Last week I received a very exciting invitation for a cooking event with Saturday Kitchen's very own James Martin. I'm used to my interactions with James Martin being via a TV screen whilst I am still in pyjama mode, so it was a real treat to get dressed and head over to the wonderful cooking school, Food at 52, just off Old Street in East London to meet the man himself and hopefully pick up a few tricks of the trade.

The day was arranged by the lovely people at Thomas Cook, whose in-flights meals James Martin has recently designed. The day was split into two parts, with the morning spent cooking our 3 course lunch under James' watchful eye, and the afternoon being a 6 course cooking demonstration given by James, which I unfortunately had to miss.

There were 12 of us at the event, an equal split of enthusiastic food bloggers, and Thomas Cook marketing staff. We got aproned up and took our places around a long table, with James at one end, instructing and helping us. We prepped all the ingredients for the three course lunch, which was Thai Crab Risotto, followed by smoked haddock Rarebit, and a chocolate pudding for desert. It was really good fun to get involved with all the food prep and pick up some cooking tips from James (for example, I learnt that when using tomato puree in a recipe, it should always be added at the start of cooking to give it time to cook through and reduce any bitter taste). He also talked us through how to get all the meat out of a crab for his delicious risotto.

After the morning's chopping, cleaning, dicing and mixing, everyone sat down for lunch, to eat their creations with James. I sadly had to miss the lunch but I heard it was delicious.

Thomas Cook were kind enough to send me the recipes for the amazing sounding 6 dishes that James demonstrated, which included Blackened Tuna with Apricot, Cod and Monkfish with a Vodka Tonic batter, and a cheats 10 minute Strawberry Gateau.

I went to a friend's for a barbecue last weekend, and I was going to make James' cheats Strawberry Gateau to take with us. However, to follow James' recipe I would've needed to slice the flan base in half, and I didn't trust my knife skills that early in the morning. Instead, I took one shop bought flan base, whipped 750ml of double cream with about 4 shots of Jamaican rum and lime zest, and spread this over the flan. I then piled raspberries, strawberries and blueberries on top of the cream and finished with icing sugar and chopped fresh mint. It was delicious, although not at all like James' creation.

It was a truly wonderful morning spent with James Martin at Food 52, and I can't wait to make his Lamb with pickled Turnip and Cucumber.

For more information on what Thomas Cook and James Martin are up to visit http://blog.thomascook.com/ or http://www.thomascook.com/.

For info on the excellent cookery courses at Food at 52, go to www.foodat52.co.uk


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