Introduction

Introduction

By
Leiths School of Food and Wine
Contains
0 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
9781849493192
Photographer
Peter Cassidy

The hallways of Leiths echo with the footsteps of aspiring cooks, chefs, food professionals and restaurateurs. They are the food stylists and writers of tomorrow, the family cooks of the future and everything in between. Linking them together, whether they are here for a day or a year, is the desire to cook well, without fuss but with success.

Back in 1975, when Prue Leith founded a cookery school with Caroline Waldegrave at the helm, their mission was to inspire and educate a generation of cooks who would see past the fripperies of frills and fancy presentation. With good ingredients at its core, the school sought to train students to cook delicious, unpretentious food.

Our subsequent expansion and a change of location have done nothing to dilute this. The school in its current West London location accommodates 96 aspiring professionals daily; a separate group of keen enthusiasts assembles in the upstairs kitchen, knives at the ready, hoping to refine their knife skills, or become even better bakers.

During its long history, Leiths has seen Britain fall in love with food. In the seventies, home cooking was, if you were lucky, good but plain. Garlic, olive oil and pasta were exotic ingredients and spices sparingly used. The advent of processed food meant that convenience was around the corner, and the growing feminist movement gave permission to women to cast off their aprons. Restaurants were dominated by a desire to embellish and impress, more with fancy presentation than flavour. It was all a bit of a mess.

Despite the confusion, those with a true appreciation of good food and cooking soldiered on. Elizabeth David, who had awoken postwar taste buds with her sunny descriptions of Mediterranean food, continued to inspire those that she had converted. Leiths embraced classical technique but also found inspiration in foreign cuisine and ingredients. A career in cooking started to become appealing, and the school thrived.

Nearly forty years on, good food is reaching the masses. Although convenience food has taken root, the consumer has become more aware, less accepting and wants to know what lies hidden under the label. Chefs, once the prisoners of hot kitchens, have emerged into the light and become household names. Ingredients are heroes. There is an instinctive desire to reconnect with proper home cooking. Baking is a national obsession and cooking a great dinner is no longer seen as a mundane chore.

For Leiths, Britain’s food obsession makes for exciting times. For the aspiring food professional, there are myriad different careers to pursue. Not just cooking food, but writing about it, developing and teaching people about it. Home cooks are becoming more inquisitive and adventurous. Not just about survival, cooking is, for many, a hobby, and for others an obsession. Students want to know why bread rises, how to make the shortest pastry and whether pomegranate molasses can be substituted for lemon juice.

Entertaining at home no longer means white tablecloths, best cutlery and fancy food. There is a simple approach to entertaining which feels more inclusive, and reflects the ethos at the heart of Leiths, that ‘good cooking is enjoyable and rewarding for everyone – not least the cook.’

In order to gain real pleasure from cooking, it is vital that you gain confidence in the kitchen. Leiths How to Cook has been written to that end. With the help of this book, even the most beginner cook can build up a repertoire, not just of recipes, but of skills. Once mastered, each technique can be applied across different recipes, and with time, you will create a toolbox of skills to accompany you on any of life’s culinary adventures. The recipes in this book are a combination of the classic and the new, and have been inspired by the wonderful mixture of cultures that influence the way we eat today. They have been thoroughly tested by our teachers, and many have been rubber stamped by our students too.

We hope that this book will help you to find the real pleasure in cooking, and that the next generation of cooks will be excited, and never intimidated by the kitchen. With a few good ingredients and a toolbox of skills, the kitchen really can be your oyster.

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