Photo of
June 10, 2016
Jess Shepherd taking control in the kitchen.
Jess Shepherd taking control in the kitchen.

Last week, the 5pm Dining blog sauntered up to Edinburgh New Town Cookery School for a cookery demo of various world cuisines.

Dishes from Spain, Vietnam and Japan were all convincingly demonstrated by the school’s super efficient Jess Shepherd. Mighty fine they were too. We’ve put a recipe for a gorgeous Vietnamese lemon grass beef and noodle salad below.

The globe-trotting flavours of the evening had been picked to illustrate some of the classes available on the school’s summer programme of classes.

Whether you want to discover the secrets of Japanese cooking; improve your Spanish or extend your curry repertoire, there is a whole range of one day courses to suit your tastes.

Hands on

According to Fiona Burrell, the school’s Principal, the classes are very practical. Guests arrive, have a coffee and watch as one of the school’s chefs demonstrates the dishes.

After that, it’s aprons on and into the kitchen where the students will be gently guided through the recipes. Some cookery classes are more like an extended lunch and they require little in the way of actual cooking from the attendees. The classes at Edinburgh New Town Cookery School are not like that.

‘It is pretty intense,’ says Fiona. ‘The students cook their own lunch and then after that they put in a solid afternoon cooking. They tend to leave with sore feet and laden down with food to take home. We think that it is good for people to genuinely feel that they have worked hard and experienced cooking lots of dishes.’

While the classes are full on, Fiona is not running a boot camp. ‘Some people arrive worried that they are going to be shouted at,’ smiles Fiona. ‘They are not. Gordon Ramsay has a lot to answer for.’

Professional career

If the day classes whet your appetite for kitchen life, Edinburgh New Town Cookery School also runs courses that last from a week to six months. The latter leads to a practical cookery diploma and is a great gateway to a career in professional kitchens.

Here is that Vietnamese recipe. I know it looks long but it is actually very simple. Most of the work involves chopping the veg.

Zingy, fresh and savoury, it delivers what we technical food writers like to call a satisfying slap in the chops.

Vietnamese Lemon Grass Beef and Noodle Salad (Bun Bo Xao)


Adapted from a recipe by David Tanis, NYTimes

Serves 4


4 tablespoons light brown sugar

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

4 tablespoons lime juice

4 tablespoons fish sauce

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 1-inch length ginger, peeled and grated

1 red chilli


400g rice vermicelli noodles

450g sirloin steak, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

3 garlic cloves, crushed

3 tablespoons finely chopped lemon grass, core only

1 head little Gem, leaves separated

2 tablespoons sunflower  oil

4 spring onions, sliced

1 medium carrot, cut in 3-inch lengths, julienned

1 small cucumber, 3-inch lengths, julienned

1 3-inch length daikon radish, julienned

Mixture of coriander sprigs, mint leaves, Thai basil leaves

3 tablespoons crushed roasted peanuts

3 tablespoons crispy fried shallots

For the dressing: combine sugar, rice vinegar and lime juice and stir to dissolve. Add fish sauce, garlic, ginger, chillies and a splash of water and stir together. Taste for seasoning.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add rice noodles and simmer for a few minutes until cooked. Drain and while they are still warm stir in some of the dressing.

Meanwhile, combine sliced beef, fish sauce, sugar, garlic and lemon grass in a bowl. Massage seasoning into beef and let sit for no longer than 15 minutes.

Line a serving bowl or four individual large wide soup bowls with a few lettuce leaves and top with dressed noodles.

Heat the oil in a wok over high heat. When wok is nearly smoking, add beef and quickly stir-fry until lightly browned and just cooked, about 2 minutes.

Top the noodles with cooked beef, spring onions, carrot, cucumber and daikon. Sprinkle with herbs, crushed peanuts and fried shallots.

Drizzle with the remaining sauce.