I had a rare day out of the 'office' on Friday morning as I was attending a cookery demonstration no less.  I've never been to one before and wasn't sure how a morning watching someone cooking in their kitchen would pan out (pardon the pun), but it was fantastic.  I've come away inspired to get back in the kitchen again (I got bored doing the same old thing), have picked up some top tips, invested in some new utensils and have some fabulous recipes in my repertoire (one for Honey Parfait with Mulled Red Wine Plums coming up later you lucky things but here's a pic to whet your appetite - so Christmassy).

We started with some delicious cake and a coffee in Gee's sitting room while we chatted to our fellow cookery demo delegates and browsed the fabulous cookware, and then were seated in Gee's kitchen with a clipboard, pen and the recipes.  Gee cooked them in front of us (with some prepping done before our arrival of course or it would have been a long boring day watching the slow roasted fennel pork cooking in the aga).  We got lots of tips and we were able to see her cook everything as she has a fancy camera linked to a big plasma screen on the worktop. See aforementioned Slow Roasted Fennel Pork below (just been to order the pork from the butchers - so delicious).

We were educated in the different cuts of beef (she used skirt for the Braised Beef with Squash, Star Anise and Soy recipe) and I also learnt that when browning meat in a pan, you shouldn't turn it over until it has a crust otherwise it sticks - am I the only one that didn't know that?  Anyway, from now on, I will be leaving it to sit until said crust forms.

She cooked almost everything on/in her aga which is foreign territory for me (I'm a fan girl) so great for you aga lovers out there, but she gave us all conventional cooking times and temperatures too.

I also learnt all this - you can put cling film in the oven on a very low temperature, we musn't put knives in the dishwasher because it blunts them, you can buy vanilla POWDER which is just as good as the real seed pods but without the hassle, spices go off (must go and throw out that pot of Chinese 5 spices I've had since 2003) and the plastic blade I got with my magimix (that has never been used and not sure it's even still in the cupboard) is going to work brilliantly in preparing my Celeriac and Roasted Garlic Puree.

We tasted everything (utterly delicious, without exception) although I was a little nervous about being in line after the girl with the streaming cold and the smokers cough.  We were able to bombard Gee with lots of questions and I came away feeling inspired to get cooking again.  I've become rather lazy at mealtimes of late but seeing fresh food cooked brilliantly with excellent flavours made me feel all 1950s housewife and gave me a compelling desire to cook decent meals for my family and friends (think the dinner party invitations are drying up due to the continual outing of roast chicken followed by pavlova).  I shall definitely be knocking up the Tomato Chutney to go on my cheese board (SO easy to make as you use tinned tomatoes and a homemade chutney goes a long way even if it only took half an hour to make).

For pudding on Christmas Day I am going to serve the Honey Parfait with Mulled Red Wine Plums and you can find the recipe at the end (these are like gold dust you know) - my Christmas present to you all.

Meanwhile, if you want some inspiration in the kitchen, have got bored of cooking the same old recipes or simply fancy a fun morning out with a friend (there's shopping too, people), then I highly recommend Gee Cartwright Cookery in Stockbridge.  Her next demonstration is an Asian influenced demo in February of next year and you can find all the details at http://geecartwrightcookery.co.uk/

Merry Christmas!


p.s. We welcome your comments and questions, and would love you to share this with friends and family.


Honey Parfait with Mulled Red Wine Plums (serves 8-10)

200g mild honey

6 sprigs thyme

8 egg yolks

600ml double cream

3tsp rum / brandy / cointreau

12 plums (halved and stones removed)

Pared zest of 2 lemons and 2 oranges

200g Demerera sugar

2 cinnamon sticks

300ml red wine

100ml port

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
  2. Heat the honey in a small saucepan with the thyme sprigs.  Bring to the boil and leave on one side to infuse and cool a little
  3. Whisk the egg yolks until they are much paler and quite thick, this can take a while
  4. Slowly add the hot honey to the egg yolks (through a sieve) and whisk until light and creamy
  5. In another bowl, whisk the cream until it forms firm peaks, fold in the alcohol and then the egg mixture, carefully fold together until well mixed
  6. Pour into a 2Ib loaf tin lined with cling film if it's metal but you don't need to if it's a silicone one (I purchased one on the day for this very reason) and put in the freezer overnight
  7. For the plums, put the plum halves in a small ovenproof dish, cut side down and add the rest of the ingredients.  Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the plums are tender.  If cooking in the Aga place in the roasting oven for approximately 15-20 minutes.  Take out, remove the plums into a dish and leave to cool slightly. They should be served warm.  Put the remaining liquid into a pan, bring to the boil and simmer until is has reduced by half.
  8. Remove the parfait from the freezer 5-10 minutes before eating and turn out onto a large serving dish.  Cut into slices and serve with the warm plus and spoonfuls of the syrup.

Top Tips

  • The parfait keeps in the freezer for up to a month so you can make it well in advance
  • You can make these as individual parfaits (pour the mixture into ramekins/individual moulds lined with cling film, cover and put in the freezer
  • You can make the plums a couple of days ahead and they also freeze well.  Take them out of the fridge and bring to room temperature or put them on the back of the Aga to warm through.


    December 08, 2014 — Sophie Martin

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