Friday, 3 August 2012

Levi Roots’ Caribbean Cookery Course In The Picturesque Georgian City Of Bath...

I recently had the wonderful opportunity of joining a cookery class at the Bertinet Kitchen Cookery School in Bath, where the visiting Guest Chief was the lovely Levi Roots, famous for his enthusiasm for Caribbean cookery and his own Reggae, Reggae sauce.

Levi first came to prominence on the BBC programme ‘Dragons’ Den’ when he took on the Dragons in order to secure backing for his business venture Reggae Reggae sauce...

For those readers not familiar with the programme, this is a popular series where prospective businesses come before an inquisitorial type panel in order to try and secure backing for their business ventures. 

Interestingly Levi says that his children thought he was mad to go on the programme as they were aware how difficult it would be, but Levi himself thought his business had nothing to lose and therefore wanted to give it a go...

For a recap on his story from the Dragon’ Den see

To begin with Levi and his family were producing the sauce inspired by his Grandmother in the family home. 

After appearing at a food fare he was spotted by BBC researches and asked to appear on Dragon’s Den.

Levi has risen from selling his sauce at Notting Hill carnival to be a multimillionaire businessman in just five years...

I had met him once before when he attended the Abergavenny Food Festival and thought he was an amazing and inspirational man. So when I heard that Levi was to be a visiting chef at The Bertinet Cookery School then I jumped at the chance to attend.  

Levi has just brought out a new Caribbean Cook Book based on Caribbean Deserts, called Sweet.

The Bertinet Cookery School is an excellent place to attend a cookery course, and I have never been disappointed with their courses. 

Set up by the charismatic French baker, Richard Bertinet, in the picturesque Georgian city of Bath, this small and unpretentious cookery school has some amazing cookery courses with some of the very best of the UK chiefs.

 I have had the greatest pleasure in attending some of these courses in recent years and I would highly recommend the school.

The several courses that I have attended have included the fantastically talented Michelin starred Indian chef Atul Kochhar, the lovely Valentine Harris on Italian family inspired cooking and pasta making and, more recently, modern vegetarian cuisine with the delightful Celia Brooks Brown.

However Richard’s own bread making courses are out of this world and his bread making method is very, very different...Places are few and far between to get on his courses nowadays...but if you get a chance  I would very strongly recommend it if you are into bread making...

The cookery school is slap bang in the middle of Bath amidst the beautiful old Georgian buildings that were once so familiar the author Jane Austin.

As such nowadays, it can be rather full of tourists visiting the Roman Baths, The Royal Crescent and the Georgian Pump rooms, built in 1789 and seen here.

But back to my visit.

Bath is about an hour’s drive away from me in South Wales, so I set off early and crossed the Severn Bridge into England. Parking is a major problem in Bath so I take the back roads and park on the outskirts and use the Lansdown Park and Ride. There you get free parking and for just £3 for a return ticket into the centre of Bath. The ride down on the double-decker bus is also fantastic and rather picturesque as it hurtles down the very, very steep hill into Bath itself. I noticed a couple on the bus who were clearly not used to the experience-the clue was in the way they clung on with white knuckles to the backs of the seats in front...The regulars simply braced themselves and carried on reading their morning newspapers...

The cookery course was obviously based on Caribbean Food. A little daunting was the initial sight of the whole coconuts-images of me with a machete sprung to mind, plus the two dozen or so hot Scotch Bonnet peppers that we would be using...

However, Levi himself was completely calm and chilled about the whole day. He started by sitting on a stool and strumming his guitar singing his now famous Reggae Reggae song albeit to alternate  words that would have not possibly made it onto the BBC nowadays...

And no I am not going to record them here...

Throughout the day, Levi was completely accessible and with us throughout the cooking giving us hints and tips and the lowdown on his time in The Dragon’s Den and what is happening to him now.

I have to say I was really rather impressed! He is extremely humble and grateful about his good fortune and very, very approachable and enthusiastic about how to cook Caribbean food. 

