28 November 2011

Return to Eden: Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking Class

In the beginning there was a garden. And everything about it was perfect. It gave of itself that we might eat of its bounty and enjoy the fresh, clean tastes on our palate.

This was to be my Dreaming of a Green Christmas experience. 

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

The day started with coffees and lavender lemonade in The Garden Room, where we enjoyed all manner of cheese and homemade crackers, accompanied by an especially lovely, refreshing bowl of roast pineapple in spices and mint.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

I could have easily wandered around the beautiful grounds all day long taking photos and sipping on my lemonade, but my presence was required for some serious cooking in the kitchen.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

The early part of our day was spent watching an amazing triple-layered Almond, Orange and Chocolate Cake being assembled.

It wasn't without a few hairy moments, due to the fragility of having to cut three thin cake layers to sit between the almond dacquoise and dark chocolate mousse layers. I was somewhat heartened to see that even Ruth Pretty (who I'd consider one of the best chefs in the land having recently served Prince Albert and Princess Charlene at the Rugby World Cup) is still capable of 'having a moment'. Yes, things got a bit nerve-wracking there for a moment as various cracks appeared in the wafer-thin cake layers. But once you see the finished product later on, I think you'll agree, it was merely a minor hiccup.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

One of the more memorable moments of the day was when Ruth showed us the preparation of our roasted duck. We definitely got the no-holds-barred, x-rated version that involved beheading and de-legging a whole dead duck.  Um, eeeew! Mind you, I have a feeling you'll be secretly pleased I was too squeamish to subject you to the photographic evidence from this part of the day.


After an intense few minutes, it was thankfully time for some fresh air (which involved a few deep gulps on my part!), more refreshments, and of course time to ooh and aah over the highly practical and beautifully made wares in Ruth's Kitchen Shop.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

And just as the hunger pains were really starting to kick in, when we regrouped back in the kitchen we were immediately plied with a series of delectable nibbles along with a glass or two (or it might even have been three in my case!) of bubbly. Starting with Feta, Celery and Semi-Dried Tomato Salad in Parmesan Cheese Tart Cases.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Followed by Beef Salad Rolls with Mustard Sour Cream Dressing, and I just loved the way these were presented in chopsticks - clever idea!

We then retired back to The Garden Room where an array of refreshing liquids helped bide our time whilst waiting for the main event to commence.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Ruth, with an ever straight face, had spun us a tale of a rickety old bus and Errol the bus driver coming to collect us for a journey to our final gastronomic destination. But alas, as the story progressed it became clear that he had been delayed and would we perhaps like to have a look around her Herb Garden while we waited his arrival?

We ventured into the herb garden, learning from Ruth about the constantly evolving seasons of herbs and micro greens growing in the garden. How one messy-looking bed actually held an abundance of different herbs each with their own unique purpose.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

On we ambled, listening, learning. Enjoying the feel of the sun on our backs and inhaling an array of lightly mingled herb scents.

But wait.....

.....what had we suddenly wandered into? In the blink of an eye, Eden appeared before us.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

I can only imagine that this is how the Garden of Eden might have looked full of exotic and tropical vegetation, with all of nature co-existing in harmony.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

And sitting down to this picnic in paradise, I truly believed myself to be back in that Original Garden. Surrounded by orchids and other brightly-coloured foliage. With monarchs hovering just out of reach, we sat at rustic tables on chairs draped in hessian, drinking from large goblets, calling softly to each other on our bird whistlers.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

And our bounty, like is only possible in a place that has only known perfection, was just that.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

I could have eaten these starters all day long. Spanish Style Peppers with Garlic and Sherry Vinegar and Garlic Prawns with Chorizo.

Followed by Roasted Duck with Pomegranate Glaze and Roasted Kumara, accompanied by Asparagus and a Quinoa and Cranberry Salad (which hadn't quite made it to my plate at this point).

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

And then...the piece de resistance. That wonderfully layered creation of a cake that despite encountering a few speed wobbles had been turned into a vision of all that is lovely to look at, and even lovelier to behold in the mouth. How amazing are those marzipan oranges on top!

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

And yes, I will admit I went back for a small second helping of the dessert. It was delectable without being too sweet, so that you could easily (really truly I wasn't being a complete piglet!) contemplate more.

I didn't want each mouthful to end, partly because it was so good, but also because each mouthful gone was one step closer to the moment where I knew I would have to leave Eden.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

And when the moment came, I left with a just-nicely, not overfull stomach, but with a heaviness in heart. Knowing that no matter how much I might try to recreate this very experience, the Garden is destined to remain only in my memories, in reality elusive and tantalisingly just out of reach.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

*This post contains sponsored content. I received a free ticket to the cooking school from Ruth Pretty but all opinions of the experience are my own*

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