We may be learning about good local produce, but how many of us know how to cook it properly? Jenni Muir recommends five places that will teach you the basics - and much more besides.

Rosemary Shrager at Swinton Park

You may remember Rosemary from her tv series Castle Cook. She was for several years the chef at Amhuinnsuidhe Castle on the North Harris Estate in the Outer Hebrides. She may have moved down south - well, to Yorkshire - but her current location is no less impressive. Swinton Park is the ancestral home of the Cunliffe-Lister family, a luxury castle hotel set on a 200-acre estate on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The cookery school is based in restored Georgian stables.

Rosemary's style is grounded in the classic techniques of fine cuisine - sauces, soufflés, boning and filleting and so on - and she firmly believes the only way to learn is by hands-on cooking. Her menus are elegant and complex, which means that when you take a course in game, for example, you don't just learn how to bone a pheasant and roast a partridge. You also make stock, sauces, soup, mousse, gnocchi, ice cream, and more. Bread is baked every day too. There is a choice of two-and four-day residential courses, as well as one- day classes, covering subjects such as summer food, dinner parties, festive fare and Back to Basics.

Where: Swinton Park, Masham, Ripon, North Yorks. Tel: 01765 680900. Two-day courses from £560 per person including all meals and accommodation. One-day non-residential courses £95 including lunch.

Nick Nairn's Cookschool

Ever felt inadequate because you can't produce dishes seen in restaurants? A session with Nick Nairn will ease your mind. The popular TV chef has a pragmatic approach to training and knows that the main difference between amateurs and professionals is practice.

"Cooking is not particularly hard to do, a professional chef has simply done every single job ten thousand times."

During his New Scottish Cookery classes, Nick emphasises the importance of planning simple menus. Participants produce a three course meal - such as crab and parmesan soufflé, pigeon breasts with game sauce and a saute of cabbage and bacon, then raspberry crème brulee. The school features a variety of one-day classes with cookery personalities, as well as intensive Masterclasses with head tutor John Webber.

Where: Port of Menteith, Stirling, Scotland. www.nairnscookschool.com. Tel: 01877 385 603. One-day classes from £130-200 depending on tutor.

Village Bakery

Andrew Whitley helped pioneer the organic movement in the UK, as well as the trend back to traditional baking and wood-fired ovens, through his work at The Village Bakery in Cumbria.

In recent years he's concentrated on teaching. Passionate about sourdough and the health attributes of breads made from them, Whitley is keen to debunk the myths about this traditional method of fermentation. It's fun - a fact exemplified by the success of his one-day classes for children.

Most courses, including "the Perfect Sourdough", take two days. Guests work in the Village Bakery alongside Andrew and another experienced artisan baker. The basic course alone sees guests making varieties such as ciabatta, sourdough and yeasted pastries, so you'll really be bringing home the bakin'.

Where: Bread Matters Ltd, The Tower House, Melmerby, Penrith, Cumbria. www.breadmatters.com, Tel: 01768 881 899. Two-day courses £315 including meals but not accommodation..

Belle Isle School of Cookery

Set on the Duke of Abercorn's estate on an island in Upper Lough Erne, this is a great addition to the menu of cooking schools. Chef Liz Moore defines her style as "modern Irish with a Mediterranean twist".

She's a great believer in seeing what food is available before choosing a menu. This could include wild garlic, land sorrel or edible flowers. Nettles and scallions will be stirred into creamed potatoes for a new-wave champ, basil baked in an egg custard served with strawberries.

Where: Lisbellaw, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. www.irish-cooking-school.com, Tel: 028 6638 7231. Three-day courses from £320 including accommodation and most meals.


Tina Bricknell-Webb's cuisine speaks of traditional ways of farming and fishing. Her Devon restaurant and hotel, Percy's, is set on a tranquil 130-acre estate. Much of the produce used in the restaurant comes from its garden. Lamb, some game, as well as duck and chicken eggs also come from the estate.

Percy's offers two-day cooking workshops on subjects such as fish, game, or gluten-free baking, and shows guests how to produce Tina's "contemporary country cuisine".

Where: Coombeshead Est, Virginstow, Devon. www.percys.co.uk, Tel: 01409 211 236. Workshops from £375-£435 per person, including accommodation and most meals.


The River Cottage Meat Book, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Hodder & Stoughton

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's weighty book is a guide to preparing and cooking meat, along with a variety of tasty recipes. He also discusses the various cuts of meat before ploughing into the proper care of livestock.

The Beer Cook Book, Susan Nowak, Faber

Susan Nowak explores the many beers available, and the dishes which use beer as an ingredient. Chefs such as Keith Floyd, Albert Roux, Delia Smith and Rick Stein provide the recipes.

The Complete Rhodes Around Britain, Gary Rhodes, BBC Consumer Publishing

This comprehensive volume of over 450 recipes brings together Gary Rhodes previous books. Recipes include old favourites like steak and kidney pie and new dishes such as seared salmon on tartare potato cake with warm poached egg. Also offers cooking tips.

Just Like Mother Used to Make, Tom Norrington-Davies, Cassell Illustrated

Tom Norrington-Davies's cookbook is just what it says on the tin, a collection of traditional recipes with added comfort value. Norrington-Davis learned how to cook at a young age and has never looked back.

James Martin's Great British Dinners, James Martin, Mitchell Beazley

If you've always fancied trying your hand at making a full roast dinner but don't think you're quite up to it, James Martin's Great British Dinners could help you achieve it. Martin provides easy-to-follow traditional recipes and handy tips to make them work.