Learn the art of cookery with the Larder Louts

PUBLISHED: 11:00 07 November 2018

Larder Louts in Harpenden.

Larder Louts in Harpenden.


My dad is in his 70s and has never learned to cook. He has been very lucky to have talented women in his life who have always taken that responsibility for him, and he is not alone in this. He was telling me earlier this year that he has been going to cooking classes in his new town, which he has really enjoyed. He has met new people and has learned to make a few three course meals; he was particularly proud of his fish pate with melba toast. He also likes that the group sit down to share them at the end of the lesson.

Larder Louts in Harpenden.Larder Louts in Harpenden.

I was delighted to hear that a similar group runs in Harpenden, Redbourn, Wheathamstead and St Albans, organised by The Kitchen Front, aka Jane Todd and Sarah Cripps. I have met Jane and Sarah many times over the years, and they teach cookery to a wide range of ages. They have been inspired to start a club for men as they noticed they were getting a lot of enquiries from this group, particularly older men who hadn’t learned.

As Jane explained to me: “We are often contacted by sons and daughters of older people who are worried about their parents but are unable to help due to geography, or pressures of work. We had one client who was over 80 and had been put on a low sugar diet by his doctor, but he had no idea what that actually meant or where hidden sugars were.”

They have also taught men who have been recently bereaved, divorced, become a carer for the first time, or who want to assist their partner with the cooking. And I am sure there are plenty like my dad who got the bug for cooking later in life. Reasons for joining have included “I want to eat better’, “I want to try new recipes” and “I’ve rarely done any cooking and would now like to learn”.

In ‘The Larder Louts’ classes, the small groups cook traditional dishes which teach skills that can be used to cook other dishes such as chicken pie, fish pie, pork and apple sausage rolls, beef goulash, baked apples and lemon drizzle cake, and the classes include discussions around budgeting, ingredients and food safety. Jane told me ‘It’s great watching a group of individuals start chatting over the pastry making and quickly find things in common’.

There has been a lot of support for the scheme locally, with grants received from The Harpenden Trust and St. Albans City and District Community Grant. The Redbourn classes have been funded jointly by Redbourn Parish Council and Redbourn Care Group with food supplied by the Redbourn Co-op. This helps to keep the costs down for participants.

The November classes will be held in Cornelia’s Coffee Shop, St Nicholas Church Halls, Church Green, Harpenden. The dates are November 14, 21, 28 and December 5 from 2-4pm.

In December they will be making Christmas treats, both savoury and sweet. At £10 a session, with everything included, and you get to take it home, this is fantastic value (if cost is an issue, there are subsidised places too). You can phone 07899751211 or 07973383607 or email hello@thekitchenfrontcookery.co.uk to find out about spaces. There is also a lot of information on www.thekitchenfrontcookery.co.uk.

The final word needs to go the participants, who all seem to enjoy the courses. John told me: “It is enormous fun but they make you work! Sarah and Jane primarily are professionals. They demonstrate many techniques and answer all related questions. Safety is paramount yet the sessions are enormous fun. My favourite dish is carrot cake which I have made many times since.”

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