Nestled in the vibrant town of Graiguenamanagh, Co Kilkenny, you will find the latest cookery school to join the ranks of elegant modern teaching kitchens opening its doors in Ireland. The proprietor is no stranger to you. TV Chef Edward Hayden has been gracing our screens on TV3 for the past six years, and when he’s not live on TV3 he is presenting his own radio show on KCLR96fm.
Then there’s the endless round of cookery demonstrations working with Irish institutional organisations like the ICA, not to mention his philanthropic work with charities nationwide. Add in the fact that he is also a Culinary Lecturer in Waterford IT and you begin to imagine how busy his life really is. With all this going on, you would be forgiven for thinking that Edward’s next move would be to take some well-earned time out.
That’s certainly not the case. Instead, he opened the Edward Hayden School of Cookery in his home town of Graiguenamanagh. I went along to attend a barbeque cookery course recently and whiled away the afternoon with eleven fellow students under the tutelage of Chef Edward.
The teaching kitchen is bright and modern and made all the more welcoming with the offer of a cup of coffee and a slice of homemade lemon drizzle cake on arrival. With a dozen eager students perched on high stools, Edward got to work. Each student had a set of printed recipes, and believe me, there was no shortage of them which included delights such as spatchcock chicken, butterflied leg of lamb, curried chicken breasts, salmon parcels, burgers, cajun pork and sweet chilli sausages.
We kicked off by making a three tier strawberry and cream sponge cake for dessert. Within minutes everyone was relaxed and at ease listening to Edward’s easy banter. There were lots of laughs and giggles and while Edward is certainly an excellent entertainer, this in no way encroaches on his ability to teach. His innate ability to share his knowledge in a straightforward way stayed at the forefront throughout the entire afternoon. I particularly loved all the little tips I picked up throughout the afternoon. Nuggets such as how to very simply line a baking tin or the difference between baking parchment and greaseproof paper gave us many ‘Blue Peter’ moments as Edward cooked up a storm.
We picked up so much information on using citrus fruits, yogurts and herbs for marinades while Edward created dishes with fabulously fresh flavours. Of course it wasn’t all work, and the hospitality continued as we took a short break to enjoy a glass of prosecco and some red onion and goats cheese canapés.
While the barbecue was warming up and the meat was marinating, lamb koftas were cooked in the oven and nibbled while Edward took us through his tips for making sides and salads to go with the meat and fish. Beetroot with orange, walnut and goats cheese proved to be a taste sensation and for the very health conscious amongst us Edward created a delicious carrot and sultana salad with mixed seeds. To accompany these we were shown how to make rosemary and garlic scented potatoes and a classic herby potato salad. Add a bowl of greens and some home made brown bread and you have a feast fit for a king.
We all moved outdoors to cook the meat – what I mean is we all stood around and asked questions, sipping prosecco while Edward did all of the work! He started by cooking the spatchcock chicken and leg of lamb and while these were finished in the oven, Edward cooked off all the other meats. In no time we were ready to tuck in. The school boasts a pretty dining area and we sat down to an elegantly laid table to enjoy the fruits of Edward’s labour. For the first time all afternoon there was silence. Not a word was spoken around the table as we savoured the sweet, savoury, spicy, hot and cold dishes.
This is a lovely way to spend an afternoon. I enjoyed excellent company, learned so much and ate great food. Mr. Hayden has managed to find the perfect balance between fun and professionalism. If you would like to get away from it all for an afternoon or evening, either on your own or with friends, I highly recommend you consider visiting this school in Graiguenamanagh. You won’t be disappointed.
The Edward Hayden School of Cookery
T: 086 067 6258
Author of “Food from an Irish Garden”, Fiona Dillon lives with her husband and four children at Hunters Lodge in Co Carlow. Her recently published “Freddy Buttons” series of food adventure books for children (Orpen Press 2015) were written so that Fiona could share the food provenance message amongst young children. Her Freddy Buttons food-themed garden at Bloom 2015 won Fiona a silver medal.
One of Ireland’s best known food bloggers, Fiona documents her back to basics lifestyle through her blog www.fionadillon.com. She is also a feature writer for the Irish Farmers Journal’s Irish Country magazine. As Food Correspondent for KCLR96FM’s The Saturday Show, Fiona shares the latest food news from around the country with her Carlow/Kilkenny listeners. When she’s not busy giving talks on topics such as sustainable living or blogging, Fiona can be found tending to her honeybees or writing the next epic adventure for Freddy Buttons.