Factory farmed foods are the 'Couch potatoes' of the livestock world: underexercised, flabby and


But touch is useful too. as l spy \Vebber dipping a

linger into a simmering pot of chicken stock. Later

we get the crash course on testing whether cooked

meat is rare or well done. Put thumb and forefinger

together and then with your other hand feel the tension in the muscle below your thumb: that's rare meat. 'l’humb-pressing-pinkie approximates well done.

And then there is sound. Jessica illustrates that she‘s top of the class when she cuts Webber off mid- sentcnce upon hearing a pot reducing on a furious boil rather than emitting a 'happy melody". as the impish \Vebber says it should. Well done. Jess. Browning some meat‘.’ Don't begin unless you hear it sizzle upon hitting hot oil.

Hints and professional tips come fairly fast and furious throughout the day of the cookery course. I counted at least a dozen in the lirst hour or so.

Factory farmed foods are the ‘couch potatoes' of

the livestock world: under-exercised. flabby and tasteless. Lines of fat are the ‘motorways’ of game and poultry: the place where cuts are best made when jointing a chicken. for example. Never leave your oven door open: the cooker will lose heat

faster than your food will. Always let meat rest after

cooking: heat forces the juices to the centre and given a little time they will become more evenly

distributed. In some restaurant kitchens. handles of

stainless steel pans fresh out of the oven are sprinkled with flour so no hands gets burnt.

Anyone who enjoys cooking couldn't fail to take away something. although I see that aside from

Hints and professional tips come fast and furious throughout the day at Nick Nairn’s school which is aimed at any home cook who is eager to improve

some furious note-taking by myself and the occasional jottings by Jessica. no one else is writing a thing down. But they are listening quite attentively.

.\'ot everything Webber does. however. is beyond reproach or question. i follow the school that eschews the mutilating propensity of the garlic press. And when Webber dices his shallots first. lighting back some resulting tears before he can move on to de-seeding tomatoes. I can‘t help but think maybe 'best practice' is to prep one‘s pungent alliums last.

I don't speak my piece. But that‘s a mistake. \Vebber would much rather hear such comments from the class. It works best when people challenge and raise issues. he says. and adds: ‘The group makes the course.‘ .»\pparently when .\'airn is floating about the school. sparks fly as he plays the equivalent of a l-‘ringe heckler to Webber‘s accomplished performance.

Masterclasses are organised so that every 20 minutes or so of instruction from Webber is followed by an equal amount of time of hands-on prep and cooking by the students. He is easy to follow and punctuates most lessons with the interrogatory: ‘Quite happy with that'."

By about 3.15 in afternoon. classmates share some wine and nosh on the two courses we have

just prepared. I‘m quite pleased with my pot-

roasted saddle of rabbit with creamy mustard sauce (the latter representing something I would never normally try to master at home). I sense the chicken crown done 'Roman style' lie. lots of tomatoes and bell peppers) is a bit drier than ideal. and its accompanying sauce with vegetables has become a rather run of the mill ratatouille. Not that a speck of it goes to waste. mind you leftovers are going home for show and tell later. believe me.

For my money. the practical hands-on work is most gratifying and enjoyable. with Webber sweeping about the room. correcting any wee mistakes he sees and offering encouragement. After our late lunch. he finishes the day with an hour-long demonstration. But the soporilic effects of the meal combined with the understanding that my cooking for the day is linished makes this a bit anti-climatic.

I want to lay my hands on that well-balanced stainless steel knife. have a whack at another saddle of rabbit or create a double lamb chop. and get the 'happy melody" of sizzling sunflower oil on the go once again.

For more information on Masterclass schedules and less formal recreational day classes at Nairn’s Cook School in Port of Menteith, call 01877 385 603 or visit www.naimscookschool.com.

'6' Set: £3.79 THE LIST 21