Those of you who remember this legendary film may be wondering just what bit of it resembled our chic cooking event…but bear with me. The movie is about an eccentric banquet in a London restaurant over the (was it 3 or 4?) course of which our blonde heroine (played, unforgettably, by the iconic Helen Mirren) morphs from submissive wife to daring lover (and yes she probably did take her clothes off.) Peter Greenaway’s film is a sumptuous display of artistic genius: he uses a different colour scheme for each locale – red for the dining room, white for the bathrooms – with the characters’ costumes changing colour as they move from one to the other.
If we were to make a movie of our Cooking up a Storm event it would star another iconic blond – gorgeous and eccentric Diana Horsford. She’s even more creative than a Peter Greenaway film and certainly the menu we cooked was a feast for the eyes.
We all piled into the warm haven of the Avenue cookery school in Putney and were welcomed with a delicious glass of Crémant de Limoux Cuvée from the place in the Languedoc that invented sparkling wine – before Champagne – and gave us the word limousine. What a treat to have ex-Christies head of wine Christopher Burr as our wine expert for the night. Diana lined us up to watch her neatly assemble Thai salmon parcels, aided by handsome and eligible Tom (see pics). Next up was a gentle folding together of lemon possets and a ridiculously simple assembling of lavender biscuits direct to freezoir. Christopher dispensed with a glass or two of Macon Villages meant for the wine tasting; couldn’t have us lot being thirsty…
Divided into groups, we all got to work, chopping and assembling our creations as directed ,with a general enthusiasm that belied the fact that some of us had yet to progress past egg boiling. All went swimmingly and by 9pm we were ready to get stuck into our appetising creations. Christopher took us through a tasting which included discussing the differences between two chardonnays: the aristocratically titled Domaine Mallory et Benjamin Talmard Macon-Villages and an earthier-sounding Heggies Eden Valley from Australia. Some of us were clearly not afraid of voicing our opinions, which proved to be sharply divided. En garde!
Our utterly wonderful Thai salmon parcels on a colourful bed of stir fried vegetables tasted as divine as they looked, notwithstanding the fact that I could see my chunky disorderly vegetables protruding from my surveyor friend’s precision-engineered ones – sorry Diana my chopping skills need work! Christopher’s pairing of this course with an amazing Gewurztraminer Tradition Cave de Turckheim exemplified his genius.
With dessert on its way he then played a game with us – a blind tasting where we had to answer the following questions: a) Warm or cool climate? b) Very young wine, or matured? c) One varietal or more (simple or complex)? d) Use of oak? e) Where and what? Our candidate for consideration proved to be a delicious Rioja Muga, which none of us got spot on, but we got close, very close. I wonder if I might be allowed on your Wotwine? app tasting team Christopher? I do have a lot of experience…
We downed the lemon posset and lavender biscuits with an elegant Moscato d’Asti, which I always love to drink at the end of a meal – being only 5% ABV it’s almost like drinking water…truly! Then it was time to say good bye to our wonderful hosts. Christopher, the perfect yin to Diana’s creative yang. We hope you’ll have us back again.
A word to the wise: if any of you have children home over the Easter holidays, Diana runs wonderful classes for those going off to university or for a chalet season. Having your own well trained kitchen ‘slaves’ has to be a worthwhile investment.