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New Year Reboot Workshop Recap

New Year Reboot Detox Class at Demuths Vegetarian Cookery School

Last Tuesday I hosted my first cooking class ever! The title was New Year Reboot and the aim was to show people strategies and recipes to help them recover their body from a season of excess and get back to (or get started with) feeling awesome all of the time. The class was held in Bath at Demuths Vegetarian Cookery School, owned and operated by Rachel Demuth, one of the best vegetarian chefs in the UK (she’s been at it for 30 years so she knows her stuff!).

New Year Reboot Workshop

I was very grateful to work alongside Rachel as I taught the course. While I demonstrated smoothies, soups and salads, Rachel showed how to make your own veggie stock, quinoa and the ultimate soup garnish: kale chips!

New Year Reboot Workshop

I was so grateful to have Rachel there, along with my helper and friend, Marie Leggo of Lanyon in Cornwall. I now realise just how much effort goes into teaching a cookery class, and I have new appreciation for the work that cookery teachers like Rachel put into what they do. It’s quite possible that I bit off more than I could chew with the menu, but Rachel and Marie helped everything flow.

All of the dishes were vegan, gluten-free, soy free and dairy free. Here’s what was on the menu, with recipes where available:

The students made their own pear and avocado smoothies and quinoa bowls, and it was fun seeing the different variations they came up with (I applaud their copious use of fresh herbs – my students were flavour genius!).

I was further delighted by how much they liked my cauliflower soup, where the creaminess comes from cashews rather than milk or cream. And in another cauliflower trick, the raw winter tabbouleh used cauliflower in place of bulgar wheat (the cauliflower gets broken into bits in a food processor).

New Year Reboot Detox Class at Demuths Vegetarian Cookery School

Of course, the best part was meeting and cooking with a bunch of new people, all eager to learn a bit about this healthy eating stuff and exchange ideas. It made all of that effort worthwhile and certainly assuaged any new-teacher-nerves I might have had!

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A big thanks to Rachel for providing such a wonderful environment for teaching, and thanks in particular for all the help with preparation. And thanks to Marie who helped clean up our messes!

Finally, thanks especially to everyone who came on the course – it inspires me to keep on pushing with my own healthy habits, and healthy output like recipes, cookbooks and workshops. Beetroot smoothies all around!

 

Helen and Silvana’s Vegetarian Smorgasbord

Tomatoes & slow roasted tomatoes with fregola and herbs

A recent lunch re-affirmed two things I already knew: Helen Lawrence from The Vegetarian Cookery School is one of the best vegetarian chefs of all time ever, and Silvana de Soissons really knows how to pick ‘em.

The occasion was The Foodie Bugle Contributor’s Lunch Party, hosted by Silvana, who wisely chose Helen to create, cook and serve the meal. The end result was the smorgasbord of my dreams (veggie or otherwise). Get a load of this menu:

  • Roasted red pepper soup and harissa
  • Wild mushrooms with pinenuts and herbs
  • Imman Bayaldi
  • Roasted butternut squash and haloumi salad with tahini yoghurt and spices
  • Castelluccio lentils with beetroot & caramelised fennel
  • Tomatoes slow roasted tomatoes with fregola and herbs

This is my kind of food, and reading the menu filled me with promise. But it was in eating the food itself where I was reminded why Helen rocks my world.

Helen Lawrence

I’ve known Helen for the past few years in my work with The Vegetarian Cookery School and Demuths Restaurant (where Helen used to be head chef). Helen is happy, fun and spontaneous. She works hard but never stresses. She loves ingredients. She loves to play. She loves to cook. All of this results in some amazing food, often with flavour combinations that surprise and inspire, and always beautifully presented as if each dish is an homage to the vegetables themselves. I’ve been a (mostly) vegetarian for the past 20 years and every time I take one of Helen’s classes or am treated to her cooking, I leave saturated with new ideas for how to make vegetables extraordinary.

Tomatoes & slow roasted tomatoes with fregola and herbs

Case in point was her lentils with beetroot and caramelised fennel, where the fennel was roasted on a very low heat over the course of two days to make the lentils absolutely soft, tender and sweet. Add to this deeply roasted beetroot and red onion, pomegranate molasses and edible flowers and you have something for which the phrase “lentil salad” simply doesn’t do it justice.

Lentils done well

The other revelation came in her rose harissa – take your usual spicy harissa past and add rosewater and rose petals. The result: a world-rocking addition to roasted red pepper soup, bread, salad and pretty much anything that takes well to a bit of heat. (Following its positive reception, Helen has graciously shared the rose harissa recipe for all to enjoy.)

Roasted red pepper soup with harissa

It wasn’t all fireworks and surprise flavours – Helen knows when to hold back and let great ingredients speak for themselves. Her sauteed wild mushrooms were going to be wrapped in filo and served with pine nuts, but in the end she served the sauteed wild mushrooms as they were – another example of Helen’s spontaneity resulting in beautiful results.

Sauteed wild mushrooms with herbs

I asked Helen what her favourite dish was to make. Her response: “that’s like choosing your favourite child.” This was right before she commandeered the mint tea, opened the pot and threw in some fresh sage leaves: “let’s put some of this sage in there because it’s just so lovely.”

Lunch is served

Like I said, Silvana knows how to pick em’, and that goes beyond chefs – she knows how to pick her friends, too. The lunch party was full of the coolest, friendliest and most talented foodies around. Authors, chefs, cookery teachers, food and drink “artisans”, journalists… mostly small business owners who have the freedom of life to disappear on a weekday afternoon into Silvana’s countryside wonderworld – the crockery, the linens, the Aga, the dogs, the wine, the food, the people – it’s all straight out of the “Make Life Awesome” handbook. It’s a sure sign that things are headed in a pretty swell direction.

I’ll finish this post the same way we finished the meal: with dessert. Semolina cake with roasted quince alongside rosewater and pistachio meringues, blackberries and vanilla labna. There are those roses again, kickin’ ass and takin’ names. I need to get some.

Dessert

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Gujerati Thali

Gujerati Thali

Yesterday’s lunch / dinner came courtesy of Urvashi Roe‘s Gujerati Thali class at The Vegetarian Cookery School in Bath. Me and fellow students spent the day learning to cook the Gujerati style of Indian food, and in groups of three created our own twists on dhal, potato shak (a dry type of curry) and coriander coconut chutney, all of which we enjoyed over a thali feast at the end of the class.

I loved it all, especially the new experience of trying Guvar and Tindoor, two indian vegetables featured in the shak. And it was great fun trying all the different dahls, some with coconut milk, some without. Ultimate highlight might be the coriander coconut chutney – cuz let’s face it, good chutney can bring any meal together.

I’ll be writing more on this class coming soon (including the recipe for that super coriander chutney). For now, check out Urvashi’s Gujerati Girl blog (or visit her in her other guise as The Botanical Baker).