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Jean-Christophe Novelli Cooked for Me!

Here is not something I thought I would ever write: last week, Jean-Christophe Novelli made a delicious Tarte Tatin for me in his own kitchen!

This is how it all started. Just after Wriggly was born in June, I won a Virgin Experience voucher with lovely Jaime at The Oliver’s Madhouse. I knew straight away that I would go for a foodie experience, but I also knew it would have to wait as my little one was exclusively breastfed. I booked a ‘Relaxed Entertaining’ course at the Novelli Academy for the end of March 2015.

Although the Academy is in Jean-Christophe Novelli’s home (in Hertfordshire), he would not be the one leading the course I had booked; one of his resident Chefs would be in charge. I was really looking forward to this big treat. I love cooking, and learning new techniques or tips makes me happy. The little things in life, hey!

When I arrived, I was greeted by bubbly Patti Sloley, who is passionate about the fusion of African and Western tastes. She blogs at Patti’s Menu.  I met my ‘classmates’ for the day, a group of six lovely food-enthusiasts, as well as our own Chef for the day, Felice Tocchini, who runs a restaurant with his wife in Worcester, Fusion Brasserie.

Upon arrival, I was offered a cup of coffee as well as homemade lavender shortbread. What better way to start the day? As I was enjoying my coffee, I looked at the menu and found it hard to believe we would cover all of it in five hours, but we did!

Here it is:

Cider bread with cheese and rocket

Cider bread with cheese and rocket

Fish ceviche with jalapeno and coconut

Sweet potato gnocchi, with orange, garlic, ginger and basil sauce

Red sweet potato gnocchi, with orange, garlic, ginger and basil sauce

Stuffed chicken legs with black olives and baby potatoes

Chocolate tart with red fruits

Chocolate tart with red fruits

Chocolate truffles

Felice covered everything on the list, and so much more! I left with lots of tips for a relaxing evening with guests. I can now debone a chicken leg, not that it was anything I had ever dreamt of doing. I made bread that is safe for Jumpy and Jean-Christophe Novelli made a Tarte Tatin right in front of me! If you follow me on Instagram, you probably spotted this:

Jean-Christophe Novelli et Mel

The Chef just happened to be at home that morning, and he gave us an impromptu cooking demonstration. What a treat! Who would not want a multi-award winning chef to cook for them and share their top tips?

Tarte Tatin de Jean-Christophe Novelli

One of the big messages on the day was that you can cook tasty food in a healthy way. As he was making his moreish Tarte Tatin, he explained to us that although he started his recipe with a large amount of butter and sugar, he would only use them to flavour the dessert, and get rid of most of it after it had served its purpose. I would not have thought of doing that, but it made complete sense!

Use fat to flavour your tarte tatin, but dispose of it once it has served its purpose

5 top tips from the day:

  1. In a kitchen, the two things you really need are knives and pans. Everything else is a bonus, but is not necessary.
  2. When entertaining, the difficult bit should just be plating everything, not cooking at the last minute. It is all about planning and prepping.
  3.  Sweet pastry can be made ahead. Once blind-baked and cooled, it can be kept for up to three months in a sealed container. Simply line the bottom of the container with dry rice as it will absorb humidity.
  4. Ask for fresh yeast in the bakery section of your supermarkets. Some do not even charge for it!
  5. Buy puff pastry, do not make it.

How do you make sure you have a nice, relaxing evening when you have people around for dinner?

Disclaimer: I was not paid or compensated in any way to write this post. I thoroughly enjoyed the course and would recommend it to anyone.




  1. 04/04/2015 / 6:24 am

    That looks like an amazing experience! I love cookery courses they’re so great for picking up tips and it’s great to be able to relax and cook all day without any little interruptions. I’m off on a patisserie course soon and I can’t wait.

    I always buy my puff pastry as it takes so long to make, but I’ve always felt a bit bad about not trying to make it from scratch. I won’t have to feel bad now 🙂

    I’d never have thought to ask for fresh yeast at the supermarket. I’ll have to give it a try sometime. Have you tried asking yet? How did they react?

    • Mel
      04/04/2015 / 2:13 pm

      I haven’t because I bought some in France and froze it (sacrilege!). At the course, they were saying that Sainsbury’s never charge for it and at Tesco, they are usually happy to give customers some as well. Wait rose charge. Hey, just a thought. We could book a cookery course together, when you’re in Milton Keynes. How does that sound?

    • Mel
      04/04/2015 / 2:11 pm

      It was brilliant. Most of the food was ‘free from’, too! The only thing my little one couldn’t eat: the tartlets because even though we have an option to make them GF, they still had egg in.

  2. Julie's Family Kitchen
    04/04/2015 / 5:59 pm

    Oh wow Mel, sounds like a truly memorable day. How wonderful to meet the man himself. How I missed you Instagram pic, I don’t know. So pleased for you lovely. xx

  3. 04/04/2015 / 5:11 pm

    OMG Lucky you! Looks like you thoroughly enjoyed your experience! Lovely photo of you both too!

    • Mel
      06/04/2015 / 10:13 pm

      It was brilliant! I do not enter that many competitions, so winning the voucher was such a surprise. The unexpected cooking demonstration by Jean-Christophe Novelli himself was the cherry on the cake!

  4. Kim Styles
    04/04/2015 / 5:19 pm

    oh wow lucky you -and great tips with the pastry cases and draining the excess sugar etc , thank you! it is a once in a lifetime experience for many and it is great to see you have photographs

    • Mel
      06/04/2015 / 10:10 pm

      Thanks Kim. I really wish I could afford a couple of cookery classes each month!

  5. 04/04/2015 / 8:59 pm

    I am seething with jealousy!! It is my dream to meet a famous chef. And I LOVE the top tips!! It is so true! I have often wondered what my “can’t live without” kitchen items would be! Knives and pans is a good one. I think that’s right! 🙂

  6. 13/04/2015 / 8:05 am

    Oh my goodness, what an amazing experience! The food all looks delicious, especially that cider bread and tarte tatin 🙂 #magicmoments

  7. 13/04/2015 / 8:52 am

    Looks like you had a fab time and the food looks delicious but I’m curious… how did he get rid of the butter and sugar in the tarte tatin? Found you via #MagicMoments by the way.

    • Mel
      25/04/2015 / 12:30 am

      See the photo on which he’s tipping the pan over? Check the amount of butter in the bowl!

  8. Kim Carberry
    13/04/2015 / 10:03 am

    Oh wow! It sounds like you had an amazing experience!

  9. 13/04/2015 / 3:24 pm

    Oh my what a wonderful experience and the food all looks amazing!

  10. 13/04/2015 / 9:12 pm

    O my goodness that’s so amazing! The food looks fabulous, especially the gnocchi-how fantastic! So glad you have such a wonderful day xxx #magicmoments

    • Mel
      18/04/2015 / 12:37 am

      I am not normally a fan of gnocchi, but the red sweet potato ones had chestnut undertones and were truly delicious.

  11. 15/04/2015 / 12:31 pm

    How fantastic!! What an amazing day. Love the top tips… It’s all about the planning!! X

    • Mel
      15/04/2015 / 9:55 pm

      It is, isn’t it?

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