Chop chop chop, taste taste taste

Courgettes, great for practising your chopping skills
Courgettes, great for practising your chopping skills

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School book did what it said on the cover strapline – show ‘How a Few Simple Lesson Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks’.

Written by US author and Le Cordon Bleu cooking school alumni Kathleen Flinn, the book aims to help nine self confessed ‘hopeless’ cooks gain basic skills and confidence in the kitchen.

I partially reviewed the book having unexpectedly selected it from the shelves of my local library and having read just a few pages a week or so ago (see post of January 28). The review was positive and, having finished the book, can say that my expectations were fully realised.

Flinn’s easy chatty style of writing is accessible and neither her teaching nor writing patronises her brigade of amateur cooks. The students spent hours practising their chopping skills on zucchini/ courgettes and onions and her recommendation of only needing two good quality knives, kept well and sharp, is true. The chef and paring knife is really all the good amateur cook needs – a knife block full of blunt, odd shaped blades is not cool.

Flinn arranged for the nine women students (men apparently didn’t apply or failed to turn up) to attend a series of practical classes introducing them to comparative tastings (the most expensive tomatoes were not popular), preparing and using a whole chicken for days of nutritious meals (roast, curried, sandwiches, pies, soup, stock …) in preference to the water-buffed chicken breasts bought wrapped in plastic.

Six months after the course finished, Flinn revisited her students. For many, the course had been life changing and the contents of their fridges and cupboards were unrecognisable from when she first peered into them. Some of the highly processed foods were still being used, but in a very non-judgemental way, Flinn praises her students for making other, significant changes. She understands that our personnel relationship with food is complex, with memory and history very much a part of what we keep and use in the kitchen.

Here are three of my favourite foodie tips from the book:

  • Parsley pesto: blitz parsley in a food processor with some olive oil, garlic, walnuts (optional) and freeze in ice cube trays. Add to pasta or steamed, roasted vegetables.
  • Use the little bits of strawberry jam, mustard, olive oil, soy sauce … left in jars or bottles as a based to make vinaigrette.
  • Ten different ways of flavouring roast chicken including:

    China spice
    3 tbls sesame oil
    1 tbls orange juice
    1 tbls Chinese 5-spice powder
    4 green onions
    3 garlic minced
    1 teaspoon soy sauce.

    3 tbls vegetable oil or butter
    60 ml lime juice
    1 tsp chilli powder
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1 tsp dried oregano
    ½ tsp ground cumin
    Pinch or 2 of cayenne to few drops of hot sauce

    French Dijon
    3 tbls butter, softened, or olive oil
    1 tbls red wine vinegar
    3 tbls Dijon mustard
    ½ tsp red chilli flakes
    1 tsp freshly grated ginger.

Mix and pour over chicken. Perhaps put some fresh herbs, some lemon or a wedge of onion inside the bird’s cavity.

kitchen-counter-paperback-final-aug2012‘The Kitchen Counter Cooking School’ by Kathleen Flinn is published in the UK by Penguin.









Bruce McMichael

Food writing, discovering food stories, meeting producers, chefs and food enthusiasts are all part of desire to inspire, inform my readers and fellow food lovers. I am a freelance writer, journalist and published author focusing on the international world of food and drink, culture and travel. In 2019 I graduated from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy with a Masters in Food Culture, Communication and Marketing. I am now a visiting Professor at the university teaching Food & Drink Writing. Based in London I travel widely, particularly across western Europe. I have chaired many conferences and meetings, spoken at conferences and events and often appear on radio and TV talking most about food, the business of food and being an entrepreneur. In 2017 I won an episode of the ITV (the UK-based national television channel) cooking competition show, 'Gordon Ramsay's Culinary Genius'. I took my children on holiday to Sicily with the prize money. As an experienced farmers' market manager and operator of a small marmalade/ preserves company, I am very familiar with the issues surrounding local food, farming, enterprise and the environment.