Yorkshire's Independent Restaurant Guide

Tideswell School of Food

Since Mandy was on the production team of BBC’s recent Village SOS series which featured the Tideswell School of Food in Derbyshire it wouldn’t be fair to get her to review it so here’s a report from a local Squidbeak follower – Freddie Watson:

How many 19 year olds do you know who can cook a decent curry? How many 19 year olds do you know that would be bothered about being able to cook a decent curry? This is the killer; how many 19 year olds do you know that would go to a cookery school, in a Peak District village, with their verging on 60, still listening to the Specials, mother? Well I’m one, and I’ll tell you all about it.

In May 2010 the village of Tideswell received a grant of £400,000 from the lottery to rejuvenate a formerly self-sufficient community. Within a year, the Taste Tideswell scheme was set up: a plan to put Tideswell back on the map, with a cookery school the main ingredient in a recipe of ambition.

Anyone who saw BBC’s Village SOS on the 7th September will know all about the Taste Tideswell scheme. Sarah Beeny’s OTT dramatisation of the year’s events covered all you need to know. Except the experience of a first hand punter.

Shortly after arriving and meeting your fellow students, the chef running the course introduces himself, and takes you downstairs into  a state of the art learning kitchen. The facilities at the school are impressive, although they probably should be for almost half a million quid! You are equipped with everything you could possibly think of, two hobs per person and oven included.

The style of cooking was South Indian. We learnt to make a tamarind-rich Kerala fish curry, a dahl that actually makes lentils exciting, lemon and turmeric rice and puri breads. Techniques and skills were taught that I had never heard of, such as chopping coriander large and rough to keep the flavour’s intensity.

Curries tend to scare people. We just don’t know where to start, what spices to use, and whether or not buying-in curry paste is ‘cheating’. Before visiting the school the one curry I had previously attempted to make turned out like a dry casserole, which did to your bowels what Alton Towers does to a pensioner. Okay, slight exaggeration, but really- it was bad, and my bowels did suffer. In recent days however I have reduplicated the curries learnt at the school, and even experimented with different ingredients and spices – all to a surprisingly stellar effect. I reckon the skills and techniques learnt will stick with me.

The courses cover all abilities. Even if you fancy yourself as something of a culinary genius you’re still going to learn something, but for those whose kitchen skills are limited, everything is explained very clearly. One-to-one tuition and help is available frequently throughout the course. The style of teaching is relaxed, as if you’re learning from a relative. Top quality ingredients are provided, and volunteers do all your washing up with a smile.

However, what most impresses about the school is the passion of the teachers and helpers. They really care about what they are doing, and have the professionalism to match. The words and body language projected show that these people simply love food. Courses are diverse, from baking to sushi making. There is even a micro-brewery, where you can learn to brew your own beer properly, not with a £10 kit from Tesco.

Prices are modest, with my 3-hour session costing just £25. For more information and pricing: www.tideswellschooloffood.co.uk