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
Fish ceviche with jalapeno and coconut
Sweet potato gnocchi, with orange, garlic, ginger and basil sauce
Stuffed chicken legs with black olives and baby potatoes
Chocolate tart with red fruits
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:
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?
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!
5 top tips from the day:
- In a kitchen, the two things you really need are knives and pans. Everything else is a bonus, but is not necessary.
- When entertaining, the difficult bit should just be plating everything, not cooking at the last minute. It is all about planning and prepping.
- 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.
- Ask for fresh yeast in the bakery section of your supermarkets. Some do not even charge for it!
- 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.