg whites and then leave them, they will never turn into meringues when you come back. Or if you over-whisk your eggs white, the meringues will similarly fail.

And despite it being just three desserts, when you consider the sauces and creams as accompaniments, there seems to be a million steps between the raw ingredients and the finished products. It’s reassuring to be given a schedule to follow as well as the recipes, and that’s all part of the hand holding at a Leiths’ course. We do have a little luxury though – all the ingredients had been weighed out for us ahead of the class and there’s no washing up afterwards.

Chocolate tart at LeithsEven though it’s not the first dessert on the list, we start with soaking the gelatine leaves so that the champagne and strawberry jelly has time to set. Then over the course of the workshop we whisk through the meringues and roll over the pastry shells until, at last, there’s the final frenzy of whipping and stirring to finish all the accompanying sauces and creams. Generous glasses of dessert wine are poured as we put the finishing touches to the desserts.

The only way of describing the end of the course is a satisfying relief – when everything comes together and there’s nothing more to do but enjoy. Well, aside from meticulously packing everything up in assorted Tupperware and carrying the whole load home.

For a full list of Leiths courses, visit their website at