August 1, aka Yorkshire Day, on Wednesday this week, was also Swiss Day, although I has no idea of this until Bettys pinged an email into the Gorgeous Yorkshire inbox of untold delights, asking us to join them to celebrate this doubly special occasion at the Bettys Cookery School in Harrogate.
Being perfectly placed and entitled to celebrate both occasions, as a Yorkshire institution with a Swiss heritage, Bettys award-winning Cookery School (which is on the same site as its bakery, near Morrisons) had decided to devise a Bettys Yorkshire Favourite Practical Course, teaching students to make Bettys Rösti with Oak Smoked Salmon & Dill, Individual Strawberry & Raspberry Tarts, Yorkshire Cobble Loaf and then dip and decorate a Fondant Fancy.
Frankly, it was too enticing an opportunity to pass up, and so it was that I, accompanied by my daughter, found myself reporting for cooking duty at 10am on Wednesday just gone.
We and our fellow would-be chefs (who had come on a trip organised by Rudding Park Hotel) were greeted by host Julie Brown, and plied with tea and shortbread, before the teaching and the first of the demonstrations began. Course tutor Jenny Culver showed us how to roll out sweet pastry (thoughtfully and thankfully prepared in advance), place in our tins and bake blind, and then start on the crème patissiere. On the way, she passed on some extremely useful tips and facts – I had no idea that self-raising flour lasts only 6-8 weeks; mine’s been in the cupboard for several years! Also, vanilla is becoming endangered.
I loved making the crème patissiere although mine did not look like Jenny’s. Too gloopy. When we got to the filling and assembling stage later, I stole my daughter’s much better batch (it was fine, she had plenty).
Jenny showed us how to make rosti too, with smoked salmon and asparagus, which we ate for lunch (and there was more than enough to take home for dinner). The secret lies in a large par-boiled jacket potato, grated. It really was delicious and the salad and wine accompaniments just perfect. Definitely the most lovely lunch I’ve had in ages, even if I did make the rosti with my own fair hands.
Joint course tutor Chris Taylor then showed us how to make Yorkshire Cobble Bread, named after the cobbles of York and decorated with a criss-cross cobble patterning. I absolutely loved making the bread – it was therapeutic and fascinating and satisfying. True, there were a few nervous moments, as when I looked round to see that everyone else’s cling-wrap was domed while mine was still flat, but hey, my bread rose fine in the end.
The finale of dipping the fondant fancies in icing was fun and messy. I don’t think they would ever be allowed near a Bettys café.
There are several courses to try at Bettys Cookery School, covering easy dishes and entertaining. There’s Breadmaking for Beginners, making Swiss Fitness Bread, Yorkshire Cobble Loaves, Swiss Stick and Wholemeal Rolls – Course Offer Price £155 (usual price £185); Fabulous Fish; Baking, and Make the Bettys Swiss Rosti, similar to ours and costing £75, 10am-3pm.
We all had a great time. The course was relaxed, friendly, informative, educational, huge fun and very tasty. You take the food you’ve made home, so between us, we brought back four 1lb loaves, rosti to cook, two tarts and four fondant fancies.
There’s a little shop too, where you can buy gorgeous kitchenalia and books. I bought three small whisks (they were so amazing) and a magnetic timer, a biscuit tin, some shortbread and a pastry brush – all very reasonable prices.
Thoroughly recommended and a lovely experience for mums and daughters (or dads, sons etc) and friends to try together – it’s a hoot, and your cooking skills will definitely be enhanced.
Find out more about Bettys Cookery School at https://www.bettyscookeryschool.co.uk/