It was a fantastic day and I am so, so glad I went on the course.

The food we cooked was superb! Not for the faint hearted as the chilli content was ‘quite’ high...I think we used at least two dozen Scotch Bonnet Chillies between a dozen of us to cook and eat the dishes...

However what we learnt was great...

  • Scotch Bonnets are very, very hot but have the best fruity flavour of the chillies
  • Pop them whole into cooking dishes so that the heat ‘boils’ the insides and releases the flavour but then remove them whole before the end of cooking so the chilli heat will still be hot but not over intense
  • Never use canned coconut milk but use a real coconut which sounds juicy when you shake it.
  • Use a sharp knife to piece one of the three coconut eyes-it will give way easily.
  • Drain out the coconut juice and then crack on a stone step and the shell will fall open easily in half...the coconut can be easily extracted, grated, hot water added and wonderful fresh coconut milk is the result. I’ve since done it at home and have got 2 litres of coconut milk from one fresh coconut.

This is just some of the knowledge we gained...If you ever get the opportunity to go on a cookery course with Levi then I cannot too strongly recommend that you go!

We had such fun cooking,

And, at the end of the fun packed day we sat down with Levi for a fabulous meal.

We made various delicious dishes on the day including...

Rice and Peas,

Ackee and Saltfish,

Veggie Patties-by my request

Levi’s Jerk Seasoning

Jerk Veggies-by request from me

Pecan Pie

Tamarind Balls

Now I am happy to write about any of the above if requested, but until then, here is Levi’s family recipe for his Caribbean Pecan Pie and remember that to have a sweet such as this, according to him, must mean a party is going on!!

Levi’s Pecan Pie

Serves 8

For the pastry:

100g cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
200g plain flour, plus extra for flouring
85g icing sugar

For the filling:

5 free-range eggs
250g light Muscavado sugar
200g golden sugar
Pinch of salt
70g unsalted butter melted
6 clove, crushes
½ tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp plain flour
200g pecans, half roughly chopped, the rest left whole
Crème Fraiche sprinkled with nutmeg, to serve

To make the pastry, rub the butter and flour together in a large bowl with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. 

Mix in the icing sugar, and then add the egg and mix to combine. Bring the dough together into a ball with your hands. 

Wrap in Clingfilm and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough on a light floured surface and use it to line a 3ocm (12 in) diameter fluted loose-bottom flan tin. 

Patch up any tears in the dough with the trimmings, pressing these into the case firmly to prevent any of the filling leaking out later.

 Place in fridge for 30 minutes to rest.

Line the pastry case with non-stick baking paper, fill with baking beans and bake blind for 15 minutes.

 Remove the paper and beans and bake for 5 minutes more.

 Remove from the oven and reduce heat to 190c.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Beat the eggs in a bowl, then whisk in the sugar, golden syrup, add the melted butter, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla extract and flour. 

Stir in the chopped pecans.

 Pour into the pastry case and arrange the pecans on top. Bake for 30 minutes or until just set.

 Serve with crème Fraiche sprinkled with a little grated nutmeg.

Until next time may I leave you with some tantalising pastry images from Richard Bertinet’s own shop in Bath-and boy does that man know how to bake!

Until the next time, enjoy your Sweet Delights,


  1. What a fantastic post. It sounded so great. wow I want to go and take some cooking classes lol you make it sound so fun...thanks for sharing it.

    1. Hi Dusty,

      I am having great fun this year going on all these cookery courses and it’s been wonderful to share the experiences through the blog-so glad you liked it!!

  2. Wow... The meringues, the pasties, the tarts, the breads - they all look so delicious and inviting.... I would never leave his bakery...

    And of course the pecan pie looks so good that it deserves a celebration of some kind.

    I would say this probably is one of your best posts - I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. You mush have had such fun in the cookery class. Could you please share the recipes for the rice and peas, jerk veg and vege patties.

    1. Oh wow Sri-I’m overwhelmed by your compliment-many thanks indeed!! I’ll get going on writing up a part two to include some of those recipes for you.

