Mary Berry visits The School of Artisan Food

We are basking in Mary Berry’s reflected glory.  Last Thursday BBC 1 aired an episode of ‘Who do You Think You Are?’ in which she discovered that her Great Great Grandfather, Robert Houghton, was a baker. He lived in Norwich and, among other things, supplied bread to the workhouse.

Looking for a venue where Mary Berry could recreate her Great Great Grandfather’s recipes as authentically as possible, the production company came upon the Welbeck Bakehouse, which is located next door to the School.

Mary was given the task of hand moulding and shaping loaves on the huge wooden table and baking in the enormous wood-fired ovens built for the Bakehouse by Alf Armstrong from Cumbria. Around 4.6 million viewers were able to get a glimpse of traditional bread being baked in the School’s courtyard and to see for themselves some of our surroundings.

We were all a bit over-excited about Mary’s visit, bringing out battered old cookbooks for her to sign and getting ridiculously star-struck about the television crew milling about and having some of the School’s famed delicious lunches.  Bakers Richard and Joe (who is a graduate of our one-year diploma course in baking) can be seen helping with the bread production, and are now enjoying their 15 minutes of fame. Congratulations to the Welbeck Bakehouse for one of your moments in the sun; as we say, we are reflecting in neighbourly glory.

You can watch the full episode on BBC iplayer:

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Cooking goes back to school

Jack O’Donnell, at age 13 is one of our youngest students. Jack came on one of our teenager’s pizza making courses and he’s written a blog about his experience. Jack now does a regular monthly blog about his baking and cookery exploits. This month he gives his view on the introduction of cookery classes into primary schools…

From this year it’s going to be compulsory to teach cooking to primary school children as part of the national curriculum.

The thinking behind this is to encourage children to eat more fruit and vegetables.  Hopefully by giving children this skill they will grow up more healthy by having a better knowledge of cooking techniques, food preparation, the opportunity to try new flavours and also extend this learning by discussing “field to fork” – ie where the food we eat actually comes from.  This could be linked into trips to local farms.  Also, maybe the children could go “foraging” or picking blackberries to make a crumble?

Previously, children had the opportunity to attend cookery classes but sometimes the cost of these could prove prohibitive. The School of Artisan Food ran classes which were excellent and they were free which was a bonus!  It’s fun for children to be able to experiment with food (and make a mess!) with their peers…and of course be encouraged to clear away afterwards!

The cookery teaching in schools could be linked to a core subject eg French or Spanish with the opportunity to make and eat a traditional dish.  This is a fun way to learn the basics of a topic as well as the food aspect…and if they enjoyed it they could take this knowledge home to try for their parents/carers.  Also, if it was linked into healthy eating so that the children think about how much sugar/fat a particular food dish contains, it may encourage more healthy eating and lifestyles as they grow up.

Some of my friends who are at primary school are looking forward to trying out new recipes but some are unsure if the school has good facilities for it to work.

At my secondary school, we now have good cooking facilities, but I do think they could offer more variety to the practical aspects of cooking given the age of the pupils – maybe they are restricted into the requirements of the curriculum? 


Here’s a pic of me and my sister baking when I was little…..I was still messy then!!!!

Best Wishes


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Becoming a Baker

Ian and a selection of some of his breads

It’s been a while since our last post so we thought why not hand over our blog to one of our former students? Ian Waterland it’s all yours…

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Summer favourites

Jack O’Donnell, at age 13 is one of our youngest students. Jack came on one of our teenager’s pizza making courses and he’s written a blog about his experience. Jack now does a regular monthly blog about his baking and cookery exploits…

As the weather has been so lovely – perfect picnic weather and eating outside, so here’s some of my favourite selection of treats  for eating outdoors:

Crab and Caesar salad sandwich – great served with granary bread or with wraps.

Pork Pie served with a savoury marmalade – eg onion, beetroot – or even traditional pickle!

Our very own local Stichelton cheese with pickles

Salad of roasted vegetables with balsamic vinegar glaze

Roast beef with tomato and horseradish served in a baguette

Tortilla chips served with tomato salsa

and finished with very English Strawberries and clotted cream!

To wash it down, how about cloudy lemonade…easy to make if you are feeling dehydrated!

Enjoy the sunshine whilst it lasts!


