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  • Cathy Henderson

The real fast food!

Updated: Apr 17, 2020

A day out cooking at Daylesford in Gloucestershire reveals real food that's quick and simple in the creating and oh-so enjoyable in the eating!


I'm in need of some new inspiration in my kitchen and a booster shot of fun, so I’m taking myself out on a play-date and have found just the thing to hit the spot. A saying springs to mind, ‘give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach him to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime’ – in this case it’s to feed the soul and hopefully a gift to my family and I that keeps on giving! Setting off for a one-day cookery course at @daylesfordfarm in Gloucestershire, it all starts with a scenic drive through the Cotswolds where the trees form a dappled green archway along the A436 towards Stow-on-the Wold, turning off to Kingham.

Behind the shiny shopfront with immaculately showcased deli fare is the Cookery School haven – a notable heartbeat of this working organic farm. Part of the charm of the day is being able to fully embrace a farm-to-table concept, ambling past the creamery, bakery and cheesery (they make around 10 of their own) to the 20-acre Market Garden. It emphasises that at the core, Daylesford are serious about producing and cooking organic food from sustainable farming.

With this in mind, Chef James, with the lovely Molly (from their graduate program), take us through some ‘Quick and Simple Suppers’. His affable approach and enthusiasm capture our attention from the start, along with some back-to-basics, and essential, kitchen guidelines that make me realise following even a few of these is also behind the quick-and-simple ethos. A lot is, in fact, common sense really, or perhaps for some of us a good reminder, but all lead to that warm feeling of gentle epiphany or 'aha!' moments.

And these are some of the things we learn: don’t faff about and just invest in that all-important quality, sharp, long and curved Chef’s Knife along with a good chopping board; perfect your knife skills with that rhythmical, locomotive-like motion. Practise. Eat in colour. Season and taste throughout your cooking process. Practise. Get to grips with your seasoning. Practise. Think about all five flavour zones on the palate, including umami, the savoury meaty or brothy one as well as the sweet, salty, sour and bitter, and adjust these modulators so they are in harmony with one another, ‘much as you would with the good old graphic equalizer,’ says James in a delightful analogy.

Take something simple like a courgette, for example, where with one simple ingredient you can slice it finely and then chargrill it for a further umami-ish flavour dimension, add a sprinkle of sea salt, a dash of honey in a dressing for sweetness perhaps, or even a dusting of Parmesan to enhance the savoury… suddenly it’s one ingredient but it can be amplified with all five flavours. And most of all, just: ‘Eat. Real. Food.

Armed with a couple of recipes that do in fact look quite simple, after some demos from James, we try these out ourselves. There really is so much behind advocating fresh and simple ingredients as you can add complementary layers of complexity in a synergy with great sauces; like a yoghurt, mint and pine nut dressing or a silky satay-like blend of cashew nuts, lime and coriander to liven up any bowl of veggie goodness. I’m actually so glad about the practice part I need to continue at home, as not only does it set about a habit of some mindful patience, making it a choice not a chore, but you also get to taste and sample and enjoy all the more – and it’s encouraged!

Of course a palate party such as this would not be complete without a scintillating sip or two of something fabulous, no less than an organic Prosecco made for Daylesford… it shows such purity of fruit – with its DOCG on the label certifying a quality expression of these Glera grapes – and is refreshing and lively. Another ideal accompaniment to the dressings and dishes we contemplate is a glass of Château Léoube Rosé from their sister farm in Côtes de Provence, where Rosés are famed for being dry yet fruity.


A further upside of these one-day cookery courses is the chance to meet interesting people in the small class (+/-10 people) and be able to discuss, ask questions, as well as share ideas and anecdotes. A helpful, informed and well-travelled couple on the course recommended www.fishforthought.co.uk for those who don’t have a local fishmonger nearby, as we practise how to perfect crisping our fish, skin-side down with some fresh sea bream fillets. It doesn’t take much to flash-fry fresh fish, peel some courgette or carrot strips and whip up a straightforward but flavour-full dressing to know that this is indeed fast food. Fast, real food that you can play with in a few renditions for variety once you’ve got the ‘quick and simple’ repertoire under your belt; and as it’s all healthy, hopefully there’ll be no need to loosen it…!


Inspiration on a plate indeed – highly recommend and thanks to the Chefs, Soon-to-be-Chefs and Cookery School team @DaylesfordFarm!

Also on offer: a summer discount and a truly tempting line-up of courses on offer, be sure to check them out https://daylesford.com/cookeryschool/events/

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