Quite a while ago now I made a weekend trip to Padstow for the sole purpose of spending a day at Rick Stein’s Seafood School. It was one of those things I just decide to finally do after putting it off for too long. It was just as I was setting up my blog, I don’t know why I didn’t share it with you then. I keep coming back to the pictures and wondering why, so here they are.
From London it is a 3!⁄2 hr train ride, longer on a weekend, then a 1⁄2 hr cab ride to Padstow. To make the train ride more enjoyable on a Friday afternoon, my friend Ms L and I brought bubbly and cheese, so of course we were there in no time.
We chose to stay at the Garslade Guest House, one of the many guesthouses that line the streets of Padstow. We stayed in the new 2 bedroom Skye Cottage. It was lovely and clean, the bed was so comfortable and the bedding super soft. Our host also provides a kettle for tea,coffee, hot chocolate and chocolate wafers! I can highly recommend it.
The school started at 8am, an early start but that’s why we came. A short stroll from the cottage, past the Rick Stein Restaurant, and we were there. A receptionist welcomed us with a name badge, folder full of the days recipes and an apron (unfortunately we had to give that back at the end of the day).
While we waited for everyone to arrive we sat down to a coffee, a chat to other students and a drool over the schools cook book collection. Alot of people had been before, had come back with friends or had been given the day as a birthday/Christmas gift.
The school is very well set up, each student works in pairs at a work station just for the two of you. A large work bench, each with your own chopping board, a set of Global knives, a range of All Clad saucepans, a sink, gas stove top and oven. All the dishes you worked on in pairs but there was plenty to do to keep you both occupied so that you were not standing watching the other.
The day is run my one main teacher with another as an assistant wandering through the group as we worked, giving us tips, answering questions, providing our prepared ingredients, and making sure we weren’t going to cause ourselves any major knife wounds.
Our teacher today was Bill. He had worked as a private chef on yachts around the pacific and in Rick’s Restaurant but had been a teacher in the school for the last 3 years. You could tell this was someone who enjoyed their job, and was very good at it too. There was nothing too silly I couldn’t have asked.
Our first dish was seared scallops with an asian dressing. We learnt and practiced how to open the scallops and the importance of a really hot pan to sear each side. It was such a quick, impressive looking dish. They were very quickly engulfed at my bench.
We then went on to make calamari served with a greek salad. The squid demonstration was very interesting. A complete lesson on how to choose, clean and prepare the squid. We not only got taught about seafood preparation though. The greek salad involved fine chopping skills and even how to sharpen your knife with a whetstone. Talk about value for money. The stone was left in the middle of the room where you could go and practice your knife sharpening skills under Bill’s watchful eye.
Our third dish was red mullet spagettini. We were shown how to fillet the mullet in depth, the stuff I had really come to learn. I wanted to learn how to fillet round and flat fish, open scallops and oysters, find out the best way to kill and cook lobsters and crabs and for all the questions in my head, that went along with it to be answered. Yes, very unrealistic expectations in a day.
We sat at the table after each dish to eat it in a civilised manner, I don’t think we were suppose to though until lunch, but they didn’t seem to mind. They started pouring the wine at 11am too. And pour they did. I had been warned that my friends husband had come out in quite a happy state, and I did’t want to chop my finger off so I took it easy. At the start anyway.
I had never filleted or cooked John Dory and never made chowder for that matter, so I keenly watched the next dish being demonstrated, John Dory and mussel chowder. After Bill had finished each dish you were given the chance to taste it, so you knew what to aim for. But you had to get in quick!
Wow chowder is much easier to make than I thought. I really gained confidence to be more experimental with seafood and the realisation that the preparation is not as hard as you think. It can actually be quite fun. The day was relaxed and everyone seemed to really enjoy it. You don’t have to be a masterchef or anything to attend, there were people from all skills levels having a go and having fun.
These dishes were not small servings either. They were all the size of what I would eat for a whole meal. The warning to pace ourselves was hard to follow through with though. I was hungry and everything tasted so good!
Our last dish of the day was a demonstrated goan lobster curry. So I got all my lobster questions answered. Didn’t get to prise open any oysters but you can’t do everything in a day, can you.
My goodness we were stuffed by the end, and a bit tipsy. The class finished just after 4pm as everyone gathered their dirty folders and wandered back into Padstow. The thought of diner was out of the question, a relaxing read of the Saturday papers and another quite drink in the pub was sounding perfect. That was it for the night, we were pooped.
I would go back again in a flash. The day was superbly organised, the staff were very friendly and helpful. I really felt like I got value for money (£185 for the Original Fish and Seafood day course) and I had fun. I know seafood comes to mind when you think of Rick Stein, and he does that very well, but the school also runs a range of different courses, (they were running a patisserie course the following day).
Use the course as an excuse for a getaway, or use a getaway as an excuse to do a Rick Stein course, whichever works for you, I don’t think you will be disappointed.
The next day before our train left for London we went on a stroll around the coastal paths. It was chilly but absolutely picturesque. There was just one more thing to do to complete the Padstow experience…..