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As I’ve mentioned before, me and my beautiful mum headed to Padstow for a cheeky girl’s weekend earlier in August which was just blooming lovely. Wine, seafood and a lot of relaxing ensued. But the biggest part of our weekend away was spending the day at the famous Rick Stein’s Seafood School down in Padstow, and we were raring to find out more about cooking one of our favourite food groups…seafood!! With a hefty price tag at £180.00 per person (I managed to wangle a cheeky discount on top of this for there being 2 of us and booking last minute), it certainly has to be for a special occasion, and me and mum decided to camp nearby to save money on accommodation so after driving into town we were ready to go.
We headed to the Rick Stein school early in the morning and were shown up to the beautifully designed cooking school with its stunning views of Padstow harbour. After a cup of coffee to wake us up we sat down to watch our local chef work his magic. First off, he showed us how to properly prepare a squid for cooking.
Lots of cut this bit out and keep this bit followed and after giving it a go myself, I felt confident enough to buy a fresh squid at home for dinner. We then followed a signature Rick Stein recipe for salt and pepper squid and cooked it ourselves following the chef’s instruction.
After eating our freshly cooked squid, we again sat down to watch the chef prepare and cook fresh clams, making a beautiful sauce to go with them. This was one of the best things we cooked and ate over the day. The garlic based sauce was absolutely stunning and would go brilliantly with muscles, fresh fish or scallops as well as clams, I’ll be popping the recipe up in the next few weeks so watch this space!
And I’ll definitely be making it again! We also got lots of tips in how to prepare the clams. Give each a little twist before washing to check if they’re dead or already opened. If they close shut, the little clams are still alive and ripe for the eating, but if you really can twist the shells sideways, they’re likely to be inedible so throw them away!
Getting pretty full now, after finishing our second seafood meal of the day, we again sat down to learn how to properly prepare scallops and langoustines for a seafood stir fry. They’d also brought out the white wine which they didn’t scrimp on by this point so we helped ourselves to a fair few glasses throughout the day!
Myself and my mum were a little dubious about making a stir fry, it just seemed a very simple way of cooking some wonderful seafood, and we were right to be. The stir fry we made was lovely, but what a waste of fresh scallops! Plus our bellies were beyond full at this point and we still had 2 more dishes to make! One of the ladies on the course with us was really keen to learn how to cook scallops properly and unfortunately, popping them into a stir fry really didn’t give her or us the experience we were looking for. Coquilles saint Jaques would have been a much better way of learning new recipes and skills.
We did learn some great top tips here though, in particular how to take the intestine (the black line) out of fresh langoustines (prawns). Before they’re cooked, take a cocktail stick and poke it through the prawn, across it’s body, just a little under the skin. Then, gently lifting upwards with the cocktail stick, you can pull the whole thing out! Not something to do every time you eat prawns but it can make a big difference in look if you’re cooking for friends.
Equally with scallops, there’s a lot of inner prep you have to do when you’ve opened them, taking out the correct bits and discarding. The best tip here though was to open scallops up with a pallet knife, pulling it through the scallop sideways, keeping the knife as flat as possible to the bottom of the shell which lets you cleanly open the scallop without breaking the shell or losing too much of the meat.
Next up, was learning how to fillet fresh fish and cooking it with a simple herby flavouring, with a side of chunky chips. The chef showed us how to fillet a fish and then I attempted it myself. It was a shame though that we were given only one fish between two of us. My mum already knew how to do this so let me give it a go but if you were sharing with a stranger, or both wanted to learn, I think the hefty price tag for the day justified having one each.
Nevertheless I went for it, using a very sharp and flexible knife. Here though, I came up to another stumbling block, I couldn’t remember what to do and in which order! Here, and throughout the day, I think a little more one on one help from the chef and his assistant could have made for a better learning experience. As it turned out I managed to do one side brilliantly and basically hacked at the other until it sort of worked. Anyway, we cooked our fish and chips and sat down to another meal (not knowing how much I could even fit in my stomach anymore)!
Finally, the last meal was being cooked for us; filleted fish with a red wine jus. It was great to watch a master fillet such a big and complicated fish in person, but I’m not sure how much I learnt from this and really, I was pretty tired of eating seafood by this point! But we tried a few bites and although not being a favourite recipe of mine, it was a nice end to the day.
All in all, me and mum had a great day at Rick Steins Seafood school. Mum had always wanted to try the cookery course there and was happy to have finally done it. We learnt some great tips and a couple new recipes we’ll certainly be making again at home, but we left feeling incredibly full and not wanting to see a seafood meal again for a good few weeks! I think a little less eating would have made the day more enjoyable, as well as both being able to cook our own meals. With a high price tag, this day out is certainly not cheap but we both left feeling we’d paid a little more for the ‘Rick Stein’ name than for what was provided. Certainly, this isn’t one to come to alone as every meal is prepared between two people, but if you’re a seafood novice, it’ll definitely up your cooking confidence and ensure you are ready to tackle a multitude of deep sea animals in your own kitchen. Great day out, but you’re certainly paying for the experience in pounds, both money and the weight wise!