The writer Joanna Weinberg has set up a cookery school, Kitchen Table Cookery at the Talbot Inn in Mells, Somerset with her friend, Clare Liardet. Joanna has written extensively about food and how to host the perfect, cosy dinner whilst Clare was formerly the general manager at the Engineer gastropub. Both clearly know that nourishing guests is as much about making them feel at home as it is about putting something delicious on the table.
Classes at Kitchen Table Cookery begin with coffee and a chat. The chat is important – classes are small and Jo and Clare want to know what level their students are starting at, their past experiences of cooking and if there’s anything in particular people want to get out of the experience. This is a far from theoretical course though – on the half-day Winter Pies and Tarts workshop we attended, we made: quiche Lorraine; a leek and chicken pie; small roasted vegetable pasties; frangipane and pear tarts; peach and mascarpone tarts; mixed berry tarts and a stand-out apple tart, as well as having pastry to take home with us. And of course the class is about so much more than pastry – we also discussed how seasoning works; the perfect knife for every job and the best seating arrangements at a large gathering.
Both Jo and Clare offer a plethora of useful tips for making pastry – not least, that if you cover your hands in flour you will place a barrier between yourself and the butter you are using, and crucially avoid over-working your pastry. We were delighted to not only learn how to make sweet pastry, savoury pastry and rough puff but also how to make the best of shop-bought pastry.
At the end of an intensive half-day of pie-making, we sat down to a delicious lunch with wine before heading off with a generous haul of pies. A thoroughly enjoyable day – we can’t wait for our next trip to the Talbot Inn (a pitch-perfect coaching inn) to absorb more of Jo and Clare’s kitchen table wisdom.