Cooking in the Countryside

After teaming up with the Raymond Blanc Cookery School to stage our very own Bake Off competition this month (enter here!), we headed to Oxfordshire, to visit Raymond's two Michelin starred restaurant and hotel Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons. And join in with his acclaimed cookery class 'Let's Cook', to learn how to cook an array of seasonal dishes under the eye of an expert... 

Above: Our attempt at braised fillet of brill, and watching Mark prepare wild mushrooms for the risotto course. 

The cookery school is situated right in the heart of hotel's Michelin-starred kitchen, but has an almost homely feel to it, with past Raymond Blanc cookbooks piled up on the shelves and photos of the famous chef with his beloved mother adorning the walls. 

Director of the Cookery School and a close friend of Raymond's, our class was led by Mark Peregrine, who was instantly welcoming, very funny and an incredibly talented chef. He began by teaching us how to cook fresh new season garlic and potato soup from scratch, followed by a lesson in braising brill and steaming green garden vegtables to perfection (goodbye crunchy, hello heavenly). 

Above: A pretty professional looking wild mushroom risotto! 

Our next challenge was to recreate Mark's (near legendary) wild mushroom risotto. The ingredients of which he proudly and passionately guided us through, as all produce used at Le Manoir is either grown on site in one of their 14 beautiful gardens or sourced locally. 

Encouraging us to follow his 'pantry to plate' ethos, to value great ingredients and use them well. 

Above: Mark whipping up a Grand Marnier Soufflé, which rose to perfection. 

Finally, for dessert we had a go at making a vanilla syrup and pastry cream for a Grand Marnier soaked soufflé, which tasted as incredible as it looked! 

We then spoke to Raymond himself, who eagerly talked us through his journey as a chef and the huge range of other classes the cookery school hosts, from bespoke chocolatier and gluten free courses to classes for students who are off to University. 

Above: Exploring the vast hotel gardens.

Following our morning of non-stop cooking and chatting, we spent the afternoon venturing around the grand manor house hotel and exploring the sprawling lawns, never-ending vegetable gardens and orchards. Including the 32 individually designed guest rooms, all personal visions of Raymond's, a few of which we were lucky enough to have a sneak peek into! 

A truly memorable experience, due to the beauitfully crafted foods, luxury surroundings and of course, the lovely Le Manoir chefs, who were kind enough to show us a thing or two in their inspiring kitchen...

Fancy taking part in our hush/Raymond Blanc Cookery School Bake Off? Enter here for the chance to win a place and visit Le Manior yourself!