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Ready, Steady, Cook

It’s been a long time in the planning, fundraising and building, but last night the teaching staff stayed behind after school to try out our new cookery classroom.

We weren’t the first to use it as on Monday those pesky children in Year 1 beat us to it, cooking up a rather delicious blackberry and apple crumble. Having collected the fruit that morning, the class peeled, chopped, mixed, stirred and crumbled to create something pretty fantastic.

The school’s curriculum supports children to make connections in learning, so within the topic ‘The World of Our Senses’, all bases were covered. The communal crumbling felt good, looked good, smelt good and indeed tasted good; and making the link between harvesting real fruit (from real trees on a real allotment), cooking and eating, made the whole process so much more relevant.

Last night, Chef Michael set the teachers the rather challenging task of knocking up blackened leek chasseur with potato gnocchi, with everything cooked from fresh ingredients. For Nick and Lorraine this was very routine, for others it was a good challenge, but I got the impression that there were one or two who were definitely outside their comfort zone.

After a quick class discussion about the task in hand, we were at our work stations getting on with the chopping. Leeks were soon bubbling in the pot, with diced onion and sliced mushrooms set aside for later. The pulp from a baked potato (‘here’s one I prepared earlier’) was scooped out and mashed, and once mixed into a dough with flour and egg yolk, was rolled out, cut and shaped with a fork into gnocchi. With the gnocchi cooked and set aside, we fried off the onions and mushrooms, made the cream sauce and prepared for the really exciting bit straight out of Masterchef – the blow torch. When the leeks were nicely blackened, we plated up the dish before enjoying communal eating (and a spot of communal washing up). The whole process felt good, tasted good and was a lot of fun.

Through cooking we experienced a whole range of skills across a breadth of subjects. There was science: water boils at 100 degrees C; gnocchi float when they’re cooked on account of the egg yolk solidifying; burning things with a blow torch is a non-reversible change. There was maths: volume, capacity, reading a scale, estimating. There was English: reading the recipe, numerous opportunities for speaking and listening and, with the children safely at home, some choice language that Gordon Ramsey would have been proud of. And there was art, indeed at least some of the plates looked like presentation had been a consideration.

It’s early days, but I’ve got a good feeling about the cookery school. If all of our children can leave primary school with the knowledge, skills and enthusiasm to cook great food from fresh ingredients, the world will be a better place. So, is it green peppers or red tomatoes? Inspired to cook, I think it might be fried green tomatoes with goat’s cheese and red pepper coulis.

William