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Bank holiday food fest

Jack O’Donnell, at age 13 is one of our youngest students. Jack came on one of our teenager’s pizza making courses and he’s written a blog about his experience. Jack now does a regular monthly blog about his baking and cookery exploits…

Over the Bank Holiday we visited the Great British Food Festival at Hardwick Hall.  We got there nice and early so we could go into the marquees to sample the delicious cheeses and dips – many from local producers.  It was brilliant to see so many smaller producers there.
There was lots to see from the “Man V Food” contest, cookery demonstrations – the sour-dough bread demo was good and competitions.  We had booked a cooking session for me so whilst I went off to cook my lunch I left my mum watching the judging of the cake-off.  On the Sunday the criteria was a chocolate cake, so I left my mum sampling all 20 entries whilst I went off and did a bit of cooking.  It was a bit interesting when someone brought a late entry to the competition and the crowd starting heckling to “let her in!” – it would have been interesting if she had won!
We were put into groups of two – me and my partner cooked the main course which was Lamb Chops with a Romesco Sauce.  All the courses were then put together to make the following meal:
Boozy Mushroom and Chestnut Pate
Crispy Lettuce Hearts with Anchovy Dressing
Patatas Bravas
Lamb Chops with a Romesco Sauce

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Eight Speakers. Two Days. Food For Thought

Matthew Fort

Eight speakers. Two days. Food, discussion and debate.

It’s was a busy weekend here at the School of Artisan Food as we hosted our first (of many) guest lecture events…and what a few days!

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We are pleased to announce bursaries for our short courses! They’re only available for a short time – so apply today.

Thanks to support from Experian, those wishing to join our short courses can have up to 100% of the course fee covered…

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Food career aspirations

Jack O’Donnell, at age 13 is one of our youngest students. Jack came on one of our teenager’s pizza making courses and he’s written a blog about his experience. Jack now does a regular monthly blog about his baking and cookery exploits…

I’ve been thinking about my career choices for when I leave school and looking at the options for working with food.  I am very passionate about food and cooking, but I realise that if I want to become a chef the road to success will involve lots of hard work and long hours.  There are of course other jobs in the food industry such as chocolatier, baker, gourmet “street food”, catering, food writer and photographer and of course teaching.

At the moment there are many interesting food programmes on TV and I think this has increased competition for college places and jobs in the food industry.   However, before their successful TV careers, most presenters have had years of experience in their chosen field – Paul Hollywood started as a baker in the family business and Mary Berry used to demonstrate ovens by baking cakes!  For every Mary Berry there is probably a 1,000 wanna-be TV bakers!

During my Food Technology course at school, we are currently studying decorating desserts. Previously we have looked at savoury dishes and pastries.  For my final project I need to design a menu for someone with special dietary requirements and specify why the recipes are suitable for them.

It would be great if the course could be made more practical with the chance to have work placements in businesses in the food industry.  If there was a co-ordinator who could link schools with businesses so that school-children can get first-hand experience, it would really help us to decide which job would be best for us.

I don’t know which career path I will take…watch this space;)


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Setting up a new bakery

Claire Rolland has attended courses at the School – here she talks about her experience of setting-up a new bakery on Anglesey.

Pumpkin Seed Bakery – It’s been a long journey and it’s not over yet…

I had hoped that by the time this article was due I would have lots of photos of happy customers stood next to baskets of fresh bread but as you will see the journey has only really just begun. Having decided in 2013 to take redundancy and move to Anglesey I was keen to channel my energy into something different and see if there was an opportunity to couple my passion for baking with bringing something positive to the local community. Anglesey has fabulous local produce, cheese, meat, seafood, fruit & veg but there was a lack of a traditional bakery hence the Pumpkin Seed Bakery was born.

Claire with her new oven

I spent the summer of 2013 visiting and working in bakeries to build up experience in the UK and France, that coupled with a couple of excellent courses at The School Artisan Food & The Bertinet Kitchen stood me in good stead to get going. I also started to canvass local opinion as to where people bought bread, what they bought, what they were missing and where the community thought the best location would be. The response was overwhelming, one event where I took a “Tasting Table” for two days yielded over 500 feedback forms completed and 400 email addresses of people wanting to be informed when we opened. There was almost a desperation for a good bakery making real bread, perhaps offering courses and getting involved with community groups and schools, the bread revolution was alive and well in Anglesey and just waiting for someone to get it started.

