A Cooking Demonstration for the Bake Up Team

There was a whole new format for December’s meet – a live cooking demo with Upton’s answer to Nigella, Nadiya et al – Ros C. Her mission was to expand our repertoire for the party season, replacing the standard pigs in blankets and mushroom vol-au-vents with some really lively canapes.

With enviable ability to cook, field questions and direct her willing assistant Frances all at the same time, Ros guided us through 3 recipes, starting with gruyere profiteroles. There are 2 golden rules to successful choux, we learned. Sift the flour 3 times and when you shoot it into the pan, beat like a madman until it’s incorporated, but no longer!

Tips like these came thick and fast through the session – my personal favourite of these was how to fill an icing bag with batter using a jug as a holder. Never again will I end up with gloop on my hands, clothes, ceiling and dog.

While the profiteroles were baking we moved on to gyoza dumplings, delightful crescent-shaped pork-and-cabbage steamed savouries. Here we discovered another essential chef skill: really powerful biceps. Because it’s important to get as much of the moisture out of the cabbage as you can, you first salt it, then wring it out in a teatowel. When her audience volunteers had barely managed to dampen the cloth, Ros took over and squeezed out a whole torrent of liquid!

Volunteers also had a go at filling and pleating the dumplings, a deceptively difficult task. But the hardest part of all was waiting for them to cook as wafts of sesame- and sake-scented steam filled the hall. Verdict: outstanding flavour, though the ponzu dipping sauce may not suit your cream carpet.

The third canape was an Asian take on that wonder of food alchemy, ceviche. Instead of using heat, you ‘cook’ the fish by marinating it in citrus juice. Ros’ tip for the seafood – she used huge fresh Scottish scallops – is to freeze for a day, then thaw, thus eliminating any unwanted nasties. Combining yuzu (a fruit that tastes a bit like lemon crossed with mandarin, says the Great British Chefs website), mango, chilli, coconut cream and coriander with the marinated scallops made this a fantastically exotic, zingy mouthful.

Learning from a passionate professional and tasting her superb cooking was a rare privilege and great fun. Huge thanks to Ros for inspiring us; and apologies to the rest of South Oxfordshire for the shortage of yuzu, gyoza wrappers and gruyere over Christmas!

Next meet-up is Friday 25 January. Dermot is the host, Minster House on Church Street is the place, 11.30am is the time and Greece is the word. Well, theme. Hope you can make it.