WE’VE all done it. You’re sitting at home, flicking through a cookbook for inspiration when alas, you succumb to the tried and tested, close the book and say stuff it, I’ll have bangers and mash.

Now I’m a big advocate of cookbooks. I’ve rustled up many a great meal using them, but sometimes you need a bit of steering in the right direction, someone to give you the confidence to try something new, which is why I found myself at White Pepper cookery school last week.

I’d dropped in at the informal class, run by chef Luke Stuart, hoping to learn something new and exciting for Valentines Day.

I was the new kid; the other students (Karen, Tracy, Roger and Amanda) were doing a six-week term with Luke, meeting every Wednesday to add a few more dishes to their repertoire.

“The theme for this term is seafood,” explained Luke, a trained chef who has worked for the likes of Michel Roux.

“I like to have themes for my classes and I like to encourage people to eat within the seasons, because that’s where the flavours are.”

Last week’s lesson was focusing on molluscs and mussels and we used some of Dorset’s finest produce in the dishes – in fact you could see where most of the ingredients had come from, with White Pepper’s kitchen in Hamworthy overlooking Poole Harbour.

After brief introductions over a cuppa, Luke talked us through the recipes we’d be cooking. I’d only just polished off breakfast but already my mouth was watering.

I was then assigned with cooking the scallops and black pappardelle (pasta), while Karen took on the Indian mussels, Amanda the clams with garlic and chilli linguine, Tracy the mussel and bacon chowder and Roger the scallops with parsnip puree.

Although it was mid-morning Luke found a beautiful white wine for us to sip on while we cooked. Sticking with the local theme he chose a bottle of Three Cows from the New Forest, which went down very well.

As I got to work, I quickly realised that my dish was the perfect choice for Valentines Day. Making squid ink dyed pasta looks difficult, but it was an absolute doddle; so while the missus thinks you’re grafting away in the kitchen, really you’re just quaffing wine and taking your time.

As well as guiding us through our dishes, Luke taught us how to open scallops and oysters, something I’d never actually done before. The scallops pulsated in my hand and one had the temerity to squirt water at me – you don’t really get fresher than that.

“These classes are about inspiring people and giving them the confidence to try something new,” explained Luke, as I prised open a scallop shell. It seems to be working.

“I didn’t cook fish before,” explained Tracy, as she put the finishing touches to her chowder.

“I didn’t know what to do with it, but last week we filleted fish, cooked it and now I feel much more confident.”

I also felt inspired. Although I like to think I’m relatively adventurous in the kitchen, I hadn’t explored the idea of making my own pasta before, but now I’ve seen how easy and rewarding it can be, I won’t be buying shop pasta again. And I’ll be cooking more Dorset shellfish too.

As the class drew to a close we presented our dishes. They all looked and tasted beautiful, but Luke’s star pupil was Amanda for her clam, chilli and garlic linguine, which admittedly was superb.

In fact they all were – Karen’s vibrant Indian mussels probably looked the best, but I wouldn’t have been disappointed if I’d ordered any of them in a restaurant.

And I even brought some of the recipes back for Daily Echo readers, which we'll be sharing throughout the week – don’t say I’m not good to you. See them here

• For more details about White Pepper’s cookery school visit white-pepper.co.uk.