Vegan Cookery School: A Review (Plus 5 Tips I Learned There)

Those of you who follow Gallivanting Vegan on social media may have already noticed this (likely because of the influx of food photography), but mid-August I had the privilege of attending Demuths Cookery School in England! Since returning to the United States I’ve gotten plenty of questions about my experience, so I thought I’d share a little insight on earning my Vegan Cookery Diploma.

Getting some type of official cooking certification, both to sharpen my skills and give myself more clout in the culinary world, is something I’d been looking into doing for years. When Peter and I finally decided that we had the financial resources saved and I had the vacation days available to spend, I jumped at the opportunity by reserving my spot in the August course and booking a flight.

The course took place at Demuths Cookery School in Bath, England and is taught by two main instructors, Helen (a classically trained chef) and TJ (a registered nutritionist), with a mix of other teachers for more specialized cuisine days. The students were a small group of eight (with me being the only American) and our reasons for attending varied from desiring to start a vegan business to simply wanting to incorporate more plants into their diet.

Over the two weeks (totaling in 80 hours of kitchen time) we covered a little bit of everything. From laminated pastry to layering spices in Indian cooking, the instructors showed cooking techniques, introduced new ingredients, and guided us on plating best practices. By the end of each day, the recipe print-outs we were given ended up covered in frantic scribbles of the tips and tricks the instructors would casually mention when demonstrating each dish. I’d walk back to my Airbnb after each class, exhausted but excited from all the knowledge I had just gained.

If you have been eyeing culinary school for a while, but don’t know if you can stomach working with animal products, then I would highly recommend looking into Demuths Cookery School. You’ll leave with a whole new appreciation for international cuisines, an arsenal of stand-out recipes, and skills that will seriously upgrade your cooking abilities. Before attending, I was worried that the course might be too basic, but I quickly realized I still have a lot to learn about the culinary world through all the new techniques thrown my way. Since coming back, I’ve really been reinvigorated in the kitchen and found myself approaching cooking with a lot of the methods we were taught.

I plan on doing a “One Year Out” blog post in August about how attending Demuths has affected things like my home cooking, professional opportunities, etc. So keep an eye out for that in 2020, but until then, here’s a list of a few easy tricks I picked up from the Vegan Cookery Diploma curriculum that can help anyone with their cooking. Hopefully Helen won’t scold me giving away a handful of our trade secrets!

Great Glaze

Having a glaze on your baked goods gives them that shiny fresh-from-the-corner-bakery appearance. I usually skip this step because I’m already fussing over the main recipe, but this trick is so easy that I’ll be using it from now on: apricot jam. Simply heat up some of it in the microwave or over low heat in a small pot, then use a pastry brush to apply a thin layer to your baked good. Once it cools, you’ll have a beautiful and shiny dish.

Umami is Missing

If you order a meatless meal at an omnivore restaurant, or make one at home, sometimes you’ll end up with a dish that just tastes salty instead of having a deep rich flavor. Often umami (the savory flavor) comes from meat in dishes, not salt, so it’s harder to replicate in vegan cooking. To add plant-based umami to your meals try including:

  • Dried mushrooms
  • Fermented foods
  • Garlic
  • Lemon zest
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Herbs

Soaking Seeds

A freshly baked hearty loaf of whole-wheat bread studded with seeds and nuts is one of my favorite smells in the world. But to ensure that your bread ends up moist and delicious, it’s important to soak the nuts and seeds beforehand, otherwise they’ll end up stealing moisture from the loaf. Just place them in a shallow bowl and cover with water for one hour. Drain the nuts and seeds before you add them to the dough.

Say Goodbye to Spicy Garlic

Have you ever made a batch of hummus or guacamole with a few cloves of garlic and all you could taste was the pungent spiciness of raw garlic? While I sometimes enjoy this sensation, to tamp down the heat you can simply cut out the eye from the garlic clove to remove the spice.

Don’t Be Salty

When mixing up dough, you’re often encouraged to whisk together the wet and dry ingredients. But two of the most commonly included ingredients, yeast and salt, hate each other. Direct contact between them will instantly kill your yeast, so be sure to whisk in your salt before whisking in the yeast. If you dump it all on top of each other you risk a dough that won’t rise.

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