I’m just back from a brilliant week, teaching cooking classes in rainy California. Yep you read that right – rainy! California has needed this rain so badly after the drought so I couldn’t really complain, and as a Brit I’m much more used to dealing with rain than excessive heat so I was fine.
Luckily I managed to visit just as all the citrus blossom was in bloom. The smell of the lemon and grapefruit trees is just amazing and I spent quite a lot of time getting strange looks as I pressed my nose into lemon trees!
This was my second cooking tour, the first was in October 2015. We had lived in California for almost 5 years when we left at the end of June last year to return home to Cheshire in England. There is something so lovely about going back to a place that was once home. Everything still feels reassuringly the same. I know exactly where things are in the shops. I still bump into people I know when I’m grabbing coffee. The waiter at my favourite bar still knows my order (The ‘Am I Mistaken’ at The Lex if you’re curious). I still feel at home but it no longer feels like home. Which is perfect really, to have a foot in two lovely camps.
The best bit about being back is seeing all my friends and students. I was there for a week this time and managed to fit in 10 group classes with around 70 people in total, lots of familiar faces but also lots of new people to share my recipes with. I was so busy cooking that I forgot to take photos of every group but you were all gorgeous!
Thank you so much to all of you who opened your kitchens to me and invited your friends. And huge thanks to those of you who found time to meet me for quick catch ups and who let me stay in your homes along with my pots and pans.
The Spring 2016 cooking tour menu
The menu this time was my 2 hour Deliciously Doable Dinners class. I’d taught this class just before I left Cheshire and it had gone down a treat. So once I’d made multiple packing and grocery lists and all the necessary handout edits (Celsius > Fahrenheit, grams > cups, coriander > cilantro; yoghurt > yogurt and flavour > flavor) to suit my American audiences I was good to go.
One pan fragrant roast chicken with crunchy chickpeas and vegetables – I’ve now posted the recipe on my site so you can try it if you missed class
Porchetta style wild salmon with Italian lentils, greens and horseradish yoghurt sauce
Lemony mushroom ragu on oozy polenta with kale pesto
Coconut salted caramel with brown rice pudding
Love well and truly shared
I’ve been blown away by how quickly I started seeing pictures of what I’d taught crop up on Facebook and Instagram. And my heart is swelling at how many of you have said your children have enjoyed what you’ve made – always the toughest test. Keep them coming please!
What I pack for my cooking class tour
In every class people asked what I’d packed to cook all these recipes. I fly economy so I only have one case to bring – although I never stop hoping for an upgrade British Airways if you’re reading. Along with my aprons and a scary amount of Maldon salt boxes, these are the bits of kit I can’t travel without. I borrowed a couple of saucepans from a friend I was staying with, but that was all. You can buy these items through my Amazon shop. I get a tiny percentage in return and this helps keep my class prices down…and maybe will pay for me to fly in a posher part of the plane!
- Microplane fine
- Microplane coarse
- Silicone spoon spatulas
- Pepper grinder
- Citrus juicer
- Maldon salt
- Scanpan frying pan
- Cookie sheet/baking tin
- Metal tongs
- Chefs knife
- Mini food processor
Where I ate
I don’t get much time off in between teaching classes but I kept Tuesday as a non working day so that I could see friends and get over my jetlag (whilst eating in the new places that opened since my last visit). I had lunch with my work wife and all round fixer, Erin, at The Bywater, the most talked about new opening in Los Gatos. Read my review of our lunch here.
I also managed dinner with my friends at The Blacksheep Brasserie, the new opening from the guys at The Lexington House. I’ll be posting my review very soon but in a nutshell it was brilliant!
I also got my fix from most of my old favourites:
Manresa bread. Without their Verve coffee, cookies and croissants I’m not sure I could have kept my energy as high as it needed to be.
Oak and Rye. Still the best pizza in the area. And the brussel sprout salad still makes me feel like I’m balancing things.
The Lexington House. I’ve said it before but I love this place, I’ve had too many special nights here to remember (my memory may also be affected by their amazing cocktails). The team still know my favourite drink even after months away. I headed here late one night after class to put the world to rights with a dear friend.
Zona Rosa. I left the trip to this place until my last day and then had to stand like a sad puppy at the closed door when I realised they were closed. I’d been so excited about getting my Mexican food fix but it wasn’t to be. I’m still working on persuading them to tell me the secret to the amazing sauces they add to their tacos so will share it when they give it to me.
Whole Foods. My second home when I’m visiting. I pop in each day to buy fresh meat and fish for my classes and always have their freshly made kale and mango smoothie (with extra kale). Some days I’m so busy it is the only veggie hit I get so I’m convinced it keeps me well (and balances out the croissants). It is always the place I bump into people too which makes it doubly special.
Peets coffee. Another source of coffee and another place I’m guaranteed to see people I know. This branch was where I used to bring my boys when they weren’t yet at preschool and we had the whole day stretching ahead of us. We’d grab our road trip coffees here when we were off on vacation and it is where I spent hour after hour working on my website when it was first being built. The coffee may not be as fancy as some of the more artisan places in town but it has my heart.
I’ll be back!
I’ll be back with a new menu to teach for a week in October. The dates for this last tour sold out before I’d even announced them so be sure to let me know if you’d like prior warning of my schedule by contacting me.