Kitchen confidential: Hot new courses

Take a lesson from a TV chef. Learn the art of the Moroccan dada. Go hunting for truffles in Tuscany... Ian McCurrach picks the best of a new crop of cookery holidays
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The Independent Travel

1 Take tips from a TV chef

TV chef Lesley Waters offers cooking classes throughout the year at her new school in Evershot, using only fresh, local, seasonal produce. A variety of courses runs throughout the year, suited to all levels and abilities.

The details: Lesley Waters Cookery School, Evershot, Dorset (01935 83700; lesleywaters.com) offers Lesley's Kitchen course (men-only dates available) for £225 and two-day courses for £440. For accommodation: The Summer Lodge Hotel (01935 83424; summerlodge hotel.co.uk) and Acorn Inn (01935 83228; acorn-inn.co.uk.

2 Bake bread at Le Manoir

Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir has just undergone a major refurbishment and introduced six new one-day courses for 2006. The school is the only one in the world to offer visitors the chance to watch, learn and practise in the kitchens of a two-Michelin star chef. Among the courses are The Degustibus Bread course, led by leading artisan baker, Dan DeGustibus; and Le Nutrition et la Cuisine Moderne, which looks at healthy cooking and is presented by Blanc himself. Guests have the option of staying overnight in one of Le Manoir's luxurious rooms or suites. The details: Raymond Blanc Cookery School at Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, Great Milton, Oxford (01844 277202; manoir.co.uk) offers one-day courses from £250 per person throughout the year. A deluxe double room at Le Manoir costs from £360 per room per night, with breakfast.

3 Cook couscous in Marrakech

For a short break with a difference, make for La Maison Arabe, a small

luxury hotel that began life in the 1940s as a restaurant. Guests can take part in two half-day Moroccan cookery workshops led by a dada, a traditional Moroccan cook. Learn how to make the perfect weightless couscous or a pastilla that melts in the mouth. Guests, limited to eight in each class, lunch on the meal they've just made. Afternoons are free to laze by the hotel pool or explore the highlights of Marrakech.

The details: On the Menu, La Maison Arabe, Marrakech (0870-899 8844; holidayonthemenu.com) is available year round, except June to August. A three-night break costs from £345 per person, based on two sharing, including three nights' b&b, lunch, trips to the souk with a guide.

4 Make ganache with panache

Anyone with a sweet tooth will savour this masterclass in making chocolate and petits fours. On arrival at the hotel, guests are treated to afternoon tea, then The Capital Hotel's pastry chef, Andrew Gravett, teaches the tricks of his sugary trade. Students mastering recipes such as banana and rum ganachesoon appreciate why working with chocolate is compared to working with wine.

The details: The Capital Hotel, London SW3 (020-7589 5171; capitalhotel .co.uk) offers classes for £95on 11 April, 6 June, 5 September, 5 December.

5 Take it slow in Piemonte

This full-flavoured Italian cooking experience takes place in the heart of the home of Slow Food. The Cascina Papaveri Cookery Course lessons combine a relaxing holiday with the best of Italian fare. The Cascina is a converted farmhouse in the middle of its own organic vineyard, with 360-degree views of southern Piemonte's hills. Classes of eight are tutored by one of Italy's top cookery teachers, Pietro Baldi. The five-bedroom property has flatscreen televisions, an indoor/outdoor heated pool, steam room, sauna and gym.

The details: Cascina Papaveri Cookery School, Piemonte, Italy (0845-070 6925; cascina papaveri.com) offers courses every week from 1 May. Four-night courses cost from £639, seven-night courses from £1,245. Prices are per person, based on two sharing, and include all accommodation, food and drink. Flights cost extra.

6 Shop till you chop in France

Join Michelin-star chef Matthieu Fontaine in the five-star Château de Bagnols hotel for his three-day cookery course, using the products and recipes for which nearby Lyon is famed. Help the chef create pan-fried foie gras escalope with hazelnut and orange butter. Visit the local market in Lyon and learn how to pick the best produce.The chateau is surrounded by beautiful gardens that are perfect for calorie-burning after-dinner strolls.

The details: Château de Bagnols, Beaujolais, France (00 33 474 714 000; roccofortehotels.com) offers three-day cookery courses from 31 March to 3 December. Packages from £1,493 for two, including accommodation.

7 Four weeks to cut the mustard

The four-week intensive residential course at Gables School of Cookery caters for all comers, from those who want to learn to cook, serious amateurs to people considering a career in catering. Limited to 12 participants.

The details: Gables School of Cookery, Falfield, Gloucestershire (01454 260444; thegables schoolofcookery.co.uk) offers a four-week foundation course throughout the year from £2,500 per person, including accommodation, based on two sharing a twin room, meals, equipment and a 400-page cookery book.

8 Try a taste of Mauritius

Looking for an excuse to book a trip to Mauritius? The new one-day Culinary Class at five-star Le Prince Maurice will introduce you to traditional Mauritian cuisine every Wednesday at the hotel's main restaurant, L'Archipel. Guests prepare, create, cook and taste Mauritian specialities under the guidance of the hotel's renowned team of chefs. Learn how to cook traditional recipes with a modern twist, such as chicken and shrimp curry. The course ends with a three-course meal with selected wine to accompany each dish.

The details: The Le Prince Maurice Culinary Class costs £53 per person but covers two people dining and is payable locally. Elegant Resorts (01244 897 522; elegantresorts.co.uk) offers a seven-night b&b break in a junior suite from £1,715 per person, based on two sharing, including one night free, for stays from 1 May to 31 October, including flights with British Airways and private transfers.

The best tastes of Tuscany

La Cucina Caldesi Cookery School opened last August and will appear in Return to Tuscany on BBC2 in May. The series follows Giancarlo and Katie Caldesi, of La Cucina Caldesi in London, returning to Giancarlo's culinary roots in Tuscany, where he teaches regional cooking. La Cucina Caldesi (020-7487 0750; caldesi.com) runs seven-day courses between 2 July and 1 August, from £1,400 per person, for two sharing. Accommodationat Hotel Rotelle near Siena is included.

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