What is it?
A purpose built cookery school set deep in the Cornish countryside offering day courses on everything from whole pig butchery to foraging, with lots of food, coffee and prosecco along the way.
I opted for the game cookery course, as it’s something a bit different and I could role play being out in my tweeds with me rifle, or more likely, poaching pheasants off ‘the man’ with horsehair laced raisins.
Philleigh Way is aiming itself at as many folks as it can – but simply put, foodies. If you can’t cook there’s the simple suppers course and if you’re getting on the baking bandwagon there’re bread and cake courses all over the shop. The game course though, is definitely not for the squeamish.
It will teach you how to skin and butcher various creatures and prepare them in many succulent and tender ways and give you some crib sheets so you don’t forget what you’ve cooked. Essentially, you learn everything apart from how to get a deer in your crosshairs and pull the trigger (although game keeper Tom does offer).
The day runs from 10.00-16.00, although there’s no rush at the end if you’ve still got food to eat and want to luxuriate in the Philleigh hospitality some more.
Who’s it suited to and why would you want to go?
Anyone with an interest in learning new skills from people that know their shit. Whether that be getting technical with some brioche, learning the knife skills to fillet fish or wanting to pimp your Christmas dinner.
The game course gets a big thumbs up for anyone that wants to by-pass the butcher and get their hands deep into a pheasant’s innards (I actually know what a gizzard is now).
It’d also make a pretty good gift for any food obsessives. You know, the ones who’ve already got a skillet and all the expensive knives – all the gear…
Where is it?
Phillieigh Way Cookery School is in the tiny village of Philleigh, on Cornwall’s Roseland Peninsula. What? That’s a bit out of the way? Well, they do accommodation as well, dontchya know.
How much is it?
£150 for the Game Cookery Course
Half-day courses start at £60 and all day bakery courses start at £75. See the website for deets.
He’s A Pheasant Plucker
It’s Sunday. For October, it’s a bloody lovely day and it gives the narrowing Cornish roads on the way to Philleigh that idyllic rural quality that would make a clichéd beginning for a piece about rustic, country cooking. A pheasant scampers across the road, teasing its meaty thighs and plump breasts in my direction.
Inside the converted farm building of the cookery school, it’s the morning after the night before for two chaps from London. Their dry mouths and throbbing heads aren’t helped by the kitchen’s temporary centre piece.
I’m the third in our class of six to arrive and am impressed by the welcome party. Hanging from a thick oak beam, is a deer. A gutted and beheaded roe buck carcass sways a little on the ropes that hold its back legs apart, splayed to show its ribs and empty cavity. There’s a bloody, glistening spot in its side – an exit wound.
I can’t imagine the intermediate breads course having such an opening gambit. Of the two men sitting around the rural, rustic, country-rural-rustic kitchen table, one stares intently into his coffee, seemingly willing the circle of black to fill his vision to block out the elephant in the room. Drinking. It’s not big and it’s not clever, kids.
Once everyone has arrived, Gamekeeper Tom gives us our first lesson of the day – skinning and butchering a deer. I’m both completely out of my comfort zone and filled with adrenaline at the same time. At last, I’m getting in touch with my primal roots as a hunter gather; today I shall finally become a man!
‘Anyone want a go?’ The call goes out. A silence fills the room and I step into it, clasping the super sharp hunting knife in my hand. In my mind I expertly pull the skin from the Deer. ‘Careful with that knife. You look like you might cut yourself,’ is the real world’s reply. I’m enthusiastic, if nothing else.
Everyone gets to have a go at butchering different cuts from the deer – sirloins, top sides, tenderloins. The journey from hanging carcass, to meat product is a relatively quick one and it’s a lesson the authoritarian in me thinks every carnivore should have to go through. Test your mettle, so to speak. Then reward it by munching on pan fried venison loin with chocolate and chili sauce.
We don’t just play around with deer though. We spatchcock partridges, grind livers and butcher pheasants.
The cookery school is run by brothers-in-law James Martin and George Pascoe. George is the chef and his family have been farming in Philleigh for five generations. That takes you back to 1853. The cookery school has been in operation since 2012 and has been going from strength to strength since its opening. With a history in restaurants around the, George’s profile is rising with cookery demonstrations at food festivals and a couple of weeks after Tasting Britain gets in on the act, filming for a TV show.
The room itself is full of marble work tops, the best knives you can get and those fancy ovens from The Great British Bake Off with the almost sensual sliding doors. It’s a country kitchen with a professional edge. It’s exactly what you should expect from a purpose built cookery classroom.
As well as George, part time game keeper, Tom, is on hand with his butchering skills and an incredibly sharp knife. He’s a font of game and hunting knowledge and has some great props, including a fractured deer skull. In his dusty combat trousers, he’s at odds with us middle-class cooking school cadets, afraid of getting our hands dirty.
Between cutting inch thick steaks from the deer he regales us with hunting anecdotes, the best place to aim your cross hairs and even offers to take us shooting sometime. And none of this frivolous cookery school shit for him, bung it in a pan with a packet of pepper sauce for Tom.
He doesn’t like waste either. Eat what you kill is his motto. And if you’re ever feeling really frugal, having dispensed with Waitrose and the trappings of the high street, you can even do your own tanning by pissing on the deer skin every day for a couple of months and then mashing up its brain with water and daubing it on.
It’s great to get the point of view of an expert.
What’s the course like then?
In a nutshell, hands on. My pheasant skinning skills might not be called upon that often, but I’ve learned a lot about prepping poultry in general. It’s the sort of stuff you’re not going to do at home – who’s really going to get hold of a partridge, gut and spatchcock it using a youtube tutorial? Even though there are a lot of skills and techniques touched upon throughout the day, it never feels heavy on the theory or the demonstrations, but there are plenty of lightbulb moments.
Having never made a terrine before, it was a bit of a revelation to find out just how easy it is to put one together. A meat grinder is definitely going on my Christmas list.
Grilled Partridge with Garlic and Lemon + Warm Sprout, Walnut and Chorizo Salad
Eating this spicy little number after having put all that work into disembowelling the partridge was
Pheasant Breast and confit leg
Pheasants are dumb. So dumb, the skin almost falls off their tiny bodies. Literally.
Pan Fried Venison Loin with Chocolate and Chili Sauce
Mmmmm, venison (I’ve definitely not run out of ways to talk about game).
If you’re the sort of person that loves learning new things and eating, then Philleigh Way is always going to be a winner. A relaxed atmosphere, a kitchen to be envious of and a few drinks thrown in – what’s not to like? It’s more a question of which course are you sorted to. Not everyone is going to want to be grinding liver, after all.
It’s definitely a fun time. George and Tom don’t take themselves too seriously at all and coffee, tea and wine are all on tap. You do have to put up with a certain amount of Coldplay though.