So, what is ‘Dude Food’? Think classic diner favourites taken to a gourmet level: slow cooked pulled pork in brioche buns, soft boiled scotch eggs and fennel crusted lamb ribs.
Abinger Cookery School in Surrey run an intensive, enjoyable one-day course – for beginners and experienced amateurs alike – on how to cook the most fashionable dishes of the moment. Dan Howard dusted off his apron and went to discover his inner food dude.
Abinger is a classic lovely Surrey village – complete with cricket green, antique shops and a tearoom. There is also a cookery school in a well-placed grand old Victorian building right in the middle.
It’s great to see the location in use again; it was formerly a pub, but was empty for years after closing. The school opened in 2013.
Its owners have extensive experience in hospitality. Lewis, the manager, comes from a hotel background and the other partners in the business also run the hugely successful Fish&Pips chalets. Alongside its short courses, the school also offers longer residential courses to train chalet chefs.
We cooked our own lunch and dinner
Six chaps turned up for the day, myself included, with a varied mix of ages, backgrounds and experience between us. The format of the day was essentially that we cooked our own lunch and dinner, learning the dishes as we did. We then got to eat the results – luckily, the expert guidance of our chef Sam made sure nothing was inedible.
The kitchen classroom is well equipped and spacious, with room for a maximum of twelve students and a central station for the chef in charge. As they would be the longest to cook, we started with slow-cooked pulled pork shoulder (the main for dinner) and the filling for the individual cow pies, which were to be our lunch.
Pulled pork and scotch eggs
We gathered around the main unit and Sam took us through the steps to prepare the pork from scratch – giving us individual jobs to help along the way. It’s a great environment to learn in – you can get up close and really observe techniques and approaches, while always being able to ask questions and compare notes with your fellow students.
Aside from the main dishes, we learned a number of side dishes, such as scotch eggs, that we created for ourselves following a demonstration from Sam. I love scotch eggs, so was delighted to find out how they’re made and have a go. I’m pretty proud of my first effort, especially as we managed to keep the egg yolks runny even after deep frying. The result was a welcome mid-morning snack!
The classes are a social experience too. At lunch we all sat down together at an impressive 14-seat dining table to tuck into our cow pies with suet pastry – delicious and seriously filling – whilst putting the world to rights over a glass of wine.
A sticky toffee pudding too
The afternoon was a blur of gastronomy.
We made brioche buns; marinated and prepared lamb ribs with a fennel crust; minced, seasoned and filled sausages (hilarity ensued).
We also discovered just how much butter, cream and booze goes into a chicken liver parfait (a lot, oh my goodness).
Our chef taught us what chimichurri is (incredible Argentinian piquant green sauce) and how to make it; and the afternoon was topped off with a lesson on sticky toffee pudding.
On a side note, I never knew until then that dates are the vital ingredient of sticky toffee pudding – they provide that incredible rich fruit undertone.
As you can imagine, dinner was an epic affair. It was a fitting end to a great day – sharing the food we’d made and marvelling at what we’d been able to achieve, even the least experienced of us.
Dude food is certainly not just for dudes – I’d recommend anyone give it a go, but if it’s not your thing then Abinger Cookery School offer a wide range of other courses covering all sorts of subjects, from basic skills to baking, gluten free cooking, working with seafood and a ‘Best of British’ course to name but a few.
They are also looking to add other events and experiences, including supper clubs, beer and wine tasting and corporate days. The school also offers residential one or two week chalet cookery courses for students looking to become professional chalet chefs.
Courses from £135; gift vouchers available. Abinger Cookery School: www.abingercookeryschool.com