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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pippa’s seared snapper... and why it makes her ‘an asset to any kitchen’: How Her Royal Hotness spent four weeks at a VERY select cookery school

By Nick Constable and Jo Macfarlane

Cordon Bleu bloods: Pippa (centre, wearing red necklace) and other students on her cookery course

She boasts one of the world’s most celebrated figures – and Pippa Middleton has also proved to have impressive culinary skills.

The picture below shows Pippa – centre, wearing red necklace – fresh out of Marlborough College attending a prestigious £3,600-a-month cookery school where she excelled after creating a tempting menu of scallops, seared red snapper and caramelised banana bavarois.

Her tutors noted that the meal, meticulously produced after four weeks of dedicated lessons, was ‘beautifully cooked and well presented’ and described Miss Middleton as an ‘asset to any kitchen’.

When the picture was taken, in late summer 2002, her elder sister Kate had started her degree at St Andrews University – and caught Prince William’s eye.

Fellow students on Pippa’s cookery course at The Grange, in Frome, Somerset, came with similarly glamorous, privately educated pedigrees, and Pippa has kept up her friendship with several of them.

Camilla Hook, now a close friend, is set to marry Sir David Atten¬borough’s grandson Sam Holland in Scotland next May, with Pippa expected to reprise her Royal role as bridesmaid. Some of the group even have Royal connections.

Ampleforth and Oxford-educated Sam O’Gorman went on to attend the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst with Princes William and Harry and became a captain in the Household Cavalry, to which Harry belongs. His father was in charge of discipline in the Irish Guards.

Captain O’Gorman, now Aide-de-Camp to the Major General Commanding the Household Division, was in the military procession which led Royal Wedding guests – including 27-year-old Pippa – to West¬minster Abbey.

Also on the course was Felicity Twort, who attended Marlborough with Pippa. She held the senior position at Windsor Castle of Lady Clerk to the Deputy Master of Household.

Other students include Isobel Fowler, daughter of former Conservative Party chairman Lord Fowler, and lacrosse-playing Alethea Eddy, daughter of former Shell UK director Andrew Eddy, who attended Downe House, the Berkshire school where Kate was allegedly bullied.

Fine diners: Violinist Rowena Macrae, who has played at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, and Sam O'Gorman, who was at Sandhurst with Princes William and Harry

Jane Averill, proprietor of The Grange, said: ‘Judging by our notes, Pippa was as good a student as we ever see. She came to us after finishing her A-levels, probably as part of her gap year. The students are mostly from private schools and they hope to use a reference from us to get work while they are off travelling or to get a job in a ski resort.’

Mrs Averill, 51, added: ‘From our notes it seems Pippa arrived on her own – there was no particular connection to Camilla Hook, who had come with another friend.

'The fact that the two of them hit it off and developed a lifelong friendship happens all the time.’

For her glowing assessment, Pippa cooked a dish of saffron scallops with spinach and sweet tomato pickle, which involved gently searing the scallops on a skillet, wilting spinach and making the pickle from scratch. She then had to pan-fry red snapper so that its flesh flaked perfectly and serve it on a bed of mashed potato, French beans and red pepper relish.

For dessert, she created a caramelised banana bavarois, a tricky French pudding which involves slow-cooking bananas in sugar and adapting them into a set mousse.

One of Pippa’s teachers, Mrs Averill’s ex-husband William, said: ‘I tasted the meal she produced and it was absolutely excellent. She got a reference which would have impressed any employer running a professional kitchen.’

The notes on Pippa held by The Grange read: ‘She was hard-working, receptive, took every opportunity to learn as much as possible and developed into a competent cook.

‘She chose a very successful menu to stretch her ability. She showed great interest, worked hard and efficiently and needed no help producing a beautifully cooked and well-presented menu which we all enjoyed very much.

‘She showed good kitchen skills, has a confident personality and got on well with everyone at The Grange. She is capable, well-motivated, reliable and an asset in any kitchen.’

Others named in the photo include Harriet Agnew, who went on to study at Edinburgh University with Pippa and is now a journalist reporting on hedge funds in the City, and Timothy Wynn-Jones, from Bath.

Rose Laing has stayed firm friends with Pippa and together they took part in the daunting Highland Cross duathlon run and bike ride in June.

Rowena Macrae, a talented violinist who has played at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, is the goddaughter of Brigadier Mel Jameson, Lord Lieutenant for Perth and Kinross, who produced the event for 11 years. She is part of the Royal set and friends with Rose Laing and Emilia Jardine-Paterson, one of Kate and William’s closest friends. Her family has a Perthshire estate.

Alexander Willson-Pemberton, educated at £5,000-a-term Shiplake College in Oxfordshire, grew up in a detached £2million property in Putney, South-West London, and recently married Carly McDiarmid.

Toby Turnage is an estate agent in Balham, South London, for Douglas & Gordon, and Susannah Palmer, who attended Dunottar School for Girls, in Reigate, Surrey, works in market research for Leapfrog Research & Planning.



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