  3. The whole post is a delight; so many tempting foods plus the delights of Bath and that charismatic man, Levi Roots.

    I was interested to see that although I really dislike meringue I felt keen to bite into the ones you show in the shop window...well, if I am honest, I could eat anything on display there .. perhaps one of Levi's Pecan Pies would be good too.

    1. Hi Elaine,

      So glad you too enjoyed the post-I’m on a real high reading all these very kind comments! It was the first time I had visited Richard’s new shop and everywhere you looked the bread and pastries were simply mouth-watering...and there is also a cafe...

  4. Amazing! How nice to hear that Levi is humble and approachable. Some so-called "Celebrity Chefs" let fame go to their heads and become really very arrogant.
    I'm not into the sweet things so much, but I LOVE the caribbean savoury dishes. Top of my list is Brown Stew Chicken with Rice and Peas, which I'm sure Levi's Grandma would have taught him to make.
    I grew some Scotch Bonnet chillis once, but they were just too strong for us, although we do enjoy a bit of chilli. Maybe the ones you buy in shops have mellowed a bit by the time you buy them?

    1. Hi Mark,

      Yes he is a lovely down to earth chap and very keen to share the joys of Caribbean cuisine. Sorry I forgot to mention there were meat dishes too that other people cooked on the day including jerk chicken which everybody raved about who ate it. I’ll post a couple of the savoury dishes on my next post...and yes, those scotch bonnets were seriously hot! For some of the dishes we did two versions-one with the whole chilli put in then removed before serving and the other with it chopped in- seeds and all. The ‘milder’ version with the whole chilli removed before serving was plenty hot enough for me...

  5. Wow! Live guitar and cooking at the same time, a combination I've never had the experience of before, but one I am sure I would enjoy! The cooking class sounds fabulous, and all those pastries look to die for!

    1. Hi Ali,

      The guitar was wonderful although I can’t stop singing his reggae reggae sauce song now!!

  6. I do enjoy these sort of posts just a little different from the usual. looks like you had a great time I loved Levi on Dragons Den

    1. Hi David,

      Thank you for your kind comment! It was really interesting some of the things Levi said about his time on Dragon’s Den and he clearly has a very good friendship still with Peter Jones and between them they do a lot of events to raise money for various charities.

  7. Sounds like you had a really good time - do you go on these courses as part of your job - or do you just really enjoy cooking. The food looks delicious. I have never been to Bath it looks a lovely city.

    1. Hi Elaine,

      Oh how I wish I did do these courses as part of a job! Would be truly wonderful-and I wouldn’t have to pay for them myself!! No-I just do them for fun...I decided rather than to go away for a holiday this year, to instead do these courses...

  8. Just a second thought in addition to my early reply,I remember we had a little exchange recently over cameras types, having looked at these photos, in particular the ones where flash was used I really was impressed with the quality of all the pictures, nicely exposed excellent resolution and lovely composition,on reflection keep what you have, it works really well for you I would not see the point of changing anything.kind regards David

    1. Thank you David for taking the trouble and I appreciate the kind words about my photos-I am trying to improve!!

  9. no doubt you had a great time & yummmmmy spread..:)
    Tasty Appetite

  10. Lovely post GD - I love Bath, my parents live not far away from there. I've never shown my wife the Roman Baths there... perhaps next time we're back there! I love scotch bonnets too... I use them to make harissa - not at all a traditional pepper to use but I go crazy for the fragrant, fruity flavour they give!

    Looks like you had a fantastic day - fun company and great food!

    1. Hi Charles,

      If you are going to show your wife the Roman Baths I would strongly recommend going just towards closing time, less visitors by far-and in the day it is absolutely packed!-and in the evening they turn on the fire braziers to light up the pools which is magical and you can get some great photos!!

