Behind the Scenes: GHI Cookery School


Nestled in the heart of Soho, the Good Housekeeping Institute Cookery School has opened it’s doors to share it’s secrets in creating the very best recipes. Renown for its triple-tested recipes, which have featured in monthly additions of the popular magazine, now it was time to try them out first hand with a helping hand of one of their professional chefs.

Weeks leading up to its opening, I’d often peer through the glass and into the glistening kitchens of clear worktops wondering when there may be a chance to try them out. With only a small kitchen with limited work tops in my new London flat, this was the definition of heaven.

Throughout the jam-packed morning, we tested a variety of Scandinavian recipes fit for a Christmas feast. First up was Pimm’s Salmon Gravadlax, followed by a Snowy Yule Log and Duck with Port and Figs. Following an easy step recipe and being guided along the way, the morning flew by, and within no time my stomach began to rumble.

I was working with the lovely Nancy, and once we’d finished cooking, it was time to tuck into some of our creations. My favourite was without doubt the Duck with Port & Figs, which would provide a great alternative meat for Christmas Day. Resisting the yule log (as this wasn’t gluten free) was particularly difficult, but my colleagues were rather pleased when I brought back a large chunk to the office for them to tuck into.

As I was so impressed with the Duck with Port & Figs, I’ve included the recipe below with a step by step photo guide to test out at home.  Often associated with Christmas, duck can be an excellent addition to your Christmas feast, but there is often confusion over the best and most simple way to approach this soft meat. Instead of opting for traditional turkey, try your hand at preparing duck. It’s far easier than you might think.

Duck Breast with Port & Figs (gluten free)
Serves 6
4 x 200g (7oz) duck breasts
1tsp rapeseed oil
150ml (1/4 pint) port
300ml (1/2 pint) hot chicken stock
Zest of 1 orange, plus 1-2 tbsp orange juice
9 fresh figs, halved
1. Preheat the oven to 200 C (180 fan). Using a small, sharp knife, diagonally score the fat of each duck breast, making sure you don’t cut the meat. Trim away any sinew and excess fat.

2. Put the duck, skin side down, with the oil into a large frying pan set over the lowest heat to let the fat run out. This will take 15-20mins and can be done up to 24hrs in advance (pour the fat into the bowl and use to cook the roast potatoes later). When the skin has turned golden and most of the fat has drained out, put the duck breasts on a rack set in a roasting tin, skin side-up.

3. Cook the duck in the oven for 15 mins for pink and 20 mins for well done. Cover loosely with foil and leave to rest while you make the sauce.
4. Put the port, hot stock and orange zest into the frying pan and bubble rapidly until syrupy and reduced by two-thirds. Stir in the orange zest to taste along with any of the juices from the resting duck. Season to taste and keep warm.

5. Meanwhile heat a griddle pan over a medium heat and griddle the figs cut-side down for 3 mins until softened. Slice the duck breasts diagonally and arrange on warmed plates with figs. Drizzle over the sauce.

If you fancy testing out the wonderful kitchens and recipes yourself, daily courses of up to eight people run in the morning and afternoon. Prices range between £90-180 depending on if you opt for a short 3 hour class or a long 5 hour class. 

GHI gift vouchers are also available and bespoke private sessions can be arranged on request and would make an ideal Christmas present for a food loving family member or friend.  

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  • Reply
    Angela Field
    19th December 2014 at 1:20 pm

    So many of my favourite things here, cake first off and I have a KitchenAid which I love, they make sponges so airy and light.

    Gravadlax is another favourite of mine and Pimm's sounds very intriguing. I love figs as well, looks really fun, I'll have to check out the courses here.

    Thanks Lorily.

    • Reply
      23rd December 2014 at 2:20 pm

      Oh the dream to own one! They're great courses and you really get stuck in xx

  • Reply
    19th December 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Wow, you cooked some amazing looking dishes (I'm sure they tasted pretty good too!).

  • Reply
    20th December 2014 at 10:35 pm

    OMG I'm so jealous!!!!! The duck looks delicious, my OH is obsessed with duck so I may actually have to make this :) x

  • Reply
    Sophie Broomfield
    21st December 2014 at 6:15 pm

    Wow, what an amazing experience! This is definitely going on my birthday wish list :) x

    • Reply
      23rd December 2014 at 2:21 pm

      Keep an eye out as I know they've got lots of new courses coming up in the new year :-) x

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