From a burner of toast, to culinary chef in just one lesson!

meetingsclub’s Head of Content and Partnerships Mark Bailey is a self-confessed toast burner and struggles to boil an egg. He’s great at eating though, as his ever increasing waist testifies – but his culinary skills begin and end after he’s put something frozen in a microwave and then hears the reassuring ping of the microwave a few minutes later. So it was with a fair degree of trepidation that Mark joined 6 other chef wannabes one afternoon at the newly opened Cookery School at The Grand, York to make an authentic Thai Green Seafood Curry complete with fluffy Jasmine Rice! Watch and read how Mark got on.

Wish me luck!

I’ve never cooked a proper meal in my life. There, I’ve said it! It’s nothing I’m particularly proud of and there’s no real excuses. Well perhaps I’ve been lucky. My Mum is a great cook and my long suffering wife has real skills – much better than my ability to heat up beans in the microwave and plonk on a piece of burnt toast. Four decades of inactivity anywhere near a stove and my confidence in the kitchen was non-existent.

So imagine the real fear I felt entering the Cookery School at the Grand York. My hands were clammy, my head started to ache and the walls felt as if they were closing in. There infront of me were 16 cookery stations, reminding me of a very posh Home Economics classroom.

But my fears immediately started to ease when I was warmly welcomed by Andrew Dixon, the head chef tutor at the Cookery School. He could see in my face the look of terror, but his reassuring soft Geordie tones helped reduce my Blood Pressure plus there was laughter coming from the adjacent private dining room.

Twenty 20 people from Financial Services Company TL Dallas were having a great time eating the lunch they had prepared earlier. Managing Director Polly Staveley was full of praise. Her team were celebrating their company’s 100th Anniversary and this was one of their team building activities. Everyone had thought the session with Andrew was excellent, a great experience with the best bit seeing the bread dough rise and then eating all the delicious food. Perhaps it wasn’t going to be so bad after all?

Cookery School Grand York Welcome

“This is how you do it….”

A cup of strong coffee and nerves were beginning to settle. My 6 fellow chefs it turned out were a really mixed ability group. Some had hardly cooked before, but one lady appeared to be a real pro as we settled on our stools watching Chef take us through how to cook Thai Green Seafood curry with Jasmine Rice.

I half expected a “shouty chef” barking orders in the best traditions of Gordon Ramsey. But Chef Tutor Andrew was nothing like the stereotypical image. He was trainer. A person who recognised that you never learn by being shouted at as he started on the preparation of the curry paste.

It was a revelation! Top tips and interesting facts poured forth right from the off as our group was shown step by step what to do. Clearly everything was in the preparation. Getting the right ingredients ready so there was no rushing about or panic. I learnt (and of course you probably know this) you taste with your nose which came as a real shock. We were told to place a sprig of coriander in our mouth with our noses firmly pinched. I could smell nothing. Release the pressure and that tart, lemony/lime taste flooded back.

It was an enthralling experience watching a master at work as Chef moved on to the preparation of the curry only to further surprise when he said that green chillis were often hotter than red – how’s that work? The smell was amazing and taste buds were primed as the fluffy rice was carefully placed on to the plate, the curry added and the final garnish touches making the dish look sensational. Bon Appetite? Not quite, now it was my turn! Ahhhhh!

Cookery School Grand York Andrew Dixon 2
Cookery School Grand York Ingredients

My Turn!

Turning over the two A4 sheets of stapled paper (the recipe) was like that awful examination feeling you get. Had I done enough revision? Would I be able to do it? There was no turning back. So carefully reading the recipe again, I started! Fortunately, to save time the chefs had prepared the curry paste earlier in the best traditions of Blue Peter and so it was on with making the curry. Heat a saucepan, add a drizzle of vegetable oil and one tbsp of curry paste and cook for 30 seconds. In went the seafood for a couple of minutes and then off the heat onto a tray. Time for the shallots, chilli, peppers and mushrooms to enter the fray! All softened, the coconut milk, stock, lime leave, palm sugar and fish sauce were brought to the boil.

I was cooking on gas! Well, an induction hob.

Time to multi-task which for me isn’t easy as 70g of Jasmine Rice needed to be prepared as the curry simmered away to my left. Leaving the lid on for an extra six minutes to steam the rice, I re-added the seafood to the curry to warm through just as the timer went off to say everything was ready. I’d done it!!! My first ever proper cooked meal. The aroma was wonderful and I just had to try to see if it tasted as good as it looked. Check out the video to see the result.

The proof is in the Pudding & see what Head Chef Tutor said!

Your turn: Recipe for the Authentic Thai Green Seafood Curry

Cookery School Grand York Proud Mark


Green Seafood curry

  • 1 tbsp Thai green curry paste (for homemade recipe see below)
  • 150g mixed seafood, salmon, squid, King Prawns, monkfish (frozen or fresh)
  • 100ml coconut milk
  • 1 green chilli, deseeded, finely sliced
  • ¼ green pepper, deseeded, finely sliced
  • 1 spring onions
  • 1 banana shallot, finely sliced (or shallot)
  • 25g oyster mushrooms, torn into strips button (can replace with chestnut mushrooms)
  • 1 kaffir lime leaf
  • 3g palm sugar
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 70ml chicken stock
  • Coriander to garnish

For the Thai green curry paste

  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • ½ tbsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns
  • 5cm fresh galangal, sliced (or fresh ginger)
  • 4 stalks of lemongrass, peeled to the tender root, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste
  • 1 tsp Thai fish sauce
  • Small handful fresh coriander, with stalks
  • 4 garlic gloves, peeled
  • 1 kaffir lime leaf
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 banana shallots, sliced (or shallots)
  • 4 green chillies, deseeded
  • 10ml water


  • 70g jasmine rice

Makes 1

Step One: Thai green curry paste (if you’re making you’re own paste)

  1. Place the coriander seeds, peppercorns and cumin seeds into a pan over a medium heat and toast until they start to brown and give off a toasted aroma.
  2. Take off the heat and leave to cool before placing into a food processor with the remaining ingredients and blitzing into a fine paste. Freeze or chill in the fridge until needed.

Step Two: Green seafood curry

  1. Heat a heavy-based deep saucepan over a medium heat, add a drizzle of vegetable oil and one tbsp of curry paste and cook for 30 seconds.
  2. Add the seafood and fry for two minutes until just cooked, take out of the pan and place onto a tray.
  3. Add the remaining curry paste to the pan and cook for another 30 seconds before adding the shallots, chilli, peppers and mushrooms and cooking for one minute until they start to soften.
  4. Add the coconut milk, chicken stock, lime leaves, palm sugar and fish sauce and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and leave to simmer for five minutes.
  5. Re-add the seafood and take off the heat, leave for 2-3 minutes to allow the seafood to warm through.

Step Three: Fluffy jasmine rice

  1. Place the rice into a bowl and cover with cold water. Rub the rice through your fingers then tip out the milky water. Repeat until the water goes clear.
  2. Prepare a large pan of boiling salted water and place the rice in. Bring back to the boil and place a lid on top before reducing the heat to medium.
  3. Cook the rice from boiling for eight minutes with the lid on, then drain the water from the rice and place the lid back on to the pan and keep off the heat.
  4. Leave the lid on the pan to steam the rice for an extra six minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork before serving.

Step Four: Serve

  1. Rewarm the curry if needed, and spoon into your bowl, just off centre.
  2. Spoon the fluffy rice next to the curry and garnish with sliced spring onion, the remaining green chilli and chopped coriander.