  11. This sounds like such a great class to attend, GD. Levi sounds like a good man and it's nice when you witness good things coming to people like him. Those Scotch Bonnets, though, would have given me pause but, once I would have seen the pecan pies, I would have had no problem staying. Pecan pie is just so tasty! Thanks for sharing your experiences, tips, and his pecan pie recipe with us.

    1. Hi John,

      Thanks for stopping by...

      Levi is one of those great, intuitive cooks and I was so happy to have had the opportunity to attend his class...I have been rather brave since then to have cooked with some of those Scotch bonnets-with great care, I might add!!

  12. I spent a day in Bath once during a beautiful British summer where we had three weeks of clear blue skies and warm sunny days. Bath looks so beautiful when the sky is blue. What a fabulous rags to riches story. Love it. And the cooking course sounds amazing - would have loved to have been there with you xx

    1. Hi Charlie,

      Bath is lovely. It’s funny but as a child I really didn’t like visiting as I thought it was dreary but now I adore visiting!

  13. It's wierd that I don't go to Bath much but I know exactly where that cookery place is! Sounds like a great day and the pecan pies look amazing!

    1. The cookery school is right in the centre so make it lovely to visit the other nearby places-and yes it certainly was a great day!

  14. I've only read about Bath and it sounds like a lovely place. Wow, what an amazing class to take. Levi sounds like an amazing man, and what a treat to listen to his lecture. Oh, that bread looks fantastic also!

    Have a wonderful weekend!

    1. If you ever get a chance to visit then do seize it-it’s an intriguing place...Have a great weekend yourself too!

  15. Thanks so much for sharing your day's experience, and for requesting veggie patties and jerk veggies as wonderful alternatives! It's been a treat to hear about all of these cooks that I only know through their cookbooks, and have just ordered a copy of Bertinet's one on Pastry to complete my set... Beautiful looking town, as well as pastry case ;)

    1. I have really enjoyed writing about these days at the cookery schools as it gives me a record of the day. The cookery school is very obliging if you let them know beforehand if you have any dietary needs though even on the day they will do their best to oblige and to make the day an enjoyable as possible. The veggie patties were lovely and I will certainly be making them again.

  16. Good to hear more about your wonderful day.

    1. Hi Choclette,

      I’m so pleased people are enjoying reading about it!

  17. Lovely post...I'm sure you had a great time. I have both a comment and a request. First...I had coconut trees in my yard when I lived in Key Largo, Florida. I didn't have an easy experience of cracking and grating a coconut. Maybe it takes a certain luck that I didn't have. Now to my request. If you got a recipe from your class for Chef Levi's jerk seasoning...I would love if you could share the recipe. Jerk is a favorite of mine.

    1. Hi Karen,

      Regarding the coconut cracking -I’ve done two since that day and had no problems-just took a couple of smart cracks on a stone step and I’m not particularly strong! The grating by hand was a bit of faff so I resorted to the grater on the food processor-much, much quicker...I’m cooking a Thai curry this weekend and plan to use another fresh coconut so finger crossed it works again!!

      For the Jerk recipe-it’s in my latest post but he also gave us one for a dry jerk seasoning-let me know if you would like that one too.

  18. You've been on an Atul Kocchar cookery course - very, very jealous indeed!

    1. Hi Liz,

      His was another great course! Again a lovely chap, very approachable and his food was amazing. And sorry to make you even more jealous-I’m doing a Masterclass with him at The Abergavenny Food Festival next month...

  19. had the chance to meet levi at a cookbook filming day and he was every bit as charming as you said, very warm and friendly person, and man, he can really cook! hsi food too, is none of that posh chef-y stuff, but proper hearty grub that warms your soul! great to see this post and looks like you had a ball!

    1. Hi Shu Han,

      Glad you too found him such a nice chap! Absolutely agree his food is proper hearty stuff-and he make sure that everyone is happy with their meal too!

  20. What a fun filled day - learning, cooking, eating, not to mention in such a lovely historical city, I too am jealous.

    1. Hi Norma,

      It really was a good day out and will remain in my memory for a long time-especially now I have my blog with a record of it!!


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