Giselle Bphotos Avenue Cookery School Dinner Party 2017 04 27 3967 Edited 1

Food and Travel Review

I’m swiftly handed a large glass of wine and hunk of fresh bread as I step inside The Avenue Cookery School’s light and airy kitchen. It feels just like home in the best possible way.

Head chef and owner Diana Horsford greets all 20 of us who are here for her popular Evening Dinner Party Dining class with a sincere and enthusiastic ‘Welcome, darlings!’. She has more than 12 years’ experience as a cookery teacher and her vibrant personality shines through in all of her classic, technique-led dishes.

The kitchen is familiar and comforting, with glowing fairy lights and rustic wooden tables adorned with vases of tulips and wine glasses. We get to work in groups of five, with an assistant chef on hand to help with ingredient preparation and any queries we may have.

First up is a tomato gazpacho with parmesan croutons. Diana show us a handy trick, slitting the base of the tomatoes for our blush-coloured iced soup and dropping them in a bowl of boiling water for just 10 seconds to make light work of removing the skins.

With wine flowing and music playing in the background, we begin the second course – apricot-stuffed ballotine of chicken served with seasonal vegetables and a mouthwatering almond and Parma ham butter. We combine all the ingredients for our butter then turn our attention to the stuffing for our chicken, mixing fresh sliced apricots with onions and thyme. The organic breast is butterflied, stuffed to the brim then tightly wrapped in cling film and gently poached while we eagerly await the vegetables roasting in the oven. Diana quickly has the room giggling, informing us that to get rid of smelly cooking hands you need to ‘make love to the tap’ (wet your hands and rub them on the stainless steel).

The final course is a simple yet delicious banana crumble with salted caramel ice cream. After whipping up a custard to churn for the ice cream, Diana gives us another useful tip: when making the salted caramel sauce, heat the cream slightly to prevent it crystallising when it hits the sugar. We slice bananas and place them in a ramekin, spoon a buttery crumble mixture over the top and then pop it in the oven until it’s golden.

Perfectly in keeping with the relaxed environment that Diana is so keen to create, we end the evening by sitting down together to eat all of the delicious dishes. I leave feeling full, happy and eager to host my next dinner party in order to show off my new-found skills. Three-and-a-half hour Evening Dinner Party Dining class starts at £85.

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