Sophie’s Culinary Bites

Cooking Lessons

Cookery lessons 

Learn to Cook with Sophie. Either in your own home on a one to one basis or at my catering unit.

Cookery lessons available

Hourly – £25.00 an hour 

1/2 day – £125.00 including refreshments 

Full day – £225.00 including lunch & drinks 

based on 1 to 4 people

Whether you’re a novice or are looking to perfect your technique I offers  guidance and knowledge so that you can become proficient in the kitchen from traditional dishes and know-how to basics, modern and creative Tutorials that are available suit individual skills, wishes and tastes. 
There are a variety of classes suitable for all.

Whether you are a foodie wishing to create stunning dinner party dishes or a parent wanting your child to learn some basic cooking skills  – Lessons to suit you. 

Get in contact to book yourself in and be ready to wow your family & friends with new cooking skills.

Ken hom

March 2019 I found myself in the enviable position of having a cookery class with Ken Hom.

Ken Hom OBE is an American chef, author and television-show presenter for the BBC, specialising in Chinese Cuisine. In 2009 he was appointed honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire for “services to culinary arts”

The lesson was held in London, sponsored by Lee Kum Kee sauces and honed in on my Chinese Cookery skills. 

Dishes included Sichuan Dan Dan Noodles, Sticky, Belly Pork, Sweet & Sour, Duck & a Beef Stir fry.

All of which I am conversant in and can pass on to my eager students.

Treasures of the sea

In the same year I attended  “Treasures of the Sea” day course at The Raymond Blanc Cookery School at Belmont Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons 

Raymond Blanc OBE is a French chef. Blanc is the chef patron at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, a hotel-restaurant in Great Milton, Oxfordshire, England. The restaurant has two Michelin stars and scored 9/10 in the Good Food Guide. 

Raymond’s philosophy is to Nuture your love of food. The cookery schools’ aim is to demystify the act of cooking giving confidence, knowledge and control.

Obviously similar in my aim of teaching my students the joy of cooking.

This particular course, run by Mark Peregrine, the cookery school director, was based on fish. Raymond Blanc attended the class also and enthused about cooking with seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. 

Fish Stock Mackerel with soy, lime glaze & fennel salad Scallop Oudille, Crab Tamarind Curry. Braised Fillets of Sole Moules Mariniere and Roasted Brill with Red wine Sauce Once again wonderful fish cooking techniques that I can pass onto my students.

The Raymond Blanc Cookery School

Early 2020 I returned to The Raymond Blanc Cookery School. Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons is the only country house hotel to have held a 2 Star Michelin badge of honour for over 30 years so why not learn from the best?

This time the course was – “Let’s Cook” Including wonderful seasonal dishes of Jerusalem Artichoke Soup Salmon with soy lime & ginger dressing Chicken with morels, and Jura Wine Sauce Grand Marnier Soufflé. Demystifying two techniques in particular here, The art of making delicious soup without using stock  And producing picture perfect souffles, incredibly light and tasty. My knowledge grew and gives me the ability to educate all who book lessons with me.

“Cooking is not difficult. Everyone has taste, even if they don’t realize it. Even if you’re not a great chef, there’s nothing to stop you understanding the difference between what tastes good and what doesn’t.”

– Gerard Depardieu

Cookery lessons 8 year old

Lucy starting with some basic knife skills to produce a fresh tasty fruit salad. Also Lucy making healthy chicken nuggets and tomato sauce from scratch.

Cookery lessons 12 year old

Chloe making lasagne starting off with a bechamel and tomato sauce.

Cookery lessons 13 year old

Jessica honing her baking skills with a classic Victoria Sponge and white chocolate chip cookies.

Cooking lobster

Setting the standards high for myself my food hero, Raymond Blanc has his new book out, Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons – The Story of a Modern Classic, therefore his seasonal Lobster dish was on my radar to cook.

Lobster Plancha with Red Pepper Jus and Caradamon.

To me Lobster is opulent, exuding decandence and conjuring up thoughts of dining on the Orient Express or luxurious restaurants.

I am happy to say it is becoming more affordable to the general public with restaurants such as Nosh & Quaff, Lobster Peninsula and The Lobster Pot local to our vicinity. It is also in vogue at street food vendors with such mouth watering dishes as Lobster, Mac & Cheese or Lobster & Crayfish rolls.

Our local supplier of fresh seafood is the Birmingham Bull Ring Indoor Market offering a vast array of fresh fish, meat, fruit and veg. I choose the beautiful specimen below at a cost of £24.00.

The humane technique to kill a Lobster is to insert a knife in the cross on the top of the Lobster head with the blade facing forward to the front of it’s head. In one single movement put the knife through the cross and cut down between its eyes.

The recipe is broken down into several parts and the 1st part is the creation of a curry oil.

