Last weekend I attended the level 1 plant-based macrobiotic cooking course, presented by Macrobioticshop.co.uk, at Mam Tor House (aka The Old Winery) in the beautiful Hope Valley in the Peak District.
Our small group of just seven students was welcomed with tea and raw home-made chocolate brownies and lemon verbena raw crisps (delicious!) while we introduced ourselves in the warm September sunshine. Course leader Georgina then talked us through some of the ingredients we would be working with, their importance in a macrobiotic diet and what we could expect from the day.
The first part of the morning consisted of a couple of demonstrations by Georgina during which she created our dessert of amazake, kuzu & foraged blackberries and a vegetable miso soup. One of my specific hopes from the day was to learn to work with ingredients I’d not used before and the amazake dessert fulfilled this objective perfectly.
After the demos it was our turn to don the aprons and get cooking. We were presented with a selection of beautiful ingredients – fresh, locally grown organic vegetables, macrobiotic staples from the shop and some items foraged locally that morning. Each of us was given a recipe (or two, depending on complexity) to work with to prepare our dishes, the intention being that between us we would create a banquet that we’d share for lunch.
While our dishes were cooking, Ishmael introduced us to the process of fermentation and offered us the opportunity to sample some of his home-made, flavoured kombuchas. Kombucha (fermented, sweetened tea) was a new experience for me and quite alien to anything I’d tasted before. I think it’s something of an acquired taste but perseverance brings rewards and after my initial ‘confusion’ surrounding the fizziness of the tea, I grew to really enjoy it. The beetroot-flavoured version was particularly good.
Lunch was something for us all to be proud of. It looked great and the range of new flavours, tastes and textures were delicious and inspiring. Afterwards, the theme of fermentation continued as Ishmael led a demonstration on the making of the staple Korean dish kimchi (fermented raw vegetables). After the demo, each of us was given the opportunity to select two or three of our favourite vegetables and produce our own jar of kimchi to take away with us.
The day closed with more tea and the amazake & blackberry pudding that Georgina had prepared earlier. I’m not a sweet-toothed soul and I very rarely eat desserts but I was pleasantly surprised by the amazake. It was neither too sweet nor too creamy for my taste and I’d definitely make it at home. After lingering for a while, talking and reflecting on the day, we gradually began to make our way home.
Throughout the day it was evident that Georgina & Ishmael are clearly knowledgeable & passionate about their respective subjects. The course was well-designed & structured and delivered with a lot of love & enthusiasm. Overall, the day was a great example of the sweet stuff of life – a lot of fun; new knowledge; delicious food; inspiration; art; science; meeting new, like-minded souls and healthful treats to take home.