Where to find us
River Cottage HQ, Trinity Hill Road, Axminster , Devon. EX13 8TB
- Telephone: 01297 630 300
- Visit the cookery school website
Food and Travel Review
Food and Travel Review
‘Give strength to the gluten,’ says Matthew Gojevic, as myself and nine other students looked sceptically at a mound of the wettest dough imaginable. However, as Matthew is a Fat Duck alumni, we have faith that it will be transformed into a quality sourdough loaf in the space of seven hours. While we wait, we craft an apple galette (flat pastry cake) and learn to butcher a guinea fowl before transforming it into our take on coq au cidre (chicken in cider).
While our tutor talks about gluten strength, we work the 70 per cent hydration dough by hand. This involves stretching it out and back four or five times, before turning it 90 degrees and repeating the process. We perfect our preferred stretching method from a variety that Matthew has demonstrated, including ‘bench slapping’ and ‘the accordion’. Although tiring, our quest for a flawless loaf proves rather therapeutic. We settle into happy, rhythmic kneading while gazing out on to sweeping views of Devon’s lush Axe Valley.
Making rough puff pastry for the galette is next. Matthew advises rolling strips of fat into the flour to build up beautiful, buttery layers. After rolling, we flatten it so that it chills evenly in the fridge. ‘You can freeze pastry for three to four months,’ he points out.
We spread our batches with a rich crème pâtissière and top it with slices of apple picked from River Cottage’s own orchard then cook it at 190C until the crust is visibly puffed and dark brown and the juice from the fruit is bubbling inside.
Next up is the guinea fowl. Step by step, we’re shown how to dismantle it, from removing the wishbone to extracting the tiny oysters on either side of the backbone. Matthew tells us most chefs consider them the most delicious part of any poultry. We lightly fry them in butter, garlic and thyme until tender for a delicious snack.
Matthew’s secret ingredients for a flavour-filled coq au cidre are Kingston Black apple brandy and extra bacon. We sauté these with the guinea fowl, while softening shallots and mushrooms with thyme and garlic. After combining both pans, we simmer for 45 minutes over a low heat, adding chervil at the end.
The rich smell of the stew, combined with the lingering scent of fried bacon is a heady combination. As we plunge chunks of fresh sourdough bread into our steaming bowls, fellow student Michael sums up the mood in the room: ‘What a ripper of a day.’ HG. One-day cookery course costs £240. rivercottage.net
What you can learn at our cookery school
- Cookery Schools
- Bread Making
- Celebrity Chef
- Health & Nutrition
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