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Thursday, 23 January 2014

Saturday Kitchen Experience

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Saturday Kitchen set
Have you ever watched Saturday Kitchen and thought, 'I could give them a run for their money with the omelette challenge'? Well, now you can! Cactus Kitchens, where Saturday Kitchen is filmed, have opened a cookery school and they hold 'A Taste of Saturday Kitchen' once a month.

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The other side of the kitchen

I went along last Saturday and had a rather interesting afternoon. I chose to go to the experience with Atul Kochhar from Benares restaurant - he was the first Indian chef to receive a Michelin Star. We were welcomed with tea and coffee after being split into two groups of 12. Then we enjoyed a relaxed and informal wine tasting given by the producer of Saturday Kitchen, Andy Clarke. We tried 5 different wines, starting with a Spanish Viñas del Vero which was chosen to go with the curry that Atul would be demonstrating later. The other wines were paired with pan fried scallops, duck, lamb and a fruity pavlova. There was quite a lot of wine involved with the wine tasting and not that much food to soak it up, so our group now had eight tipsy males and was quite lively!

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Informal wine tasting

We made our way downstairs to the studio where Saturday Kitchen is filmed - it's surprisingly small! - and took time to hear about what goes on during the rehearsals and filming of the show. We were allowed to mooch around the kitchen and, if you ever wondered if those ovens are fake and maybe the food was secretly placed in somehow at the back, you're wrong! The ovens are totally real and there is also a (small) prep kitchen downstairs where they have exactly the same ovens, so that the home economist (who works behind the scenes) can test all the recipes before filming. We moved on to see the production control room, where the shots you see on the TV are controlled, followed by the prep kitchen and even James Martin's dressing room (shh, keep that to yourself!)

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Everything in the kitchen is spotless

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What equipment is under the kitchen bench?

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Yes, those ovens are real!
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The table where the guest chefs & celebrity guest sit 

After our tour and a optional book signing by Atul, we went up to the top of the building (which was once a chapel and vicarage) to the cookery school. We watched Atul demonstrating a prawn, scallop & pineapple curry, chatting and answering our barrage of questions before we tasted the curry, which was gorgeous!

Atul Kochhar book signing
Book signing with Atul Kochhar

Cactus Cookery School 
Beautifully equipped cookery school with state-of-the-art ovens and hobs, and all the latest kitchen cookware

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Atul's 'food heaven' is "anything with fresh fruit"

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Wow - prawn, scallop & pineapple curry

Now that omelette challenge....!
Before I tell you what happened, let's just say that I'm a little egg phobic and cannot bear to eat any form of egg unless it's in cake, pastry etc., and haven't really cooked an egg... ever. (Don't roll your eyes, yes, I do know I write a food blog!)

Anyway, so here we were, about to do the 3-egg omelette challenge - maybe the pan wasn't turned on hot enough or maybe the egg God was having the last laugh - whatever it was, it wasn't my day to cook an omelette. Atul graciously took over my sad looking pan and I swear I heard him say the words "egg soup" and "up there on the omelette board with Madhur Jaffrey". OK, you can stop sniggering now, it's been officially confirmed by a Michelin starred chef that I can't cook an egg!

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Oh dear... *blush* Even Madhur has a better time of 2:05

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The famous omelette board

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If you watch Saturday Kitchen, you will know what this is!

At the end of the session, we retired to the green room for more (much needed) coffee, and I was presented with my own egg trophy, which had probably the worst time ever in the history of the famous omelette challenge plastered over it *cringe*.

Sorry mum!

I spoke to a couple of the other attendees who regularly go to similar events and they thought it was slightly expensive (£149 pp) and wished that they had eaten a late breakfast or early lunch before going, as it's really more of a tour and demo rather than a food feast.  One other thing to note, the book is unfortunately not included in the price.

But having said that, if you have a partner or friend who loves watching Saturday Kitchen this would made a really nice birthday treat - quite a few of the participants had been gifted the experience as a Christmas gift - it's great fun and you do get to meet a fab chef up close and personal as they say! (And they might even help you out with your omelette!!)

A few more photos from the day:

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Finishing touches to the curry

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Fresh salad to go with the curry
Cactus Studios

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Ssssshhhhh - just look what I found in the fridge of the prep kitchen - butter, butter, butter - James is well known for his love of butter!

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Atul's book

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Nooo, another omelette disaster by one of the other attendees

PS. A little bit of gossip that I overheard while on the tour - James Martin turned up last week in a loud lime-green sweater and was gently persuaded to change into something less vibrant - I saw a playback of the show later and noticed him wearing an elegant black shirt!

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Disclaimer - I went along to the Saturday Kitchen Experience as a guest of Cactus Kitchens, via a Twitter competition last year. I was not required to write about it, but thought my experience might help someone else decide if this is for them.

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This content belongs to Nic at Cherrapeno. All writing and photography copyright N Fowers © 2007-2014 unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Vins de Loire

Happy New Year!

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Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas - ours was quiet but it was great to spend it with the family. Last year seemed to go by so quickly, it's hard to believe 2014 is here!
Over the festive period, I was sent 3 Loire valley wines to try. 

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We started with a sweet white wine from Côteaux du Layon Saint-Aubin, 2012, produced by Domaine des Forges and his son Stéphane Branchereau. This was a fabulous wine and my favourite of the three. It had an enticing fruity smell and was one of those wines you could drink just on its own, although it would be perfect with something sweet and went really well with our raspberry shortcake.
Find it at Tanners Wine Merchant, £11.30

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Next up was another sweet white wine Raisins Nobles, 2009, produced by Joël Gigou in the La Chartre-sur-le-Loire area. Everyone was oohing and aaahing over this one! We drank it with a triple chocolate praline tart, and then finished it off with a cheese platter later on in the evening.
Find it at Yapp Brothers, £19.95

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Our last Loire wine was a light red Domaine Filliatreau, Château Fouquet, 2012 from the Saumur area.  Maybe we were just unlucky with this bottle as I noticed that the cork had partly disintegrated into the wine, but I'm sorry to say that it wasn't really to my liking, finding it a bit musty with a strange aftertaste.
Find it at Yapp Brothers, £12.25

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Disclosure: I was sent three bottles of Loire French wines to try over the Christmas period, all views are my own.

Please drink responsibly, visit Drinkaware for more information.

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This content belongs to Nic at Cherrapeno. All writing and photography copyright N Fowers © 2007-2014 unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.