100ml extra virgin olive oil

6g curry powder

1 lemongrass stalk, bruised and finely chopped

7g kaffir lime leaves chopped

Lime Zest

Pinch of sea salt

Juice of 1 lime

Place the olive oil in a pan with the curry powder, lemongrass and lime leaves. Bring to a very low heat and leave to infuse for an hour. Add lime zest, lime juice and salt. Sieve and set aside.

To cook the Lobster bring a large pan of water to boil and blanch the tail for 30 seconds, then immerse in cold water. When cool cut the tail in half lengthways. Remove the dark tract. Lift the Lobster flesh out of the shell to ensure it is loose and easy to eat. Season with the curry oil, salt, a tiny pinch of cardamom powder and 1/4 tsp of finely grated fresh ginger.

Blanch the claws in the same water then cooked in simmered water for 20 – 25 minutes. Remove.

Now the 2nd part of the recipe – Red Pepper Reduction

Lobster shells, head and small legs.

750g red peppers

20ml olive oil

20ml dry white wine

Teaspoon freshly grated ginger

1 cardamom pod, seeds extracted and taken out

Pinch of cayenne pepper and a dash of white wine vinegar to taste.

Once the ‘dead man’s fingers’ have been removed from the lobster chop the head and legs into 1cm pieces.

Core and de seed the red peppers roughly chopping them. Blitz to a puree then strain through a fine sieve ensuring you keep as much juice as possible. Heat in a pan and reduce by half.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and sear the chopped lobster shells. Deglaze with the wine and then add the cardamom, ginger and cayenne pepper.

Pass through a sieve and add a splash of white wine vinegar to taste.

The various stages of the red pepper reduction – The simmering sauce.

Strained red peppers and sautéed lobster shells

Chopped lobster head and legs.

3rd part of the recipe

6 Jersey Royal potatoes, simmered for 10minutes, or until tender with a splash of extra virgin olive oil, rosemary and thyme sprig, 1 peeled clove of garlic, 1/2 bay leaf, 1 tbsp curry oil and a sprinkle of sea salt to impart flavour.

If you have a meat hammer break the Lobster claws and knuckles removing the meat carefully. I didn’t so I used my rolling pin. One good crack ensures the claw comes out whole, but if you are a little afraid of doing this just watch a You Tube video.

To garnish and serve.

Pre heat oven to 170oC / Gas Mark 3

Heat a frying pan, small drop of oil and sear the lobster tail for 1 minute until lightly coloured.

Place on an oven tray and roast for 3 minutes. Repeat with the claws and knuckle meat.

Once done add the claws and knuckle meat to the warm red pepper reduction.

Arrange potatoes and lobster on a plate and add a trickle of red pepper reduction and curry oil.

Decorate with pea shoots and fresh parsley.

Below is how my Lobster looked after blanching the tail and cooking the claws.

As you can see Gary Jones’ image of his finished dish is beyond sublime. Executed perfectly with the addition of deep fried potato skins, salad leaves and French Cavair, (Sturia).

He also topped his Jersey Royals with curried yogurt and Caviar. I topped my potatoes with seasoned creme fraiche.

I omitted the potato skins and unfortunately no Caviar was to hand instead finishing my take on the recipe with fresh chopped parsley and home grown pea shoots.

Well a huge thank you to Raymond Blanc’s wonderful book which gave me the courage and knowledge to create an amazing opulent Lobster dish, that was immensely appreciated by my hubby.

I am not a qualified chef but with descriptive recipes to follow and the feel for how a dish should taste and look the result was outstanding. I proudly plated it up and tingles of excitement ran down my spine as I anticipated the flavours. Not at all disappointed.

Making a swiss roll

Here’s the recipe in full. 

Swiss roll sponge (serves 6)

2 large eggs

50g caster sugar (plus 2 tbsp for your cooked sponge)

1 tsp good vanilla vanilla extract

50g self-raising flour, sifted

A knob of butter, to grease your baking tin

  1. Heat your oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Grease and line a 16 x 28cm Swiss roll tin with baking parchment.
  2. Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla together for 5 mins using an electric hand whisk until the mixture is thick, pale and aerated. Gently fold in the flour in two batches using a large metal spoon. Pour the mixture into the tin and gently ease into the corners using a spatula.
  3. Bake for 10-12 mins until golden and firm – keep an eye on it and be careful not to overbake, or the sponge will break when rolled.
  4. While the sponge is baking, sprinkle 2 tbsp sugar over a square of baking parchment. Prepare your fillings/garnishes while the sponge is in the oven.
  5. Turn the baked sponge onto the sugared paper. Peel off the lining paper roll the sponge tightly. Allow it to cool before unrolling and adding your filling(s). Fill, then roll the sponge up from the short edge – using the sugared paper to help you, then transfer to a serving plate or board.
  6. Decorate, then devour.