In my recent globe-trotting research into recreational cooking schools (ie, not ones which train people to be chefs, such as my alma mater, le Cordon Bleu), it came of a bit of a surprise to find the best run, best equipped and all-round most impressive to be in the Danish capital, Copenhagen.
This is Meyers Madhus* (or 'Food House', set up by food pioneer and entrepreneur Claus Meyer), in Nørrebro, a rather 'fruity' part of Copenhagen otherwise best known for its riots and regular shootings. It is, simply, a temple to culinary education, offering several courses each evening to locals, companies and, in a new innovation, for English language speakers too.
I attended the Nordic food-themed class one evening, where, as we tucked into the braised pork belly he had prepared as a pre-class snack, ex-Noma chef Bo Frederiksen talked us through some of the ingredients which we would be cooking with, including lovage, elderberries, malt powder and buttermilk.
Here we are trying some oatmeal crackers. As you can see, the course was very popular; my only real complaint was that it was a little over-crowded.
We were divided into five teams of four/five people, a mix of keen home cooks, complete novices and one or two professional chefs from company canteens (of which there are still many in Denmark), and set to work making a highly advanced, five course menu including white asparagus with langoustines, warm-smoked mackerel with salted radishes, and pork with shrimp and lovage oil, followed by a buttermilk soup with rhubarb sorbet and malt crumbs.
A couple of weeks later, I also rolled up for the bread baking class – 'More popular than Madonna tickets,' according to the chef. Claus Meyer's bread book has been a massive best seller in Denmark, apparently the Danes can't get enough of home made sour dough and rye bread.
I learned so much more than I could ever have done from a cook book – most importantly, to add much, much more water to my bread dough than I used to, to knead it well to get those glutens binding, and crucially, to let it rest. Great bread takes time.
But it's worth it:
* Lynn Trussophile grammar pedants please note, the Danes don't use possessive apostrophes. I do make gazillions of such errors in this blog (where, unlike with my usual writing for mags, papers and books, I don't have the blessed privilege of an attentive sub editor to make me look less retarded), but that isn't one.