Review

What does a cookery teacher think of By Word of Mouth's virtual cooking class?

Jenny Kay logged on to Zoom to join renowned caterer Karen Short for feast of French flavours — and to rate her cookery class out of 10

30 July 2020 - 00:00 By Jenny Kay
Twice-baked cheese soufflé with red onion marmalade and fresh rocket.
Twice-baked cheese soufflé with red onion marmalade and fresh rocket.
Image: By Word of Mouth

I’ve been teaching cooking classes for many years, so I was looking forward to the chance to sit back and watch another professional at play as I logged on to Zoom for a virtual "Flavours of France" cooking class hosted by caterer Karen Short.

I’ve long been an admirer of Short's famous catering company By Word of Mouth. More recently she’s also become known for her range of frozen meals marketed under the brand Frozen for You.

I had Short’s French-inspired recipes on hand as the class started. From experience, I thought making four to five dishes would be more than enough in an hour, but with loads of pre-prep and duplicate dishes at the ready – "here’s one I made earlier" – Short ambitiously made eight.

Karen Short ambitiously demonstrated how to make eight different dishes during her virtual 'Flavours of France' cooking class.
Karen Short ambitiously demonstrated how to make eight different dishes during her virtual 'Flavours of France' cooking class.
Image: By Word of Mouth

One of the highlights was a classic French onion soup – the hardest part of the recipe was slicing the 1kg of onions required. It looked delicious, but the drawback of virtual cooking classes is that you can’t appreciate all the mouth-watering smells which must have been wafting around Short’s beautiful Midlands farmhouse kitchen.

I was reminded of a dish I hadn’t made for years as Short made a twice-baked cheese souffle – this method means your souffles don’t lose their puff. Served with a trendy update of red onion marmalade and fresh rocket, it looked like a winner.

The main course was a slow-roasted balsamic pork belly, which Short said had been roasting since 4am, because like the rest of SA she was wary of potential load-shedding. It looked yummy and succulent.

Then came a curve-ball: seared scallops on a bed of cauliflower puree.

I couldn’t understand Short’s choice to use imported scallops that come with a hefty price tag, especially in these very tough times, and when we have a wealth of local produce to choose from.

She redeemed herself by making a dessert of cherry clafoutis using tinned cherries rather than the very expensive imported fresh cherries on the market.

Cherry clafoutis.
Cherry clafoutis.
Image: By Word of Mouth

Veering away from the traditional apple tarte tatin, Short used pears. The fruit should be bathed in a sticky, sweet, dark caramel and buried under a blanket of puff pastry. Short’s caramel was way too pale, which left the tart looking a little wan. But maybe I’m just nit-picking, and for Short time was running out.

A big frustration of the class was the camera angle, I was hoping for the focus to be on the food preparation rather than the demonstrator, but this may be because hosting a cooking class via Zoom is something new to navigate.

All the food looked great, but I couldn’t help wondering about the taste. All of my live cookery demos ended in a tasting, where the participants piled their plates and shared their comments on the food, so this time I felt a little cheated.

Then again, this is the new normal of cookery classes, so I'd better get used to it.

Rating: 8/10

Karen Short of By Worth of Mouth is hosting an array virtual cooking classes with different themes via Zoom. The cost is R150 per class. Visit bywordofmouth.co.za for more information.