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
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
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,