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.'


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…


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


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


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


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.


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 –


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


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.


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


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?


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.


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



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


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.

Bushcraft Workshop



Date: Tuesday 26th May 2015 Time: 10.30am – 4pm Price per person: £85


Join Bushcraft Instructor, Greg Power for a day of bushcraft activities that will focus on the four areas of shelter, fire, water and foraging in the grounds of Clavelshay Barn.

During the workshop you will:

• Have a full and comprehensive safety brief • Learn safe cutting techniques • Learn various techniques for lighting a fire • Learn which plants and trees aid you in creating fire by friction • Learn about shelters • Learn how to prepare wild water for safe consumption • Learn how to prepare fish or game ready for lunch • Understand the law and learn the lore that surrounds our countryside • Learn about the edible plants that are available and how you can prepare them safely ready to eat • Learn about nature’s medicine cabinet and how it can help treat injuries • Understand the history behind the plants and trees • Have a final question and answer session to recap on your newly acquired skills

Here is a tiny taster of the course content. Greg has the answers for you.

• What is a crampball? • Why does a hammock need a wick • What tree must you never, ever, ever camp under • What is the most practical water purifying technique?

This bushcraft workshop has been designed to spark your interest in the glorious British countryside. It will give a taster in to how you can explore it further and do so comfortably. All the necessary tools and materials will be provided, however if you would like to bring a camera or notepad please do so. There are no pre-requisite skills required for this course; however comfortable walking boots and appropriate clothing for the weather are a must.

Lashings of tea and coffee and a bushcraft lunch of game or fish, cooked over an open fire are included in the workshop. Please advise of any special dietary needs when booking.

A kit list, nutritional/medical needs form and directions will be provided once the course is booked.


Greg Power has been teaching bushcraft for well over ten years. Greg grew up in a small Somerset village and has been fascinated with the British countryside ever since he can remember. Time in the British Army allowed him to see many different countries and this simply confirmed his belief that our country holds the best wild areas in the world with a huge catalogue of flora and fauna to delve into. Greg also does wood-turning using British hard woods and creates beautiful crafted items including bowls, boards and salad hands available on



Upcoming Workshops

Shebbear Cheese




Date: Saturday 21st February 2015 Time: 10.30am – 4pm Price per person: £85

Booking is essential: Email

If you love cheese, then come and learn how to make it!

Join us for a day of fun on Saturday 21st February 2015. You will be learning the art of making your own blue handmade cheese using traditional methods. This hands-on workshop is hosted by Sarah & Chris Styles-Power from The Shebbear Cheese Co in Devon.

Sarah & Chris will first guide you through the cheesemaking process, you will learn the use of cultures, rennets, draining, molding, salting and aging your cheese using everyday kitchen equipment.

Then they will teach you how to make two blue cheeses – your own Borough Blue and a Cambozola (blue brie) type. You will learn two different methods of adding the blue mould and you will then take the cheeses home to mature. Full instructions will be given on how to care for them.

Organic-Italian-Pork-Sausages-_12_-3oz-Sausages-Per-Package_1024x1024SAUSAGE MAKING WORKSHOP


Date: Tuesday 17th March 2015 Time: 6.30pm – 10.30pm Price per person: £55

Booking is essential: Email

For those of you looking to learn more about the art of sausage making, our brilliant local butcher, Stuart, will be hosting this mini workshop on Tuesday 17th March.

You will learn how to select the right meat for sausage making. Stuart will then teach you all the techniques for mixing and stuffing your own sausages, how to use the equipment and come up with your own uniquely flavoured sausage recipes.

Clavelshay Barn will also be serving snacks and drinks throughout the night.





Date: Saturday 11th April 2015 Time: 10.30am – 4pm Price per person: £85

Booking is essential: Email

Our most popular workshop with extremely talented local photographer Neil White is for anyone who has a keen interest in food photography. It may interest food bloggers, B&B owners and restaurant owners who would like to be able to create stronger images for their websites/printed literature themselves. You will need to bring a digital SLR camera with a standard or zoom lens. A tripod is not essential but preferable.




Date: Saturday 2nd May 2015 Time: 10am – 4pm Price per person: £85

Booking is essential: Email

There are certain things you can experience in life that change the way you view the world. A Spring Foraging walk led by friendly, local expert Greg Power is one of them. Ask any forager why they scour the wilderness for food and the answer will invariably have something to do with the pleasure of communing with nature.

