Cook school offers date night with a difference

Charlotte with the bread dough.

Charlotte with the bread dough. - Credit: Archant

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis takes her husband on a different kind of date night at Ice Cook School in Rougham.

Charlotte's husband Jarv was coaxed into the kitchens at Ice Cook School.

Charlotte's husband Jarv was coaxed into the kitchens at Ice Cook School. - Credit: Archant

My husband talked to me through gritted teeth last Friday evening on our way to Ice Cook School at Rougham.

“It’ll be fun,” I smiled, ribbing him about the Date Night class for couples, which I’d thought was ingenious alternative to dinner and a movie.

Unfortunately he didn’t feel the same way, and looked like he’d rather be off at the dentist having teeth pulled.

It’s all I can do to get him in the kitchen. If he’s left in charge of the kids dinner is usually an omelette or plain (yes with nothing on it) pasta.

Jarv pipes macarons.

Jarv pipes macarons. - Credit: Archant

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But I’m confident there’s a cook in him somewhere, just waiting to burst out, so why not use him as a guinea pig for this feature?

Chef Scott Taylor led us into the shiny world class school kitchen - all bells and whistles, including pop-up plug sockets and a built-in worksurface extraction unit that seemed to grab the attention of my cooking-averse hubby.

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First up, macarons. I got the eye from my other half Jarv (and not in a good way). What was I letting him in for? Thankfully the couple next to us had brought wine, which eased his pain.

We made the macarons together using techniques and ingredients I’d never have thought of before. Scott introduced albumina (egg white powder). Apparently macarons made with powdered eggs won’t weep and the mix can be kept stable in the fridge for a couple of days (another ingredient to add to my growing larder).

The macarons ready to go in the oven.

The macarons ready to go in the oven. - Credit: Archant

In a method concocted by Scott alongside Dr Tim Kinnaird of Macarons and More, after piping out the mixture (in a battle of men versus women) our ovens were set to 155C for nine minutes then switched off. The trays were then placed in the oven on pilot light for nine minutes to create that typical macaron sheen (which usually takes up to an hour at room temperature) and finished at 155C for nine minutes. Genius.

Next up was bread. Mr Jarvis doesn’t make bread - it’s too sticky. But he had no choice here, and was soon mixing and kneading the dough like a pro. Again, Scott infused the lesson with truly handy tips, including the fact that bread (and cake) dough should be ideally left in the fridge overnight to get the best rise. Something I’ll try at home.

We then began the challenge I was most dreading/anticipating, and a part of the session I hadn’t told Jarv about – the cook-off. A chef was assigned at random to each couple along with a sealed brown box of unknown ingredients. With the timer on, we had 10 minutes to come up with a concept and 30 minutes to make a dish. Argh. The pressure. So, in the box this time were apples, an orange, a lemon, white chocolate, dark chocolate, popping corn and stem ginger. There were too many things to do with it all. My head was spinning – not helped by Scott telling me all the fandangled fancy things we could do with the equipment and larder available to us.

We skipped from a tarte tatin to a mille feiulle. I did a little dance around the cooker, sautéing chopped apple with butter, brown sugar, spice and lemon juice, before pouring off the juices for Scott to mix magically with some concoction into a toffee apple powder.

Scott made a spiced apple jelly with seaweed extract, which almost set instantly. And Jarv put some pastry in the oven and dipped balls of apple into an apple gel.

After infusing popped corn in white chocolate and cream I handed the bowl over to Scott with four minutes to plating up time, praying he could whizz it into ice cream with a bit of dry ice (which he did). Then it was all hands on deck to pull of the final dish of spiced buttered apple mille feuille with burnt popcorn ice cream. I was sweating – not very romantic I know!

We all breathed a sigh of relief as Scott called time, and we then had to taste and judge each dish out of 10 for looks, taste and creativity.

I’m not competitive (yeah right) but my inner monologue was doing a little skip when it was announced we’d won. Perhaps this success would act as a form of encouragement to get hubby in the kitchen more often? “Not a chance,” he smiled on the way home. Although I reckon he’ll be in his element if I buy him a macaron mat for Christmas.

If you’re other half would appreciate Date Night take a look at the Ice Cook School website where other classes include Cook Like Heston and a Sushi masterclass.

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