Food

Gentlemen Only

Whisky chef Martine Nouet watches from the sidelines at a cookery school
By Martine Nouet
A few months ago, as I was surfing the internet, doing research on cookery schools in Scotland, one link attracted my attention, The Edinburgh School of Food and Wine (www.esfw.com).

Among the eclectic and mouthwatering themes listed on the programme, there was a one day class called the Glenfiddich Gourmet Cookery School. Even more surprising, it came with the mention “for men”. This is what I call a “Golf” offer: Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden.

A cooking class including a whisky tasting exclusively for men. This was “truly irresistible”, as my local supermarket says to advertise its exclusive range of products. I had to go and see. I was kindly welcome to watch the class in action but it was clear that I would not be given an apron. No problem, I’ll come with a pen, a notepad and a camera, I said.

“Don’t see any chauvinist intention in that,” chef Steve Brown explained when I arrived. “We also run a Champagne cooking class for Ladies only. All our other classes are mixed of course. But we think the atmosphere is different when we run one gender classes”.

I felt intimidated at first to be introduced to the 16 lads’ gathering (The 16 men of ESFW!) but my presence was soon forgotten as they had a serious programme to fulfill: prepare a three course meal in two and a half hours and then enjoy their creations.

All were impatient to be confronted with the spatula and the carving knife. Knowing that Scotland was playing against Wales at Murrayfield that afternoon gives you an idea of their dedication to this class!

Using a smooth running formula, the chef first demonstrated the recipe in front of the group then they went to their stand by teams of two to prepare the dish, two other chefs supervising and helping if necessary.

These chefs for a day proved to be keen cooks and were not embarrassed to be hands on. They could not wait to taste Glenfiddich. “That class is the result of a long standing association with Glenfiddich,” chef Steve Brown pointed out.

The class culminates in a one hour tasting of the range by the distillery manager or one of the ambassadors”.

A real bonus that makes this Glenfiddich class for men one of the most popular birthday gifts, the menu itself is a present.

Appetising, challenging but helped along with plenty of good tips and an excellent demonstration given by the chef, each dish is a wonderful combination of flavours which could find their perfect matching with Glenfiddich. I was a bit disappointed to find that the dishes were completely separated from the whisky and not tasted together. I could not help immediately sharing my suggestions with the group though.

The starter marries fruit and shellfish with a root vegetable, the celeriac, which matches perfectly with whisky. The mix of textures is quite important too with the smoothness of the purée with the crunchy feel of the almonds and the juicy explosion of the grape in the mouth. Colourful, refreshing and tasty.

Most found the making of the basil oil with fresh basil leaves and rapeseed oil very inspiring.

“I love cooking, I do most of the cooking at home and I am delighted to get new ideas,” one commented.

The cooking of the duck was a highlight of the day. Steve Brown gave useful recommendations such as respecting a resting time after cooking so that the meat gathers all its juices and keeps tender.

The use of fennel, caramelised with butter and honey was brilliant.

The rhubarb panna cotta, associating tart and sweet flavours, was a refreshing and easy to make pudding.

My pairing suggestions?

With the scallops, Glenfiddich Solera Reserve 15 Years Old (served chilled) for the sweet fruity and vanilla profile and the creamy texture.

With the duck, Glenfiddich 18 Years Old for its characterful oaky frame and its raisin and spices notes (served at room temperature).

With the panna cotta, Glenfiddich 12 Years Old for its light, straightforward and fruity profile (can be served a bit chilled or with a peel of fresh ginger).

It was good to see large happy smiles on faces when they all left with their recipes and the firm intention to replicate them at home.

“Let me know when the article is published, one insisted. My wife thinks I have been sipping Glenfiddich all day. She must see me at work!”


The menu



Seared Scottish scallops, celeriac puree, grapes, almonds, basil oil

Roasted breast of duck, grain mustard mash, caramelised fennel

Rhubarb and ginger panna cotta


Chef Steve Brown’s starter recipe



Scallops, celeriac, grapes almond, basil

Serves six

INGREDIENTS

  • 18 scallops

  • 1 celeriac bulb

  • 450ml milk

  • 50g butter

  • A bunch of basil

  • 3 tbsp rapeseed oil

  • 36 white grapes

  • 3tbsp toasted flaked almonds

  • A few watercress leaves

  • 1 and a half lemons

  • Salt and pepper



METHOD
1. Begin by making the celeriac puree. Peel and shred the celeriac and sweat down in the butter with a good touch of salt and pepper to season. When soft, add the milk and simmer until tender.
2. Remove the cooked celeriac, pouring in some of the milk and blend, adding more milk if necessary until completely smooth. Re-season to taste and set aside.
3. Quarter the grapes, season lightly and dress with a touch of rapeseed oil and set aside for later.
4. Make the basil oil by blending the basil leaves and a glug of oil to a mulch. This is to be cooked over a moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the bubbles have stopped. Pass through a muslin cloth into a bowl and set aside.
5. To cook the scallops, season with salt and pepper and cook in a hot pan with a little rapeseed oil for 30 seconds on one side and 20-30 seconds on the other- removing from the heat and squeezing with lemon juice when the scallops are cooked.
6. Assemble the components on the plate, and enjoy!