We slice and dice our way through a seafood masterclass
As someone who hails from Grimsby and still lives on the coast, it’s always been a secret source of shame that I’ve never attempted to fillet or skin a fish. So when the team at Lainston House in Winchester invited us to try out one of the new masterclasses at their Season cookery school, there was only one course for me: dishes from the sea.
As we arrive, I get a sense this is going to be a high-end experience. For a start, like the rest of the Grade II-listed property, this country house cookery school is decked out like a kitchen you’d see in Elle Decoration. Coffee is served in Le Creuset mugs and the knives are reassuringly weighty. If you’re thinking of entertaining some top-end clients, this might be the place to do it.
Well caffeinated, we begin. Our course is led by Jamie Brown, exec chef at the Royal Berkshire in Ascot, one of Lainston owner Exclusive Hotels’ sister properties. He’s here to demonstrate how to prepare and cook four seafood dishes, before we go away to replicate them ourselves.
First up is scallop ceviche, cured in tequila (punchy for 10.30am, but hey ho). From the off, we’re quickly gaining new skills. We learn how to prise open the shell, remove the meat, clean it and cure it. It’s surprisingly easy, and tastes great – I’ll definitely be trying this at home.
If the scallop was a relatively simple task, the mackerel that follows is a step up. It seems a shame to plunge my knife into its pretty patterned skin, and my ‘filleted’ finished product leaves a lot to be desired. If this was served to me in a restaurant, I’d send it back pronto.
I manage to redeem myself when it comes to skinning and cooking an entire dover sole. While it’s strangely satisfying to prise its flesh, the best part comes as we baste it in burnt butter until the meat starts to fall off the bone. With a crisp glass of white wine, it tastes delicious too.
On the train back, it dawns on me that my hair absolutely stinks of fish. I feel bad for my fellow passengers, but can’t help think that my northern nana would be proud.
Full-day courses (with lunch and wine included) start at £155pp for groups of up to 24. Overnight accommodation can be arranged as part of the package
Lainston House, an Exclusive Hotel, Woodman Lane, Sparsholt, Winchester, Hampshire, SO21 2LT
This article was originally published in Squaremeal Venues + Events, Autumn 2016