Everything seemed set but this is where it gets interesting.

Initially it seemed there was a lot of help available, local government grants, help from the

Pumpkin Seed Bakery should be open for Easter

bank, help with employing staff, it seemed everything was there in place to help encourage local business but as you can from the pictures it’s not quite that straightforward. We started discussion with both bank and local government bodies in Oct last year and the various grants and loans are just starting to come through. The government grants are great but if you apply you cannot order, reserve or take delivery of anything they will help fund until they approve your application which takes months. I fell foul of this with my oven and mixer, the oven had to come through the shop window so we had a specific time we had to take delivery when the shop work was happening. This was three days before I got approval for the grant, I explained but to no avail, they removed these two very expensive items from my grant! The Banks require more information, guarantees and securities than you would think possible. I haven’t even mentioned 3 Phase Power, we started talking to EON in October last year, the supply is outside the shop but has cost £5,000 to connect and we still don’t have a switch on date!!!!

Having mentioned all of the above the thing that has kept us going and kept us believing is the incredible support we have had from other business on Menai High Street and all the people who stop me or pop into the shop whilst I am cleaning and want to know when we will open, they seem as excited as me and it means a lot.

I hope by the next issue we will have photos of smiling customers and the Campaign for Real Bread will have well and truly arrived on this beautiful little Island in the north west corner of Wales.

Claire Rolland

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The best birthday present ever

Nick Lawford came on one of the School’s Curing and Smoking courses – he was so impressed he wanted to share his experience…

A few months ago a beautiful and generous combination of loved ones presented me with what can only be described as the BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT EVER: a day learning about how to cure and smoke meat at the School of Artisan Food in north Nottinghamshire (

Duck - before and after salting

I’ve made a handful of attempts at producing charcuterie over the years, with varying degrees of success.  Air-dried salami (inspired by this article by Tim Hayward: did not go well.  In fact it went rotten.  A trip to New York – and, specifically, two visits to Katz’s Delicatessen (once with friends, the second time a solo visit – just me, alone with a massive sandwich, in love) – embedded an obsession with pastrami.  My fridge is now no stranger to a hunk of beef, bathing patiently in a tub of brine.   

This, however, was an opportunity to really learn about these age-old techniques of preserving and flavouring meat, to have a go at things I’d only ever day-dreamed about. 

The School is based on the very grand Welbeck Estate – amidst beautiful parkland and a whole community of food and creativity: a farm, an art gallery, a 12th century abbey, a farm shop, a dairy, artists workshops, a bakehouse…  The School itself is housed in the beautiful former stables block, which dates back to 1870.  We were welcomed with coffee and bacon sandwiches before a quick look round the school, which specialises in baking, dairy and, where I found myself, the butchery department.

Finished products

There were seven of us meat geeks in all – three more enthusiastic home cooks like me, a couple of farmers and a Guardian journalist (who went on to write this excellent piece: 

The course leaders, Chris and Rich, slapped half a pig down in front of us.  From its nose to its tail, we got to know that fine animal that day.  Both Chris and Rich have huge experience in the meat industry as well as passion and enthusiasm for artisan butchery.  They stressed the importance of using good quality meats when curing and smoking.

Learning about meat provenance and watching master butchers chop up a pig is all well and good, but I wanted to get stuck in, so I was first with my hand in the air when Chris asked for a volunteer to mix up the first of our recipes of the day: Smoked Countryman’s Sausage.  I washed my hands, rolled up my sleeves and enthusiastically massaged together the sausage mixture – a mix of diced pork, pork mince, pork fat, salt, garlic powder, black pepper and mustard seeds.  The group then took it in turns to feed the mixture through the huge industrial sausage maker, filling up the hog casings and making neat meaty horseshoes.  These were then pricked and would ordinarily have been allowed to dry for 2-3 hours.  We skipped that step, though, and just put them straight into Chris’s smoking cabinet to be hot smoked at 85 – 90 degrees for about 2 hours.  Also into the smoker went a pork tenderloin which had been cured for half an hour in a mixture of salt, Demerara sugar, juniper berries, shredded bay leaves and black peppercorns. 

