Cornwall Life discovers Rick Stein's recipe for success

PUBLISHED: 13:20 25 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:48 20 February 2013

Cornwall Life discovers Rick Stein's recipe for success

Cornwall Life discovers Rick Stein's recipe for success

Rick Stein's Padstow Seafood School celebrates its 10th anniversary this month. Cornwall Life discovers its recipe for success.

Rick Stein is somewhat misleadingly labelled a celebrity chef. In fact, with his ex-wife Jill, he has four restaurants, a delicatessen, a patisserie, 40 guest bedrooms, and a cookery school in the small fishing port of Padstow, as well as a pub, The Cornish Arms, in St Merryn.

Rick Stein attributes the success of all this to one simple observation: Nothing is more exhilarating than fresh fish simply cooked. It was this enthusiasm for seafood that led him to open Padstow Seafood School ten years ago.

My vision for Padstow Seafood School was to run a place where I enjoyed cooking, a place where the whole morning would revolve around lunch. These lunches are designed to cover every aspect of seafood cookery. Almost without realising it, you will cover it all, from filleting a plaice to stir-frying squid, and braising brill to steaming sea bass, Rick says.

The school was a success from the start, and over the years has built a reputation as one of the most well-respected cookery schools in Europe. Rick explains: We think its the combination of the sunny setting overlooking Padstow Harbour, and using the freshest of fish, which most people find a bit of a revelation, both because it is so easy to work with and because everything tastes so good.

Although Rick hosts the occasional evening demonstration, sharing recipes and anecdotes from his latest travels, the classes are not taught by him. Instead, the school is left in the capable hands of Cornish-born Head Lecturer Mark Puckey and his team of chefs. Were lucky that we have so many great producers and fishmongers in the South West. My advice would be to visit your local fishmonger we use Matthew Stevens & Son in St Ives and ask what their catch of the day is. The freshness and quality of the ingredients really is the most important thing, and down here in Cornwall we have that in abundance. The success of the school is largely down to the quality of the fish, meat, poultry, fruit and vegetables, all bought from really great local producers, Mark adds.

Mark and his team teach students how to choose good fish locally and how to make the very best of it in the kitchen. The school even offers a Fish Market course, where students spend the early hours of the morning at Newlyn Harbour, learning about fishing techniques while watching local fisherman land and sort their catch. To tell whether a fish is fresh, Mark says to look out for clear eyes, bright red flesh underneath the gill, and there should be no fishy odour.

The school offers one-, two- and four-day cookery courses (both residential and non-residential), a balance of hands-on cooking and demonstrations. All of the schools one-day courses (except the Fish Market course) consist of four practical sessions, where youll be cooking hands-on, guided by the chefs. In line with Ricks philosophy, the day centres around lunch, beginning at 9am with a demonstration, after which students cook a variety of dishes before sitting down at lunchtime to enjoy their dishes. One of the chefs will also give a demonstration in the afternoon.

The most popular course is the Original Fish and Shellfish, but there are a range of courses on offer that have developed over time to incorporate new recipes and techniques influenced by Ricks experiences of cooking around the world. These include everything from Italian, French and Thai Fish Cookery, to Classic Seafood Dishes, Summer Cooking, Friends for Dinner and even Childrens Cookery courses. Some specialise in cooking recipes from Ricks BBC television series Mediterranean Escapes, French Odyssey and the latest programme, Far Eastern Odyssey.

Stir-fried salt and pepper squid with red chilli and spring onion

Serves 4

For the squid:

750g squid, unprepared
tsp black peppercorns
tsp sichuan peppercorns
1 tsp Maldon salt
1 medium-hot red finger chilli, thinly sliced (remove the seeds if you prefer the dish less hot)
3 spring onions, trimmed and sliced
1-2 tbsp sunflower oil

For the salad:

cucumber, peeled, halved and the seeds removed
50g fresh beansprouts
25g watercress sprigs, large stalks removed
2 tsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp roasted sesame oil
tsp caster sugar
Pinch of salt


1 Clean the squid and then cut along one side of each pouch and open out flat. Score the innerside into a diamond pattern with the tip of a small, sharp knife, then cut into 5cm (2in) squares. Separate the tentacles if large, and set both to one side.

2 Prepare the salad by cutting the cucumber lengthways into short, thin strips. Toss in a bowl with the beansprouts and watercress. Whisk together the soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and salt.

3 Heat a heavy-based frying pan on a high heat, add the black and sichuan peppercorns and dry roast for a few seconds, shaking the pan now and then until they darken slightly and start to smell aromatic. Tip into a mortar, coarsely crush with the pestle then stir in the salt.

4 Heat a wok over a high heat until smoking. Add half the oil and half the squid and stir-fry for two minutes until lightly coloured. Tip onto a plate and then repeat with the rest of the oil and squid.

5 Return the first batch of squid to the wok, adding one teaspoon of the salt and pepper mixture. Toss together for ten seconds or so and then add the red chilli and spring onion. Repeat the process for the second half of the mixture.

6 Divide between four plates, making four small, neat piles slightly off centre. Dress the salad leaves with the dressing and pile a few alongside the squid. Serve immediately.

This recipe is taken from Rick Steins Seafood, courtesy of BBC Books, first published 2001 (rrp 25)

For a full list of one-, two- and four-day courses call 01841 532700, or visit

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