All My Own Work: At The Clavleshay Barn Cookery School

'From the Somerset edition of the award-winning blog Muddy Stilettos written by Sue Tucker: an urban guide to the countryside, a guide to the very best food and drink, independent shops, arts & culture, hotels, spas, walks, days out – and more – in Somerset.'

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Two of Somerset’s top chefs show how to made dishes that will really impress your friends at the Clavelshay Barn Cookery School in North Petherton.

I turned these…

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… into this: seared fillet of bream with crushed potatoes, braised fennel, olive oil and caper dressing…

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…this: roasted scallops with couscous salad and citrus dressing …

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… and this: ceviche of scallops with mizuna salad, lime, vermouth and coriander.

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Impressed? The miracle took place at the new cookery school at Clavelshay Barn, the award-winning sustainable restaurant on a working dairy farm in North Petherton, on the edge of the Quantock Hills.

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The classes are run by award-winning professional chefs Olivier Certain and Andrew Dixon. Marseille-born Olivier had a Michelin-star training in France before moving to England (head chef at Woods in Dulverton, finalist South West Chef of the Year) and is now chef at Clavelshay Barn, producing modern British food with French style.  Andrew Dixon trained in some of the UK’s best restaurants and country hotels before setting up Andrews on the Weir (3 AA rosettes) and now The Cafe Porlock Weir, which won the 2015 Best Somerset Restaurant Dining Experience at the Somerset Life Food awards.

The classes take place on the airy upper floor of Clavelshay Barn. Each table was set with its own induction hot plate, all the necessary bowls, whisks, spoons and pans (all brand spanking new), as well as oil, garlic, shallots, salt and lemons –

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– and the biggest knife roll I’ve ever seen.

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First there was some helpful advice about buying fresh fish (firm shiny flesh, clear bulging eyes and no fishy smell) and scallops (should be closed if still in the shell). Then we put on our little chef’s hats and aprons and the two chefs started to cook. They took turns to demonstrate each dish, throwing in tips (crush garlic with salt, it draws out the moisture; score fish skin to allow heat into the flesh, it cooks quicker; cook scallops to perfection by placing one on each finger of the left hand, then putting them one by one into the pan clockwise, so you can take them out on the right order) and answering all of our questions (what olive oil to use? Pomace, 2nd pressing, it turns out). There was a great dynamic between the two chefs; while one was taking the floor, the other acted as sous chef and chipped in every now and again with extra bits of info, so it was no surprise to discover that they’d worked together at Andrews on the Weir for several years.

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Then it was our turn. The chefs wandered amongst us offering advice and help as we followed our recipes.

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It was hectic getting just three dishes cooked and plated up (you see, I’ve got the lingo), so hats off to chefs who do it for restaurants full of diners. And aren’t you supposed to clear up as you go along?

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Finally, we were able to sit down and eat. Wine expert David Morley from Oliver & Bird was on hand to suggest the perfect wine to go with the food: Picpoul de Pinet or a Sauvignion Blanc from the Langedouc. Even if I say so myself, the food (and the wine) was wonderful.

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Try one of these recipes from the class, a delicious, bright green, herb oil

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Ingredients

1 bunch coriander (or other soft herb like basil or parsley) 300 ml olive oil

Method

Wash the herbs thoroughly and dry on a cloth. Plunge the herbs (stalks and all) into boiling salted water for one minute (this is what will keep the colour) and then into a bowl of iced water, then drain, squeeze out excess water and pat dry. Put the herbs and oil into a food processor and blend for 3-4 minutes until the mixture is bright green; leave to infuse for 5 minutes. Take a piece of cheesecloth/muslin and fold in half (ie double thickness), soak it in cold water (this is important), then wring out and place into a fine sieve over a bowl. Pour the oil/herb mixture into the cloth-lined sieve and allow to strain naturally; then pour into a jar and chill. This will keep for a week in the fridge; you can use it with any fish or pasta dish, or whatever you like. There’s a different cookery class each month. The next one is on Tuesday 10 May, when you can learn how to make fresh pasta, which will include making the dough, flavouring and filling pasta and how to make different pasta shapes. Classes cost £95 per person and include lunch and wine.

