A Classic Italian Taste at Colstoun House

East Lothian Courier

Sam Khan-McIntyre

Italian cooking skills were taken to a new level at the course ‘Italian Classics’’ at Colstoun House in Haddington, south of Haddington, on Saturday 6 April.

The course was led by Fiona Misselbrook, an experienced chef and cheerful blonde in her 50s. Fiona, having completed a year at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu cook school, now has a business in Edinburgh providing corporate as well as private functions.

She imparted her knowledge and obvious enjoyment of cookery with an infectious enthusiasm, peppering her demonstrations and tutorials with top tips on practical techniques, useful gadgets, places to source the best ingredients, and food-related vignettes from her personal life.

The day began at 10 am in the comfortable and rustic rustic sitting room of a cottage on the Colstoun estate. Here we were offered  coffee and homemade flapjacks, and us four students got to know each other and Fiona.

We then donned our aprons and name tags then went into the adjacent kitchen where the morning’s demonstration had been set up.

This  comprised of penne with slow-cooked sausage; risotto with mushroom;  and polenta, almond and lemon cake. There was lively discussion and we were able to ask questions as Fiona talked us through the preparation and cooking of each recipe in detail. Some of the techniques she demonstrated included the professional way to chop an onion and crush garlic.

Fiona (pictured) highlighted the importance of fresh ingredients, saying:”I got a lovely fresh rosemary sprig from the gardener today”.

She also demonstrated time-saving gadgets, such as the lemon squeezer which catches the pips as you squeeze out  juice. The value of a perfectly textured risotto was underlined, as she said: “I don’t like risotto crunchy, in Harvey Nichols I had to send it back”.

After a taste of her excellent cooking, we were ushered into the kitchen to try it all out for ourselves.  This proved not to be as effortless as it had seemed, but luckily everything we needed was laid out in preparation.

Fiona was attentive to everyone, offering advice and encouragement. However, the lemon squeezer turned out not to be as simple as it had appeared to be,, as we students discovered when we all compared notes over a hearty lunch. This comprised of the morning’s efforts, along with a refreshing glass of white wine. Thankfully it turned out everyone had been paying close attention to Fiona’s demonstration, as the food turned out to be impeccable.

The afternoon comprised of Fiona demonstrating tiramisu, explaining it meant  ‘hangover cure’  or  hair of the dog  in Italian.

The other dish was pumpkin ravioli with sage butter. We enjoyed rolling out the egg dough thinly on the pasta machine and cutting it up with an olive cutter which created wavy edges. We went home laden with a delicious meal for the evening.

At the end of the day, Fiona said: “it went very well. It’s great fun, everybody feels like chums by the end. I love teaching- passing on my inspiration of food”

Colstoun offer a variety of  day courses. These include bread making and ‘smart kitchen suppers’. Menus from around the world include Thai and Indian classes, with Japanese soon to be added. The venue also offers a week long residential foundation course, with comfortable accommodation in two cottages. The day courses are all taught by Fiona, except the Thai and Indian lessons. The day courses cost £119 and the week foundation courses £695.

For more information visit: http://www.colstoncookery school.

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