A couple of weeks ago I entered a Twitter competition being held by Cook:Manchester. The prize was a place on their Lamb Masterclass with the legendary chef Rob Owen Brown which, to my utter surprise and delight, I won! I've never been taught to cook in my life so I was both excited and a little nervous.
Cook:Manchester is a professional kitchen that is available to hire for companies to trial their food, host a launch party or build their business. By chance, I was at the kitchen a few days before my Lamb Masterclass when I attended the Sugar Dumplin' launch party being held there.
The following Sunday I was up bright and early to drive into Manchester for my eagerly anticipated day. On arrival, I met a lovely bunch of people whom I shared the day with. We even got chef's whites to wear (and take home)!
What followed was an incredible day which was suitable for both absolute beginners like me and experts. I like to cook but most of my dishes come from jars or cans, so preparing a meal from scratch and taking it from carcass to plate was eye opening and confidence boosting, not to mention so easy to do once you've been taught how.
We began by pairing up and fetching our lamb carcass out of the chiller and onto the work surface. Rob guided us through the butchery process as we worked our way through the lamb to produce a tray full of all the different cuts. The hands-on tutorial was so good that I would feel confident preparing a whole lamb if presented with the opportunity again.
It was well explained, clean and educational, leaving me with new found knowledge of each different part of the lamb, how to cut and prepare it.
That led us onto the five dishes we were to cook that day:
Lamb and Barley Broth
Garlic Smoked Loin with Honey, Spring Onion and Ginger
The Ultimate Lancashire Hot Pot
Roast Rack of Lamb with"Cassis" Thyme Fondant
Sticky Stuffed Slow Braised Breast of Lamb
We began with vegetable preparation, something that I used to struggle with when cooking. Rob talked us through the easiest way to get your vegetables ready - an invaluable lesson.
The broth was our first dish to get on the stove and once it was on the hob, it bubbled away nicely all day. I had it for lunch every day last week!
Our attention then turned to creating our Lamb Hot Pot. I recently received my 'Adopted Northerner' certificate and knowing how to cook a Hot Pot will definitely work in my favour up here in Lancashire. I took the dish home and the Wife and I enjoyed it for dinner that evening. I'm not fully Northern yet though, as the Wife pointed out I forgot red cabbage...oops!
Loin of lamb was our next cut to cook and it turned out to be my favourite of the day. Served on a bed of spring onion, ginger and honey, this oriental tasting dish was amazing and I was triumphantly able to reproduce it at home this week. My Wife loves it as much as I do and we plan to cook it once a week from now on.
Ready to take home at the end of the day, we stuffed a breast of lamb with black pudding and thyme before tying it with string and cooking it in the oven. I hadn't tried breast of lamb before and tend not to use black pudding but they go perfectly together.
Additionally, knowing how to tie up lamb ensures I will pass Monica's Invention Test if I ever end up on Masterchef...
Finally, we delivered our rack of lamb dish. Learning how to cook fondant potato was incredible and remarkably easy, so it will no doubt end up as a favourite here at home. Preparing the rack was fun and, along with the Cassis sauce we made, it tasted superb. A great dish to cook when you want to impress.
We took enough prepared meals to last for days... to the point me and the Wife have eaten lamb every single day this week! We were also allowed to take the rest of our uncooked meat which included leg, shoulder, fillet, rack and loin of lamb.
The best thing I took away from my day with Rob at Cook:Manchester was cooking confidence. I would never have attempted to cook any of the dishes before or known how to prepare any of the ingredients. In fact I wouldn't know where to start. However, the masterclass has given me the boost I need to stop buying takeaways and ready meals, and start being more adventurous in the kitchen.
The entire day left me with a new found passion to cook, in fact, the leg of lamb I took home with me is currently slow-roasting in the oven ready to be served with pre-prepared fondant potatoes. I even bought a new roasting pan!
Ooh get me!
A few more pictures courtesy of the fantastic Samantha at Starlings Photography. Hopefully her much more impressive pictures will give you a better feel for the day:
The day was an incredible experience and I send out a huge thanks to Sean and the team at Cook:Manchester as well as Rob for making it a special day.
There are a number of similar events planned with the next one being a Pork Masterclass. Get yourself a ticket, it's lots of fun, worth every penny and it'll take your cooking to new levels!