Micro Business of the Year!

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Very, very proud to have received Micro Business of the Year Award at the Sedgemoor Business Excellence Awards last week. 

All credit to Olivier Certain for fabulous food and our great team for their hard work and support. Thank you also to all our lovely loyal customers who have supported us over the past 11 years and who like what we do.

Clouds of Sheep Wool to Help Ewe Hear Better

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From now onwards when you come and dine with us you will be able to eat and hear the conversation of the other members of your party thanks to the latest in wool technology.

So if, like one couple I spoke to recently, you haven’t been back to have your dinner with us for five years because the ambient noise had put you off, please book in again and enjoy our new acoustics!

We’ve installed fluffy wool clouds on our ceiling to help absorb the sounds in the restaurant so you can chat without too much background noise.

Some people thought we were baaarmy but we are delighted with our acoustic baffles. We knew we had to do something as we’d had a lot of customer comments about the noise on our feedback forms.

These days I don’t notice the acoustics, whereas before I was very aware that some customers found it too noisy, now they no longer have to raise their voices in order to be heard by members of their own party or the waiting staff.

Initially we trialled them for the makers, the Woolly Shepherd from Milverton near Taunton, and in fact we were the very first restaurant in the country to have their acoustic clouds – so we’re trailblazers! They have been so good for the ambience of the restaurant that we have decided to install them permanently.

Woolly Shepherd purchases lower grade fleeces and coloured wools, mostly from smallholders, and converts them into a range of felts designed to maximise the acoustic properties of the wool.

The company’s Managing Director, Tim Simmons, who runs the business with his wife and fellow director, Marty, says: “Our fluffy clouds are hung from the ceilings of restaurants like Clavelshay and they allow diners to hear each other clearly, even if they are sat next to a very jolly group or one that might just be super chatty.”

The wool boards in the shape of clouds absorb the sound twice, once from below and then again as it bounces off the ceiling.

Tim adds: “Natural wool has better sound acoustic properties than man-made foam, which is usually used for these types of baffles, particularly at the frequencies of the human voice. The sustainability of this product is a big plus too especially for restaurants like Clavelshay, which is very keen on sustainability.”

Come and try the clouds out yourself if you haven’t been for a while and also find out why we won our Taste of the West Gold Award this year for our delicious food and top-notch service.

Don’t forget we’re open in the evenings from Wednesday to Saturday with dinner served from 7pm – and remember Wednesday is fast becoming the new Thursday as a perfect night for a meal out. We also serve Sunday lunches from 12noon until 2pm.

You can book the restaurant for private parties, intimate country weddings and charity and corporate events too.

Stargazing in Somerset

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DETAILS

Date: Wednesday 20th May Time: 7pm for 7.30pm Price: £20 per person

Includes a 2-course supper  (perhaps stargazy pie or pie in the sky) followed by a brief talk and then outside to watch the stars under the expert guidance  of astronomer Roger O’ Brien

Are you fascinated by the night sky and wish you knew more about it?  Now is your chance to learn from an experienced astronomer.

We are lucky here on the Quantocks to have very little light pollution so that we can usually see the stars clearly.

On May 20th, with sunset around 21.00 we can expect to see:

• The Moon will be rather low in the west and a dramatic thin new crescent.  Above it, Venus, which will be visible before sunset and very bright after itAbove that and to the left (south) will be Jupiter and all four big moons should be on show. • Above that and to the left (south) will be Jupiter and all four big moons should be on show.Right round in the south east is Saturn. If we can see it, Saturn is beautiful. The rings are quite well placed and Titan might be visible as a starlike dot. • Right round in the south east is Saturn. If we can see it, Saturn is beautiful. The rings are quite well placed and Titan might be visible as a starlike dot.

Fingers crossed for a clear night – can’t wait!

Bookings essential – please contact Sue on 01278 662629.

Please bring warm clothing, and binoculars or telescopes if you have them.