Make your own home a sought-after dinner ticket by mastering classic French menus, moreish Greek nibbles and the art of beer
Brewing in London
The Bermondsey Beer Mile is a welcome new map label in London: a clutch of small breweries set up under the railway arches that strike out from London Bridge station towards Kent – the home of English hops. Most only open for tastings on Saturdays, and a weekend trip is also the best bet to experience UBREW, where visitors can craft their own brews. The six-hour, all-grain course starts from scratch, and ends with – a few weeks later – a truly unique beer to bring home. In the meantime, take a stroll via the old riverside warehouses of Shad Thames to the nearby George Inn, a National Trust-owned beauty from 1677 that gives a glimpse into past centuries of London beer-drinking.
Go Wild in Yorkshire
Sometimes there is such a thing as a free lunch; at least, once you’ve paid to learn how to forage for food safely and legally in the British countryside. Taste the Wild runs a variety of courses in North Yorkshire, where they own a plot of woodland in pastoral country near the town of Boroughbridge.
The Wild Food Weekend is stretched over two breakfasts, two lunches and two dinners, with foraging walks and classes on preparing wild game and cooking over a wood fire. By the time you head home, you should be converted to the joys of salting your own foraged mushrooms and making stockpiles of preserves from future weekend walks.
Cooking in Ireland
Wicklow is the first county south of Dublin, and it helpfully gathers some of the best Irish experiences in one place for those short on time, from driving past mountains and ruins on the old Military Road to expanding your cooking skills over a weekend at the ivy-clad, 19th-century Ballyknocken House. Its owner, the Wicklow-born celebrity chef Catherine Fulvio, has added Italian influence to the Irish menu, so at dinner you can expect the likes of sorrel soup with soda bread to be followed by spinach and ricotta-stuffed rosemary chicken. A Foodie Short Break for Two includes a night’s accommodation, Irish breakfast, a four-course dinner and two places on one of a variety of half-day courses.
Bread-Making in Scotland
For something so basic, bread can be hard to fathom: a foodstuff far more than the sum of its parts, whose success can turn on the slightest of factors. Bread Matters aims to take most of the mystery out of the process with its courses in the renewably powered Macbiehill Farmhouse, overlooking the hills of the Scottish Borders. The most popular is the two-day Fundamental Course. After some theory, to show what’s going on with yeast and flour at a microscopic level, there’s time for plenty of practice, ending up with a half-dozen types of bread to take home.
A Wine Tour In Spain
La Rioja may be Spain’s best-known wine region, but Ribera del Duero can claim some top vintages, in more sense than one. Prized wines from this stretch of the Duero river include Vega Sicilia and Dominio de Pingus; and at around 800 metres in altitude, the vines grow higher than in most Alpine vineyards. SmoothRed offers a three-day taster, with chauffeured tours and tapas lunches that bring out the best in the Tempranillo-based wines.
Feasting In Athens
Long before its link with rice pudding, ambrosia was the food of the gods in Greek myth, believed to confer immortality. That delicacy is sadly not available beyond Mount Olympus, but an Athenian Ambrosia Cooking Experience is open to all who wish to find out what powers modern Greeks. Taught by Athenian Eleni Melirrytos, the one-day class heads to a local market to pick up ingredients, before tackling a menu that might include cheesy filo pies, stuffed aubergine, and pistachio-filled baklava. The next day, see what the city’s most exciting restaurants are doing with Greek produce at addresses like Athiri and south Greece-inspired Mani Mani.
A Norman Conquest
Its combination of long sea coast and rich farm country has always made Normandy a welcome guest at the French dinner table, with specialities from scallops and salt marsh lamb to Camembert and calvados. Irish-born Sinéad Allart has spent a decade helping visitors master the culinary nuances of her adopted home through courses at La Blonderie, an 18th-century manor house just inland from the beaches of the Cotentin Peninsula. Excursions to a local cider maker and the market in medieval Bricquebec provide changes of pace in between sessions concocting Norman favourites such as poulet Vallée d‘Auge (chicken in a creamy apple and calvados sauce) and teurgoule – local rice pudding.