You will learn to confidently identify and sustainably harvest an amazing array of common wild edible and medicinal plants around Clavelshay Farm. This would include the introduction, safety brief, foraging walk – identifying flora and fauna, then collecting food ready for lunch.

There will be a lunch cooked over an open fire. Game meat or fish will be the order of the day.

After lunch another walk and tree identification if time permits.

A kit list, nutritional/medical needs form and directions will be provided once the course is booked.




Date: Tuesday 26th May 2015 Time: 10am – 4pm Price per person: £85

Booking is essential: Email

Another fantastic workshop with our local 'expert of all things wild' instructor, Greg Power. This 6-hour workshop will teach you the basics of surviving in the wild. You will learn the core skills of fire, food, shelter and water. All learning is hands on and the days are packed with information. There is no skill level requirement for this course.

To include introduction, safety brief, safe cutting techniques, fire lighting, shelter building, water prep, string from nettles (if available) and some flora and fauna identification if time. We would cook up some protein for lunch either pigeon or rabbit etc.

Lashings of tea and coffee and a bushcraft lunch are included in the workshop.

A kit list, nutritional/medical needs form and directions will be provided once the course is booked.

2014 Favourite Moments


Looking back on 2014, there were lots of high points and few low points.

Feb2014 031

The year started badly with incessant rain in December and January meaning that there was widespread flooding in Somerset, mainly on the Somerset Levels, which were under water for months. Some of our customers and friends had to abandon their homes and some have not yet returned to them. It was a heart breaking time for many families and a time they will wish never to repeat.

After that slow start to the year, it soon moved on apace.



Popular workshops were held throughout the year – one of the most popular being cheese making with Sarah & Chris of The Shebbear Cheese Co. Always a pleasure to have them here and fun as well. Neil White is an amazing photographer and his workshops in Food Photography are always in demand. An enjoyable printmaking workshop with artist Jackie Curtis was also held this year.


A new workshop this year was Wild Foraging with Greg Power – a fantastic day learning a huge amount about edible plants and medicinal plants.



Music is important at Clavelshay and an Irish Night with Diaspora proved a great night and one which we hope to repeat this year. More good times followed with favourites Bare Bones Trio and the ever popular Cleverly Everly – Everly Brothers tribute who always make the old beams rock!

A new band in the summer saw French gypsy jazz band Petits Annonces bring a Parisienne bistro feel to the barn. Fantastique!



Weddings play an important part in our business, and the first of the season was an absolute pleasure from start to finish. A relaxed couple, beautiful weather, an informal festival atmosphere – complete with pie & mash - a joy to behold and be a part of.

"Love Is All You Need" … Simple really!


There were some lovely weddings, some small, some large – we love them all! A first for Clavelshay this year was a wedding with high wire artist topping up glasses of champagne whilst hanging upside down from a rope!

One of our favourites was Esther & Brian’s. They have been coming to the restaurant since they met and think of it as their special place. Brian proposed here and they had their very special wedding reception here in September.


2014 saw big changes with us saying goodbye to Head Chef Guy Horley who had been with us for 5 years and who had been a good friend to us at Clavelshay and we wish him well in his new job.


We then welcomed head chef Phil Verden into the Clavelshay family and he has been a revelation, bringing his own exciting style to country food. His reputation goes before him and we are seeing new customers all the time who want to try his food. Phil wowed everyone with his first Tasting Menu – seven courses of perfection! Hope to do more of those in 2015.



We held a charity event in April – a Pop Up Restaurant with guest chef Sam Moody from the Bath Priory. This was organised by Steve Ashworth and we raised just over £1000 for Children's Hospice South. West. We also raised £500 for CHSW by making jams and chutneys and selling them in the restaurant.


New TOTW Gold Lbls 32mmØ V2

At last, we have won a Taste of the West Gold Award – after years of winning Silver –am delighted to achieve recognition for our commitment to local produce.

We also won in 2014:

Green Business of the Year –Sedgemoor Business Awards

Sustainable Restaurant Association – 3 star champion for 2nd year running

TripAdvisor – Certificate of Excellence for 4th year running

Finalist –Restaurant of the Year Somerset Life Food & Drink Awards 4th year running

Highly Commended –South West Tourism Awards

We are delighted to win these awards and need to thank all those involved –all staff – for their hard work, support and friendship.

Lastly, thank you to all our loyal customers and friends – we can’t do it without you! Wishing you a very Happy New Year and look forward to seeing you in 2015.