The thought that I was ever a vegetarian is thoroughly amusing. When people ask me what is my favourite thing to cook, I simply respond with “Meat”. I was a very picky child when it came to food and I cannot remember eating meat before the age of around 15 years old. This for me wasn’t a teenage fad, I didn’t eat meat from a very young age. It wasn’t an ethical decision, I simply never enjoyed the taste. Fast forward to now, I eat meat every…single…day. I eat all types of meat, every cut and have even been known to eat offal, although not out of choice.
Having discussed with my husband in great length, we had both decided that I should attend Ashburton Cookery School in 2014. Once that had been decided, I thought the course at Empire Farm would be perfect in giving me a head start and solid grounding in the art of butchery, something I feel any good chef needs.
It was meandering drive from Bristol. I stayed at the Cider Mill Cottage in Motcombe for the duration, complete with its crackling log burner was idyllic. It was well furnished, complete with everything one might need for both a short or longer stay. It was also incredibly child friendly so would be a great place to stay with the family should you be in the area.
About Empire Farm
The school was based in the coach house of Empire Farm in Templecombe, an organic farm ran by Sally and Adrian Morgan. The farm occupies 100 acres in the Blackmore Vale where they keep chickens, geese, ducks and turkeys, together with sheep and pigs. They are passionate about rare breeds, choosing traditional and endangered breeds where possible.
It was a short drive to the school in the morning. I parked up and was welcomed by a very friendly face, our tutor, Marc Frederic. I knew immediately that I was going to be in good hands here. The owners of the farm, Sally and Adrian were also there to welcome our small group of just four.
What I learnt
The first day was spent with Marc, who first took us through butchering half a lamb and how to present each cut. I was not prepared for their being quite so much content. If you have read any of my previous cookery school reviews, you will know that for me, this is absolutely what I am looking for in a course. We also had to opportunity to skin a deer and proceeded to butcher it’s carcass which I found quite exciting! It was a long day with so much information to take in, I was thoroughly impressed with day one.
Day two was spent with Colin Greenbaum. Although he wasn’t quite as entertaining and enthusiastic as Marc, he was a solid tutor who took us through the job of butchering half a pig. For me, pork is a truly outstanding meat, it has so many wonderful uses. From bacon to sausages, charcuterie to roasted pork belly with crackling, each cut and process has it’s own signature flavour profile and can taste remarkably different to the next. We also had the opportunity to make sausages and chorizo which as you can imagine, was great fun and incited many a childish giggle and innuendo.
Day three was a real surprise. Marc was back as our tutor, who, on the spur of the moment decided to take us through butchering a chicken which was not content I expected to touch upon during this course, but was genuinely pleased we did. The rest of the day and afternoon was spent creating cured meats like bacon, pork pies, lard and other charcuterie such as coppa to mention a few.
Our lunch was lovingly prepared each day by Sally using local produce. She was so thoughtful to cater for my dietary requirements buying in some gluten free rolls and such to go with my lunch. A really nice touch. Lunch was hearty and a very social time of the day where Adrian and Sally would join us and talk to us about their farm and they both seemed genuinely interested in all the student’s stories about why there were here. Marc was great company and had many a story to tell and was without a doubt the most interesting tutor I have ever had the pleasure to work with.
About Marc Frederic
Marc Frederic, in my opinion, is one of our countries real food heroes and an absolute artisan when it comes to all things meat related. He is the UK’s only French registered ”Boucher-Charcutier-Traiteur’ and recently published the book Le Charcutier Anglais which is one of the most user friendly and in depth books on the subject I have come across, with some lovely photography.
I don’t think I will ever come across such a fantastic teacher again, whatever course I have the opportunity to attend. His passion, knowledge, patience, and style was just perfect for the way I like to learn. He pushed us in order to ensure we got the most out of our time with him and I felt as though I was having a one-on-one session despite me being in a class of four. It is not a short course. It is quite an undertaking and there is a lot of work involved. However, for £390 which is what I paid at the time, it was phenomenal value for money and I would have still felt the same had it been double the price as the content and delivery of the material was exceptional.
Anyone serious in getting to know more about meat, butchery, or has a small holding, there is no better place to learn than Empire Farm and no better teacher than the delightful Marc Frederic.
Course Name: Three Day Butchery Course
Tutors: Marc Frederic & Colin Greenbaum
Date of Course: 5th November 2013