I was very fortunate to recently attend the Lucknam Park Cookery School’s Mindful Cookery day.
It was a beautiful exploration of how cooking and mindfulness so wonderfully combine.
The day began with introductions to our hosts and tutors: head chef Hrishikesh (Kesh) Desai and founder of Soul Nutrition Katie Sheen. Before we even took to the stove it was seriously inspiring to be in this kind of company. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Katie in the past but sharing a kitchen with a Roux scholar and National Chef of the Year was an equal privilege. Kesh embodies drive, passion, commitment and his journey to professional success is a seriously inspiring one. It’s one of giving it all you’ve got, harnessing your true potential and is, perhaps (un?)surprisingly, underpinned by mindfulness and meditation practices.
Fuelled by strong coffee and biscotti, the day started with intros; where we’d come from, how familiar we were or weren’t with mindfulness and what we hoped to get out of the day. There was room for everyone – irrespective of prior mindfulness or cooking experience.
We started with bread making. Something I’ve never done before and will certainly do time and time again. I was genuinely surprised by how simple and quick the whole process was (proving aside) and my oh my was it seriously therapeutic. Add to that the chance to explore the herb garden and truly arouse my senses with the incredible pungency of basil, mint, thyme and (my chosen favourite) rosemary and it was turning into the best kind of therapy. I felt like a proud parent taking my rosemary and olive baby out of the oven!
Next up knife skills and a very clever twist that used two batches of exactly the same raw ingredients to create two entirely different dishes. The vibrancy of the vegetables was almost blinding and again, made me take a step back and think why don’t I do more to appreciate this kind of visual wonder in my own kitchen – although I should probably change some of the blown bulbs first!
Rocking knives, sawing techniques; all were taught and applied to prepare the first ingredients for lunch – a beautiful vegetable broth served with either a pistou, pesto or salsa verde. I opted for the latter which was full of salty sharpness and an ideal addition to the vegetable broth. Again, something I would most certainly reproduce at home. I’ve decided to start up a piggy bank fund for that Magimix grinder that made the salsa verde so speedily!
We sat down at a beautifully laid table to enjoy lunch together and again it was the chance to share experiences and our own mindfulness journeys so far. Kesh and Katie make no bones about the fact that mindfulness is no silver bullet. There’s no miracle cures, no quick fixes. It’s absolutely about what you put in and it’s a continuous path to travel along.
The afternoon centred around two curry dishes – one to enjoy, one to take away. The first played to my love of seafood (especially mussels) but something I’ve never had the confidence to cook at home. But it was so simple and so far so good on not having poisoned myself!
The curries would be pretty labour intensive on a week night without that snazzy spice and herb grinder so I’d be less inclined to make them again unless it was a special occasion but my incentive to do so will be the sizzle and crackle of mustard seeds and curry leaves hitting a hot pan. Again, more awesome foodie therapy!
The day came to a leisurely close with a tour of the simply beautiful Lucknam Park. It’s a place of mysterious hidey holes, where something magical continually unfolds from behind corners, through arches. Lucknam Park is a cluster of the most wonderfully maintained buildings and a long drive way that carries you a million miles away from the pressures of everyday life.
The next full day Mindful Cooking course will run on Saturday October 25th 2014 and is priced at £175 per person. In exchange for this review I was very kindly granted a place at 50% off. For more information see: http://www.lucknampark.co.uk/cookeryschool/courses/view/Mindful-Cooking.php