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Exeter Cookery School - Cookery School

Food and Travel Review

Food and Travel Review

November 2016

French chefs have a long history of scoffing at English food, so it takes a lot of confidence for a couple of Brits to go to the Dordogne's gastronomic heartland and set up a cookery school. But that's exactly what Jim and Lucy Fisher did in 2000. Fast-forward some 16 successful years and they are back on home turf in Devon with a new cookery school featuring the very best of their learning from France and further afield.

Today I've travelled to Exeter's historic quayside to be tutored in the decadent world of chocolate desserts. Jim opens the class by telling us his first memory is standing in a bakery aged four and being so seduced by a glistening ganache cake that he just had to touch it. He's been mastering the art of chocolate ever since. Despite having worked alongside Rick Stein and reaching a MasterChef semi-final, he instantly puts the group at ease.

We start with tempering, the technique behind that satisfying snap, which occurs when a good-quality piece of chocolate is broken, and begin by melting a bowlful in a bain-marie (water bath), allowing it to cool, then reheating several times. Once it becomes a glossy liquid and is spread on greaseproof paper, it's left to set in the fridge before we coming out shiny, hard and brittle.

Next we make a simple custard with eggs and double cream and add it to the tempered chocolate. This sinful concotion, known as a délice, is liberally scooped on to a crunchy base of more chocolate, Nutella and bran flakes and allowed to set in the fridge. I can feel my arteries harden as my mouth waters.

White chocolate ice cream is a first for me but its delicate flavour and creamy texture prove an ideal foil to our other full-bodied desserts. It's a simple process of making another custard but adding white chocolate rather than cream. Jim's tip is to make it sweeter than you would normally like. 'The excess sugar will be knocked back when it's churned,' he tells us, as he empties the contents of his bowl into an ice-cream maker.

After a quick prosciutto salad for lunch (a welcome light contrast to the vast quantities of chocolate I've been sneakily putting away), we reconvene for our dish of the day: the much-fabled soufflé. I have heard some horror stories about the dinner-party flops and failed bakes, so I'm more than a tad apprehensive.

'Soufflés are tricky little things with far more ingredients than you would expect, so measure them all out with perfect accuracy before you proceed,' advises Jim. We make a crème pâtissière – a paste of milk, cream, cornflour, egg and 70 per cent dark chocolate – that is combined with the famously light sponge consisting of egg whties and caster sugar whisked to Alpine-like peaks.

After 20 minutes in the oven they emerge, triumphant and pillowy. I'm as surprised as I am impressed. We eat them piping hot alongside a generous scoop of our white chocolate ice cream and a serious serve of self-satisfaction. I leave with a parcel of délice to enjoy at home, a telltale smudge of chocolate on my cheek and the sense that I have been truly indulged.

TB. A full-day chocolate workshop costs £155. exetercookeryschoool.co.uk

Our Specialities

What you can learn at our cookery school

  • Butchery
  • Fish & Seafood
  • Knife Skills
  • Local Cuisine
  • Pastry, Cakes and Puddings

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