Then: At 5:30 a.m. on a Tuesday, I was rattled from my sleep with an idea. The sit-up-straight-out-of-bed kind of idea. Instead of setting up shop at one French cooking school, what if I hopped around the European continent and sampled from a variety of courses in different cities and countries? That's how Culinary Hopscotch was born. Follow me on an epicurean tour of cooking schools in countries around Europe and beyond. I'll be traveling and cooking for about three months, so if you're curious about where I'm headed, just ask. Otherwise, I'll be updating my whereabouts in the Twitter section on the right. The culinary crusade starts on January 29, 2010, and I'll be doing it all in a carry-on.

Now: We live in Portland, a culinary capital in its own right. I man the stove chez nous and plan our meals weekly on a colorful pad from Anthropologie. Things have changed a bit from the old school days of Culinary Hopscotch, but it makes sense (to me) to keep it alive. Look for posts on restaurants we visit, culinary happenings in the news, what's on the menu in our kitchen, and more!

Been There, Cooked That

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cooking Class #4: Setting the Table Sevilla Style

"In true fashion, most people don't decide what they want to be until they're 30 or so." ~ Ruth Roberts

Could Ruth, my instructor, today have been more spot on in validating the reason for this adventure? This was her response when I asked her how she got started cooking. Her background in the sport was marbled like a good piece of meat. She took a class in France, and landed a job cooking elaborate lunches for bankers in Madrid. As she told me, a lot of the skill in cooking comes from learning as you go, and I'd learn a notebook full in my class today in Sevilla. There will be tips in this particular blog, so keep reading if you're interesting in learning what they are!

We started out at the market, and decided on a menu of Tapenade de Aceitunas Verdes y Almendras (olive and almond tapenade), Gambas Al Ajillo (prawns in garlic oil), Razor and Regular Clams,  Escalivada con Salsa Romesco (baked vegetables with a vinaigrette and romesco sauce), and Dorada a la Sal (Sea Bream baked in a salt crust). Our sweet was Mantecados, a traditional Spanish powdered sugar cookie. 

After carting our loot home, we got straight to work in Ruth's kitchen. Her home was beautiful, and the view was amazing on a day when the sun finally decided to show his face. The cumulus clouds were a perfect contrast to the bright, blue sky, and the skyline a perfect backdrop for our lunch on the terrace. 

Now, for the tips and information:  

  • In Sevilla, they eat TONS of fish. Most of the stalls at the market were fresh fish mongers, and popular varietals include baby shark, cuttlefish, dorada (this is what we made), razor clams, monkfish, hake, swordfish, and more. If you don't like fish, don't come to Sevilla. You'll be bummed!
  • When roasting whole eggplants (or aubergines), prick them before putting them into the oven. If you don't, it will explode and you'll spend more time than you care to know cleaning it up.
  • Do you know how to peel a whole, roasted pepper? After you remove it from the oven, wrap it in tinfoil and then in newspaper or a paper back to let it cool. The skin will peel right off. If you leave it out to cool, the skikn will stick back to the pepper.
  • Don't discard the more tender unused artichoke leaves.  Boil them in water for about 10-15 minutes and strain out the leaves. The resulting water was really refreshing, and it's good for your liver.
  • To make your own dried herbs, hang them to dry (like you would roses), or dry them in a lower oven. When they're dry, strip them from their stems, grind them in a coffee grinder (I'll be purchasing one of these and I hate coffee), and jar them. Fresh, dried herbs for years.
  • To make a proper stock (fish, meat, or veg), you should always start with cold water so the flavor comes out of what you're boiling instead of getting trapped inside.
Ok, so that brings me to the end of the tips. As you can see, I learned a lot during this one-on-one lesson about Spanish cuisine, although it was more tailored to the cuisine of Sevilla. Dining on Ruth's veranda over the meal we put together was phenomenal. Our menu was fresh, healthy, and most importantly, simple (it probably sounds much more elaborate than it was). I wouldn't hesitate to entertain with this menu because of the speed with which it could be put together. With practice, I could have all of this done in an hour, I suppose.

Sevilla is absolutely gorgeous, and I wouldn't hesitate to come back, although I'd caution you to take note of the weather in summer before booking a trip. Ruth told me today the hottest she's seen it here is 63 degrees Celcius. I'll let you decide what that equates to. In the meantime, I'm off to hangout for dinner with the family I'm staying with. After all that food at lunch, I've got no clue where I'll find the room. 

Ruth Roberts- Seville Cooking Class

Next Stop: Madrid


  1. Amen, Ruth. Amen. Great post and pics, senorita.

  2. Hi there. I stumbled across this googling cooking classes in Seville. Would you mind if I ask how much this course was? I found her website but it doesn't mention a specific cost. Also, coming from country where we use celsius and where it can be rather hot too (Australia), I can assure you it's never been 63 in Sevilla! I think the highest temp recorded anywhere on Earth is 55ish (?). Thanks! Steve

  3. Hi there!

    Thanks for your comment. I've actually moved my blog to, so I'm glad this still popped up when you searched it and I was able to comment back. I just had a look at my spreadsheet from this trip (was two years ago now), and she charged me € 90 for a six-hour class. I'm not sure if her prices have gone up since then, but do send her an email. It was awesome! Here is her website again in case you need it:

    Good luck and let me know if you do end up cooking with her!

    ~ K