30 October 2012

A few of my favourite things: Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking Class

Rain drops on windows and sweet treats with whipped cream,  bright smiling flowers all caught up in this dream, brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favourite things.

Unlike the past two years where the sun had shone brightly on the warm Kapiti soil, today Mother Nature spent her tears all about us. They fell onto the already lush green ground, and the rain pattered gently against the windows, as we sat chatting in anticipation of this year's cooking class commencing.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Upon arriving, a beautiful array of delectable goodies was laid out before us. The Galette de Rois served with vanilla whipped cream the perfect accompaniment to a long awaited morning coffee after the hour's drive up the coast.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

I was intrigued to see how this year's theme The Discreet Charm of a Country Christmas would play out both with the menu and the themed dinner to finish off the day. But I was also equally happy to sit and take everything in, letting the day unfold moment by moment.

Listening to Ruth, a consummate storyteller, weave her magic through the class is something you have to see and hear to believe. One particular story that stayed with me was that one staff member spends four months of the year day after day making the hundreds of Ruth Pretty Christmas cakes that are bought to be enjoyed or given away with love. This year one had even been sent off to a Captain in Afghanistan, and I can imagine it would be one of the tastiest treats someone could hope to receive so far from home on Christmas Day.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review
The famous Christmas Cake

We were fortunate enough to taste that famous cake during the morning tea break, and I savoured each mouthful knowing more of the care and attention with which these cakes have been so lovingly made. 

Time spent wandering leisurely around the kitchen shop during the break is always a visual feast. It's hard to know where to look with so many beautiful preserves and amazing kitchen implements, and this year, Ruth's newly published book was also on display to tempt many a purchase. I couldn't help but notice on the front cover were the mouth-wateringly tasty savoury tarts we had enjoyed as a starter at last year's class.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

We returned to class in time for the traditional bubbly and nibbles to begin appearing. I sipped my bubbly, from time to time catching a glimpse of the grapevines silently giving up their water laden gift from Mother Nature outside the kitchen window, as Ruth entertained us with more stories and handy hints for the perfect Christmas dinner.

The bubbly this year too, was rather special. Any wine from Margain Vineyard in Martinborough would be so, but upon learning that the bubbly La Michelle, a very small vintage, had been made especially by the owners for their daughter Michelle's wedding, every sip thereafter was somehow all the more to savour.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Mother Nature's timing was impeccable. Just as the class finished the rain ceased, and we stepped outside the kitchen to inhale the sweet smell of the country as if it had been all freshly washed down just for us. The grass was still damp underfoot as we stepped gingerly between the cowpats on a little tiki tour through the grounds to the 'staff bar' where Ruth had promised a light refreshment.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

The market stall alongside the outdoor bar was just the right touch of country to go with the lavender lemonade and bountiful wine and beer selection.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

And then, just as were getting comfortable in the now almost tropical outdoor air, the doors behind us suddenly opened onto a scene of rustic charm, so country and yet so quintessentially Kiwi at the same time.

From the Christmas tree - a punga fern glittering with baubles and lights, to the barely opening buds of agapanthus adorning the table, and the intricate screenprinted hessian about the walls, it was an absolute delight for the eyes.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

We sat at tables each named after a famous racing horse, framed by row upon row of flax flowers sprinkled with the odd glittering bauble reflecting the hue of party lights.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

And the best was yet to come.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review
Bacon Wrapped Turkey and Parmesan Sausages

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review
Irene's West Coast Whitebait with Tarragon Cream Cheese and Salted Olive Oil Crackers

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review
Roast Leg of Lamb with Lemon and Oregano
New Potatoes with Honey Mustard Dressing and Crunchy Sprinkle
Legumes with Minted Butter
Asparagus with Tomato and Caper Vinaigrette

My heart had skipped a beat at the beginning of the day when I saw lamb on the menu, my all-time favourite roast. Add the glorious flavours of the meat stuffed with garlic, rubbed with lemon and oregano and then roasted all wrapped up in a brown paper package tied up with string, well quite simply these are a few of my favourite things.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review
Christmas Icebox Cake with Roasted Pineapple

I'd never heard of an icebox cake before but there is a definite appeal to making a no-cook cake that you can prepare in advance this Christmas. With layers of chocolate hazelnut biscuits held together with a soft chocolate ganache and a hint of Christmas mince, all delicately wrapped up in cream, marscapone and Frangelico, well let's just say it was just right combination to end a magical day on.

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Ruth Pretty Christmas Cooking school review

Bokeh and lillies, the fresh scent of sweet peas, a fern drenched in blue light, committed to memory, a day in food heaven where my tastebuds sing, these are a few of my favourite things.

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