Cookery courses for foodies to try in Somerset

A real Breaducation! Robert Burns demonstrates round a large table

A real Breaducation! Robert Burns demonstrates round a large table - Credit: Archant

Ever fancied learning a new culinary skill? Andrea Cowan takes a tour around some of the food courses available across the county

Jane Swayne demonstrates how to temper chocolate

Jane Swayne demonstrates how to temper chocolate - Credit: Archant

If you decide 2019 is the year to broaden your culinary repertoire, you’ll find plenty of courses in the county to explore, appealing to both the sweet-toothed and savoury. One thing they have in common is the enthusiasm shown by those running the classes, who are passionate about sharing their craft.

Chocolate making

It would be hard not to enjoy a chocolate making course. But if you’re considering one, make a date with one of the county’s finest chocolatiers: Jane Swayne of the award-winning Gilbert & Swayne.

Jane set up her company in 2013 and makes her delicious chocolates from a converted barn in Baltonsborough. This is where she also runs her chocolate making courses which are small and informal with a maximum of four students.

The day begins with chocolate tasting, Jane testing her students’ tastebuds with a selection of fair trade and single origin organic chocolate. The course is based around making moulded chocolates, either dark or milk, and students learn the disciplines of how to temper chocolate to line the moulds, how to make various ganaches for the fillings and different decoration techniques.

Jane is known for her innovative fillings, using herbs from her garden where possible. Everyone went home with their chocolates, consisting of mouthwatering flavours including: coffee and calvados; blackcurrant, mint and cassis; lemon and basil; salted almond and thyme. We left armed with recipes as, best of all, everything done on the course can be replicated at home with just an ice cube tray, a microwave and a thermometer!

Cost: £125 including lunch and a minimum of 70 chocolates to take home.

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Salt and flavourings are used in the curing process at Somerset Charcuterie

Salt and flavourings are used in the curing process at Somerset Charcuterie - Credit: Archant

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Bread making

Master baker Robert Burns set up his bakery, Burns the Bread, in Glastonbury in 1983. He has now opened shops in Street, Wells, Castle Cary and, most recently, in Somerton.

Robert’s School of Baking takes place in a modern unit in Glastonbury. There are two options available: a Bread & Bun Day and a Bread & Pastry Day. Both take a maximum of six students to ensure everyone receives individual tuition.

I attended the Bread & Pastry Day which gives students the opportunity to bake a loaf of seeded bread and learn the art of rough pastry for pasties, sweet pastry for fruit pies and puff pastry for Eccles cakes - all of which are taken home at the end of the day, along with the recipe sheets.

Robert demonstrates every step, making it look easy, but that’s years of practice for you. He is patient and attentive, walking around the room to ensure everyone’s mix is the right consistency and imparting his knowledge. The joy of this class is that by its very nature (lots of kneading and proving) there is plenty of opportunity for chat around the table making it a fun and informal, as well as informative, day out.

Cost: £125 including lunch and all your products baked on the course.

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Frogmary Green Farm sausage making course in action (c) Bill Bradshaw Photography

Frogmary Green Farm sausage making course in action (c) Bill Bradshaw Photography - Credit: Archant


If you’ve ever fancied making your own salami or ham, this is a course for you. Somerset Charcuterie was started in 2014 by friends Andy and James who turned their hobby and passion into a business. They follow Mediterranean methods but utilise Somerset ingredients and free-range, rare breed pigs including saddleback, Tamworth, Oxford sandy and black, British lop and the mangalitza. The course takes place on Andy’s family farm, Lower Stock Farm, Wrington, in an old piggery which has been transformed into a purpose-built community building, complete with cooking stations. The day begins with a chat about the pig breeds, their individual speciality for charcuterie and a hands-on butchery demonstration. There is then a curing workshop, demonstrating how to salt and add particular flavourings to the different cuts for air dried meats including coppa (collar), lonza (loin), filletto (fillet), guanciale (cheek) and pancetta (belly).

After a proper farm lunch, including charcuterie as well as local cheeses and cider, the students head to the production unit, a small onsite food factory, for the salami making. The pork is minced and flavourings added including fennel, sage, mustard and cider, before the fermentation and final air drying process. The salamis need to lose 30% of moisture which can take up to four weeks so they are sent out to students at a later date.

Cost: £155 including lunch and a gift box for making pancetta at home.

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Cake decoration

Kelly Days set up her cake studio just two years ago. The owner of Sunflower Bakery, which specialises in wedding cakes, she found herself travelling to other counties to attend cake courses. Seeing a gap in the market for something in Somerset, she moved into the beautiful light and airy studio, a renovated Grade II-listed carriage barn in Wedmore, and hasn’t looked back. Kelly hosts courses which are taken by guest tutors from around the world. These bring a unique international take on cake decorating, ganache and sugar work which attracts students eager to learn or perfect the different crafts. Most of these courses run over a couple of days and take between 10 and 14 students. All the ingredients and materials are provided, including polystyrene dummy cakes where appropriate which can be taken away and used as a sample if students have a cake making business of their own.

To widen the offering even further, Kelly has a couple of tutorial courses planned with Phil Jenson, from Channel 4’s Extreme Cake Makers, on how to start and grow a baking business. 2019 also sees the launch of a series of half day back to basics cake decorating classes that Kelly will run herself.

Cost: Starting from £60 for half day course.

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One stop shop...

Somerset has several ‘centres’ that offer a variety of different courses under one roof. At Frogmary Green Farm in South Petherton you can learn to make marmalade, soft cheese and sausages as well as chocolates, courtesy of Jane from Gilbert & Swayne. Find out more at

Meanwhile, Vale House Kitchen in Timsbury, which describes itself as a country skills and cookery school, provides everything from game butchery through to seasonal cookery. Find out more at