"One simple way of cutting a few costs is to ditch the restaurant dinners and dine at home."
With the credit crunch looming ominously over our lives, some sacrifices need to be made to see us through the tough times ahead. One simple way of cutting a few costs is to ditch the restaurant dinners and dine at home. But the kitchen can be a scary place for the novice cook, so a little hand-holding might be required to take those first steps.
No one knows this better than celebrity chef Rosemary Shrager. Between transforming unruly girls into good-natured supercooks in Ladette to Lady and rustling up platefuls of jam roly-poly for a grateful Alan Titchmarsh on daytime TV, Rosemary can be found at Swinton Park, near Thirsk, where she puts nervous cooks through their paces.
'People come to my cookery school and they're either lacking in confidence or they've lost their enthusiasm for cooking,' says Rosemary.
'What I love, more than anything else, is to instil that passion again. I want to give them the confidence to go back home and try things for themselves. I have my guests for two days and by the time they leave they're excited again. It's wonderful and I love it!
'People are terrified when they come in, though, and I completely understand that,' laughs Rosemary. 'It's the fear of not knowing what I'm going to ask them to do! So, you know what I get them to do first? I ask them to make bread. All that bashing of the dough helps everyone relax.'
As much as Rosemary loves her cooking school, she finds it more demanding than a day of filming, and she reckons her courses are going to get even more popular as the credit crunch puts paid to fancy meals out. 'Rather than dining out, it's all about dinner parties in,' explains Rosemary. 'Having so many good food programmes on TV has really inspired people to start cooking.'
So, what gets Rosemary excited in the kitchen? 'Just simple flavours, beautifully cooked,' she says. 'A lovely roast partridge with puréed potatoes, for example. If you want to impress your friends, find a few recipes that you can do really well and sneak in something new, every so often.'
Find a cookery class:
For traditional home cooking
Harmony House, near York, sees Cordon Bleu-trained chef Hilary Finney create traditional yet simple dishes from fresh local ingredients. From £70 for a one-day course.
harmonyhousecookeryschool.co.uk, Tel: 07889 808749
Get there: take the train to York, then the 42 bus from York town centre to Harmony House
For chocolate lovers
SlatterySchool of Excellence
Celebrate the 'sweet things in life' at this Manchester-based chocolate workshop's half-day course, and learn how to make delicious cakes. From £70 for a half-day course.
slattery.co.uk, Tel: 0161 767 9303
Get there: take the train to Manchester Piccadilly then the tram to Bury, getting off at Whitefield. Slattery is a five-minute walk away
The CookerySchool at Peckhams
If you have a mini masterchef in the making, an Adult & Child class at this cooking school in central Glasgow could be a great family day out. From £99.50 for a one-day course.
Tel: 0141 552 5239
Get there: take the train to Glasgow Central. The CookerySchool is just a short walk from the station
Home-made bread makes any meal special so why not learn how to do it properly? This two-day course near Penrith covers a wide variety of global bread recipes. From £395 for a two-day course.
breadmatters.com , Tel: 01768 881899
Get there: take the train to Penrith. Bread Matters is nine miles North East of the town
For parties and special dinners
Learn to entertain in style in the heart of the Lake District, with these great one-day courses, including Just for Men and Thrilling Three Courses. From £110 for a one-day course.
lucycooks.co.uk, Tel: 015394 32288
Get there: take the train to Oxenholme, then the train to Staveley. The school is a short walk from the station
The Vegetarian Society's own cookery school includes intriguingly named courses such as Table For Two, Route 66 and Casablanca. From £108 for a one-day workshop.
cordonvert.co.uk, Tel: 0161 925 2014
Get there: take the train to Manchester Piccadilly, then the tram to Altrincham. The school is a 20-minute walk from the station
Cook your way around Europe
If you fancy a European break with a difference, why not pick up a recipe book rather than a guide book? You can hop over to any of these cookery schools from Manchester Airport.
Join English-speaking chefs at the Walnut Grove Cookery School near Rennes and cook everything from classic sauce to candy floss.
Spain boasts one of the world's top chefs in Ferran Adrià, so where better to learn avant garde kitchen tips than in Barcelona.
The wonderfully named Mmmmh in Brussels combines food
with fun, as its chefs lead your tastebuds around the globe.
Learn how to create classic Italian recipes, thanks to Diane Seed's Italian Cooking School from the centre of Rome.