Based out in leafy Altrincham, just a short walk from the train station, the Vegetarian Society has been a forward-thinking institution for over 170 years. It has never been more vital than now when the number of people ditching meat is reaching an all-time high for reasons such as personal health, animal welfare and, of course, climate change.
The organisation provides several vital services, including helping people make the change to a meat-free or plant-based diet and giving away many hundreds of delicious recipes. But probably the most fun-packed element is the on-site cookery school.
Some of the country’s leading experts in vegetarian and vegan food teach these classes, and you can choose from in-person courses taught at the charming (not to mention labyrinthine) building in Altrincham, which currently take place on Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays, or online lessons are also available.
We went along for the recent vegan cheese-making course and saw first-hand why these classes sell out so quickly. More than just education, it’s a genuinely fun, friendly experience – a far cry from those home economics classes back in your school days.
The classes are kept small, and you’ll be provided with everything you need for the class: ingredients, top-quality equipment and other essentials, such as aprons. For obvious reasons, covid precautions are high on the agenda, so everything is kept as safe as possible, including plenty of hand sanitiser, mask-wearing and a perspex screen between students and instructor.
Everyone involved, without exception, is a delight to work with, with some students even saying they treat these as much of a social event as a way to learn new cooking skills. That’s the heart of these classes: they focus on the joy of cooking as a pleasurable activity – something to impress your partner or dinner guests and a way to revitalise your meals.
Rather than a strict teacher running the class, the person in charge is more a relaxed, friendly mentor willing to answer even the most basic questions, and with a deep well of knowledge – not just about vegetarian and vegan cooking, but on the very building blocks of flavour, and how to apply this knowledge to the entire world of cooking.
Of course, a love of vegetarian and vegan food helps, but this isn’t an essential requirement – and neither is being vegetarian. Even committed omnivores will leave with a new perspective on cooking, and more than likely, an all-new appreciation of just how versatile, exciting and delicious plant-based cuisine can be when done correctly.
As for the vegan cheese? During the four hour class, we made some of the most mouth-watering dishes I’ve had in months, made from a vast array of ingredients, all easily bought in your local supermarket or online. We covered everything from smooth, spreadable varieties to smoked vegan cheese and even a variety that melts under the grill.
Best of all, you even get to take your creations home, as well as make a plant-based pizza at the end, made with all-vegan ingredients and easily the match of anything you might buy in a city-centre restaurant for a fraction of the price.
A class at the Vegetarian Society Cookery School is more than just a way to boost your knowledge about cooking. It’s a forward-thinking experience that combines learning with fun, delicious food and some of the friendliest people in South Manchester.
As time goes on, vegetarian and vegan cuisine will become much more critical for a healthy planet, so get a head start by booking onto one of these excellent classes.
I Love MCR readers have the chance to WIN a place on the Vegetarian Society Cookery School class of your choice for you and a friend! An incredible prize worth £278. Just click here to enter – and click below to find out more about the Cookery School and book a class.