A Passion for Teaching

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It's been an amazing couple of weeks.  I've been teaching non-stop and I am starting to understand how one can fall in love with teaching. There is something very gratifying about sharing your love of something and your expertise with others. 

Last week I had some lovely students at the WI Denman College, learning about Vegetarian cooking.  I think they were a little unnerved by my confession that I was no longer a vegetarian (having fallen off the ladder a good 28 years ago), but that I was very much a lover of vegetables.  My plan for the 3 days, was to teach them lots of  techniques which they could then apply to their vegetarian cooking.  On our first evening togther we did a few Ottolenghi salads, zeroing in on unusual grains like quinoa and bulghar.  The quinoa was used in a type of couscous salad (without the couscous).  The simplicity of this really made me re-think the whole idea of quinoa- which up unitl recently I was a little unsure of.  Cooking it for only 9 minutes and then rinsing it in cold water and leaving it to cool, makes a huge difference to this grain.  It retains a little chewiness which makes it a much more pleasant experience.  We went on to do a full marathon of cooking the next day, making  shortcrust pastry, vegetable tarts, pumpkin soup and buckwheat cheese straws,  Then in the afternoon we concentrated on making cakes using unusual vegeables.  The chocolate aubergine cake was a complete triumph, rich, moist and very sophisticated.  The courgette poppy seed loaf, was gorgeous, light, and just perfect with a cup of tea.  Later on in the evening we concentrated on making spinach pasta.  It was great teaching a group over a 48 hour period and getting to know a little about them and what they were hoping to get out of the course.  

Earlier this week I was back at Denman to teach a pastry day school.  I hasten to add that this was not gluten free pastry.  It was the classic pastry repertoire of choux, pate sucree, shortcrust and rough puff.  I was glad to see that I haven't lost my touch and that those classic skills are well imbeded in my psyche.  Even more gratifying was seeing how successful the student's were.  The choux buns were spectacular and the short crust pastry and pate sucree were top notch too.  I think they were a little surprised to hear me whooping and yelling at them and saying how proud I was of them.  I did feel very proud of their efforts and even shed a little tear later on thinking about it.  Despite the fact that these recipes contained gluten (and I did feel a bit like a traitor) , I think that going back to pastry after a long break has really opened my eyes to new possibilities.  Working with gluten free flour has taught me to be much more open minded and also to be more questioning of what is actually happening in a recipe.  I am looking forward to some new gluten free pastry experiments and my mind is racing with possibilities.

Finally, this weekend was my  Gluten Free Chistmas Workshop at the Miele Experience Centre.  I had another lovely group of students, some travelling from quite far away.  We made flaky pastry, mince pies and savoury pies, cornbread,upside down fruit cakes, buckwheat cheese straws, lemon bars, amaretti biscuits, chocolate truffle cookies and chocolate fig and pistachio biscotti.  Oh, and some spicy conrnbread stuffing.  And yes, they looked completely exhausted by the end of our session.  Watching them pack up their goodies I did get a little lump in my throat. I am pretty sure that I have weaned them off commercial pastry forever and that they will put all their new skills to good use.  This is what gives me the greatest sense of satisfaction.  Knowing that I have given them the tools and the skill to make great tasting gluten free food.  They will go on and use their skills to show others that gluten free pastry, cookies and cakes can knock the socks off commercial alternatives.  This I hope will encourage manufacturers to up their game and produce better products.  And who knows, some of these students may decide to go into manufacturing themselves.  Several of my students are doing this already and very successfully. You can read some of their stories in the testimonial section.  for me, teaching has ben a revelation.  After many changes of career and having had so many wonderful experiences in life, I can say that teaching really tops the agenda and puts ticks in all the boxes.  I am loving it !

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