We then paused for lunch.  Which was incredible.  I tried to take a photo of the buffet but I was shaking with excitement so it didn‘t come out very well.  Pressed beef, marmalade ham, cured ox tongue, pigeon & venison terrine, pork pie, scotch egg, plus pates, quiches, a range of lip-smacking salads, home-made breads and cheeses – all produced on site.  It was magical.  Bliss. 

The morning had been pretty good fun and the lunch was mind-blowing, but it still didn’t prepare me for the excitements of the afternoon, which was hands on and action-packed.

We started by carefully boning and skinning hunks of pork belly.  These were then rubbed in a sugar/salt mix and vacuum-packed to take home and cure in the fridge, eventually becoming streaky bacon.  Part of the joy of the day was that it kept on giving even after you’d gone home…half of the stuff we took away wasn’t ready for days or weeks afterwards.  Curing meat certainly teaches patience. 

Throughout the day Chris had a few pots simmering away in the background – one a vat with pork hocks and trotters, another with an ox tongue, all of which had previously been in brine for a week.  Not for the first time I found myself daydreaming about having a fridge at home just for brining stuff.  A weird dream. 

Eventually two lucky volunteers were picked to assemble a ham hock terrine – a carefully built construction of the beautifully tender succulent shredded meat, sweet pickled gherkins, finely chopped celery and a few ladles of the stock that the meat had been bubbling away in all afternoon.  The ox tongue too was skinned and pressed into a bowl, weighed down and chilled.  This one was a revelation when we eventually ate it – rich, delicious, melt-in-the-mouth meaty goodness.


Also in my bag to take home was a chunk of silverside of beef (it wasn’t an entirely pork-filled day), which we trimmed, cut into strips and rubbed in salt.  This then had some wine added, at home, before being dried, rubbed in a spice mix and hung to dry, to make the South African delicacy biltong.  We were told that this would take up to 10 days.  I didn’t really have a suitable cool, dark and airy place to hang mine, so rigged them up in the oven instead, where I left them for several days.  My wonderful girlfriend did a good job of not being bothered that the fridge was now full of half-cured meat and the oven was out of action for 10 days because it was home to some slowly drying beef. 

As it turned out my oven method wasn’t actually ideal, I think it was lacking a crucial flow of air – after about 4 days I realised that my biltong was going mouldy.  I didn’t panic, however (well, not too much), as Chris had told us that white mould is actually okay.  It’s black mould that we should fear.  I bravely mopped off the white mould with some vinegar and decided to speed up the drying process, leaving them in a very low oven overnight.  They didn’t turn out too badly in the end – chewy, spicy, meaty snacks.  Plus no-one got botulism, which is always something worth celebrating.

The last of the meaty treats was truly amazing and subsequently I’ve done it a couple of times at home and you should do it too: Duck Proscuitto.  It is what the name suggests – a duck breast cured to become a kind of sweet, cured ham.  It’s flipping awesome. 

As Chris made very clear, when you’re home curing you don’t want to start out trying to make a Jamón Ibérico.  You’re going to be disappointed.  And someone might get botulism.  Start out with Duck Proscuitto instead.

Duck Proscuitto

Rinse and dry a 170-180g duck breast.  Put a one inch bed of salt in a plastic container (like one you’d get from a Chinese restaurant), lay the duck on top and cover it with another layer of salt.  Leave this in the fridge for two days.

Mix together 2g of ground coriander, 2g ground fennel seeds and 2g ground black pepper.  Remove the duck from its salty bed, rinse it with white wine vinegar and then with water.  Pat it dry and then rub the spice mixture over it.

Wrap the duck breast in cheesecloth, tie it up at both ends and hang it in the fridge.  The duck needs to cure until it feels “firm but not dry”, which takes about 2 weeks, less for smaller breasts. 

When it’s ready, slice it thinly and enjoy.  Perhaps in a salad, or on toast with a dollop of fruity chutney.  Or perhaps just on its own with a  glass of red wine.  It’s bloody delicious.

The next available Smoking & Curing course takes place on 28 April at the School of Artisan Food:  I cannot recommend it highly enough. 

With huge thanks to Chris, Rich and everyone at the School of Artisan Food.  And to Kayleigh, my parents, her parents, sister and family, who all made it happen for me.


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