I’m keen to go on a holiday where I can learn some cooking skills and new recipes? What would you suggest I put on the menu?
Ever got back from holiday and tried to recreate that wonderful local dish you ate as the sun set over the Mediterranean? But somehow, it never tastes quite as good? Well, not this time. Go on a cookery holiday and you’ve got no excuse not to produce world cuisine with international flair.
I’ll start with France, a country that prides itself on its gastronomy and is a quick hop over the Channel – perfect for a short break.
One of the biggest name schools in France is the Alain Ducasse Cooking School in Paris. The website may be in French, but he does offer classes in English, and they range from an evening class for £121 to a half-day for £143, and one day for £243. The courses include tuition in shellfish cooking and preparation, meat, vegetables and brunch, and there are a host of courses in wine tasting and wine buying.
If you want something a bit more intense, try the five-day course at the Walnut Grove cookery school in Mayenne, in the Loire valley. The course includes plenty of hands-on experience, as well as demonstrations, lessons in knife skills, filleting and so on, and local excursions. There is a maximum ratio of four guests to one chef, classes are in English, and it costs around £1,400, including a six-course dinner each night. Fly to Rennes, an hour away.
A short hop in the other direction takes you to the Emerald Isle. Ireland has a strong culinary tradition and many wonderful cookery schools. One of the most famous is Ballymaloe Cookery School, where the focus is on fresh, organic, local ingredients. It is a beautiful country house hotel in County Cork, about 20 minutes from the city of Cork. The 100-acre organic estate has its own orchards, market garden and greenhouses, from which many of your ingredients will come.
There are half-day classes from £74, including canapés, pizza master classes and afternoon tea, then one, one-and-a- half, two- and- a-half and five-day courses. Subjects range from butchery to gluten-free cooking and festive entertaining. There’s also walking, tennis, golf and croquet on offer, so there’s plenty of opportunity to get some fresh air between lessons.
If pasta and pizza are your thing, then Taste-Italia’s Le Marche cookery school will appeal. The company offers courses in four historic Italian palazzis, including the one in Le Marche, where you’ll have a Contessa playing host.
The courses cover classic Italian dishes of meat, fish and pasta, using organic produce and wines from the estate. On the one-week intensive Italian course you can expect to learn everything there is to know about Italian cooking – anyone is welcome but the course is also suitable for people thinking of going professional. The price is £700, including tuition, accommodation, breakfast and dinner but not flights and transfers.
Finally, if you want something really exotic, one place springs to mind – Thailand. Be inspired by colourful markets, sizzling street food and aromatic spices. The Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School has been going since 1993 and is run by chef Sompon Nabnian, who is something of a celebrity in Thailand.
There are classes every day and you can opt for one day classes from £21 to five days for £96 – it’s incredibly good value. You can learn how to make Thai curry paste, tour local markets and learn the delicate art of vegetable carving. You can stay on site or get a free transfer from your hotel in Chiang Mai.
Whichever cookery holiday you choose, be sure to buy plenty of dry-store ingredients before heading home – they tend to be cheaper abroad and may be tricky to find back in your local high street. Having the genuine ingredients might also mean that you really can recreate that holiday taste at home.
Answer by Ginny Light – TimesOnline travel editor
Got a travel question? Email email@example.com and we’ll get our panel of travel experts to answer your question.