Around this time two years ago, I dedicated two weeks to attend Demuths first Vegan Diploma course. I wasn’t vegan (and I’m still not) but an amazing trip earlier in the year to Hong Kong, Malaysia, Bali and the Philippines with the sole purpose of doing yoga and healthy eating (and visit my brother in HK) had led to my discovery of vegan food. And it was a revelation! I came back from the trip quite a few pounds lighter, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and full of energy. I also knew that I didn’t want my vegan ‘journey’ to stop there.
A residential Vegan Diploma course at Demuths ticked the boxes. A renowned vegetarian cookery school in Bath run by an award winning vegetarian chef and her experienced team. I love the West Country and it doesn’t get much better than being based in Bath for two weeks. Dog sitter? Tick. I was lucky that my sister-in-law’s parents live in Bristol and agreed to look after my beloved Westie, Dizzy Rascal. I think they also secretly hoped to share some vegan deliciousness at the end of each day!
I was apprehensive and excited but mainly curious at the start of the course. I didn’t know what to expect. Two weeks seemed quite a long time to learn to cook just plant based ingredients? I’m half Italian and a confident home cook, given I’ve been cooking from an early age but in no way, could I call myself a chef. Would I be out of my depth, I asked myself?
On arrival, we were all invited to sit in the cosy seating area above the kitchen and started to introduce ourselves over coffee, tea and delicious homemade vegan biscuits! A good start. After a warm welcome from Rachel, it was time to get our aprons on and wash our hands ready for the first demonstration! There were about eight of us on the course which felt like the right size to maintain a feeling of intimacy within the class. As students with varying degrees of experience and backgrounds, I think we all enjoyed meeting each other as well as swapping ideas and recommendations. Interestingly, some of the students had already attended a few Demuths courses and I now understand why!
Classes were a mix of demonstration and hands on preparation and cookery. Dishes were international and based on seasonal ingredients and availability. The course was broken up into four modules over two weeks. Module One ‘Pasta, Sauces, Soups and Stocks’, Module Two ‘Grains, Legumes and Vegetables’, Module Three ‘Bread’ and Module Four ‘Pastry and Desserts.’ As well as learning lots of recipes, we were also taught preparation methods, cooking techniques and safe, hygienic practices. Pretty much what you would expect in any professional kitchen.
The tutors were friendly and fabulous, so knowledgeable and patient! What I really appreciated were the extra tit-bits of info that they were willing to share about products and recipes. And we had A LOT of questions! Although we worked to a strict timetable each day, the atmosphere was relaxed and fun. Every lunchtime we sat down to eat the delicious food we had prepared and the same again in the afternoon. We were generously provided with leftover boxes to take food away with us at the end of each day.
I learnt so much from the course about ingredients, spices, techniques and flavours. There were so many ingredients I had not heard of before! Even learning to taste every time I added an ingredient to a dish, may sound like an obvious technique yet it taught me the importance of recognising flavour combinations, particularly with ingredients I had not used before. I went through so many teaspoons! The two weeks went by in a flash. Here are some of the highlights (there were a lot, these are just a few!)
- The wonder of aguafaba. Chickpea water instead of egg whites to make meringues? Yup.
- Making vegan cheese from rejuvelac and soaked cashew nuts. Never thought it possible. And so delicious!
- I discovered tempeh. A sexier, meatier soy product than tofu.
- Experienced tutors. These ladies really know their stuff. I was in awe.
- Flax batter instead of egg? For making desserts and cakes.
- A makeshift smoker made from a wok and a cake rack to smoke tofu. Genius!
- Sauerkraut. I never thought fermented cabbage could taste so good!
Demuths Vegan Diploma course was thorough, professional, varied, interesting and fun. I loved the creativity of vegan cooking and as its plant based, I felt it was also doing me good.
I looked at the photos we took on the last day of the course and saw myself grinning like a Cheshire cat holding a plate of vegan deliciousness that I had made. Yes, the course is a commitment in terms of time however, it was a life changing experience that came at the right moment for me and I loved every minute of it. I would have moved in if I could!!!
I realised at that point that I had started a journey and shifted my diet to being plant-based. On returning to London alongside my corporate career, I volunteered at a vegan community kitchen and a vegan café. Two years on I have left the corporate world in London to dedicate myself to a MSc in Nutrition, Physical Activity and Public Health at Bristol University with specific research interest on the Mediterranean Diet. I’ve qualified as a yoga teacher and taken over the villa that my father built to create The View, Sicily. A holiday home that offers yoga and vegan and vegetarian cookery classes based on the Mediterranean Diet i.e. local, seasonal produce. Fruit, wine and olive oil are produced on site. Now I’m plant- and solar-powered!
The Demuths Vegan Diploma is a 2-week course that runs throughout the year http://demuths.co.uk/rachels-blog/article/Demuths_Vegan_Diploma_My_Vegan_Journey
More information can be found here.