Sunday, February 24, 2013

Week Six and Seven in Leiths: Something was in the air...

Two more weeks in Leiths have gone as quickly as the time it took me to eat the Chelsea buns we made on the way home. Whoooosh. Nibble nibble. It's important to keep up your energy levels on long Tube journeys.

Multiple Chelsea Buns

Soufflés were risen, poussins were spatchcocked and carrots were turned (just about). Matchstick potato chips were burned - no chips should be that skinny.

Spatchcock Poussin

Cutting carrots into chunks will never be the same again

French pastry tarts were gobbled up at home (too messy for the Tube you see). Cakes were iced, wines were tasted, my first proper pasta was made and the art of butchery was discovered.

In week six we had our group cooking for fifty students task, in a team of four we prepared a two course Italian meal in three hours. Now that was a speedy three hours.

Turns out amore wasn't just in the air in school. On a flying visit back home to Ireland at the end of week six a question was popped...

And I said...


Cue celebrations, floating on air and a silly grin plastered on my face. Ahh. Merci Mr. Moustache Xx. 

Just when I thought things couldn't get any better (ahem!), I met Chef Martin Kajuiter in the Cliff House Hotel. We had an unbelievable tasting menu in its Michelin Star House restaurant. Sadly the blurry photos I took don't do the food justice, but I'll always have the memory of the most special meal. 

There was no time to plan the 20 tier wedding cake, straight back to school for week seven. The butchery must go on and Monday kicked off with a day long demonstration by two skillful butchers. Followed by an all day cooking session on Tuesday.

Then things went all green towards the end of the week.

On Thursday we learned about Italian cooking from the amazing vegetarian Italian Chef Ursula Ferrigno.  Listening to Ursula made me want to move to Italy and make (and eat) pasta, focaccia and risotto all day long. Her passion bubbles out of her and all of a sudden I'm wishing I was half Italian too. Followed by vegetarian Chef expert David Bailey on Friday who demonstrated beautiful vegetarian dishes bursting with flavours. Make that a vegetarian half-Italian.

So that was the last two weeks. My head's still spinning...

Who knows what week eight will bring? After the last two weeks I definitely don't. Bring it on :-)

Week One in Leiths: The good, the spilled and the ugly (woodcock)
Week Two in Leiths: Edible clouds and fascinating fish
Week Three in Leiths: The Very Hungry Cookery Student
Week Four in Leiths: Meringues gone wild and ovens behaving badly
Week Five in Leiths: Confessions of a cookery student

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Week Five in Leiths: Confessions of a cookery student.

Behind every new cookery student is a loved one eating the benefits of their new skills. 

Gourmet treats are rustled up at home. Prosciutto gougères kick the week off on Monday. A little lemon sole meunière of a Tuesday. Followed by Quiche Lorraine on a Wednesday. With homemade pastry of course. I'm scandalised you even asked. A quick Omelette Arnold Bennett for Thursday's dinner. And just because it's Friday how about a spatchcocked poussin? No no, no trouble at all. 

Some more Hollandaise with your Eggs Benedict darling? Don't worry, the boned Dover Sole is on the way, I just got held up spinning sugar. 

Or that's how I imagined it would be.

Silly me. 

On a good day Mr. Moustache might get a lunchbox of cold leftovers. Might. Strange things can happen on a ninety minute Tube journey home. 

There's been a whole lot of toasted cheese going on in my little London kitchen. Sure it's practically a croque-monsieur. All hail pasta for it is blessed (and quick). And, my personal favourite, the pizza. 

After making flaky pastry tarts, hazelnut meringue cake, tarte au citron, pasta with truffle oil and lemosoufflé, sometimes a toastie is just what you need. 

OK, so it hasn't been all toasted cheese. Just 75% of the time. Today was one of those other days (as Mr. Moustache breathed a sigh of relief) and first up was a gruyère soufflé. Snapped just a few seconds too late as it deflated. That's my excuse anyway and I'm sticking to it. 

Followed by some Beef and Guinness stew with posh spuds (practising piping skills, I'd normally leave my spuds alone). 

Soda bread rolls completed the Irish theme for the day.

Five weeks in and it's still feeling like a dreamworld in Leiths. Pinch-myself-is-this-really-happening? Oh yes it is. Demonstrations. Cooking. Service! I love it all. 

On Friday we had a lecture on the diamonds of the kitchen, truffles. Followed by an afternoon of blissful cooking (including making my first homemade pasta). Topped off with a toasted cheese at home. If Carlsberg made Fridays... 

Here's to next week and snapping that soufflé while it's still inflated. 

Thanks to Baking Bachelor for his ideas inspiration. Real men bake.

Week One in Leiths: The good, the spilled and the ugly (woodcock).
Week Two in Leiths: Edible clouds and fascinating fish.
Week Three in Leiths: The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
Week Four in Leiths: Meringues gone wild and ovens behaving badly.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Week Four in Leiths: Meringues gone wild and ovens behaving badly.

Sometimes bad things happen to good people. 

Like when your meringue takes on a life of its own, refuses to obey the piping bag and goes all freestyle on you. Bold meringue. Don't even get me started on those naughty ovens. 

But what burns me makes me stronger and week four in Leiths is now under my (expanding) belt.  One month in and I've developed a strong affection for butter on everything. More is more and I can't believe it's more butter. This week I plumped my Irish feathers as soda bread and bacon and cabbage were on the menu. Thankfully I didn't let down the nation and 'twas grand. Who's having a bit of butter on that soda bread now? Ah go on so.

There was also pecking, chopping and fraisering: the three stages of making beautiful French pastry - pâte sucrée. You start by sifting flour straight onto your board, and spreading it out into a large circle. Then place your butter, sugar and egg yolks in the centre and peck away with one hand as you cream them together. Grab your palette knife and flick over the flour. In a sophisticated French way of course. Chop through with the sharp edge until all the ingredients are well mixed. Finally fraiser using the flat edge of the palette knife and lightly press down to form a dough, which goes onto your cling film to chill before rolling.

Bit more complicated than the ol' bacon and cabbage.

Skinning a whole slip sole was a strangely satisfying experience, one which feels a little like giving the fish a (full body?) waxing. Then topping the waxed skinned fish with hollandaise and placing under the grill for burnt hollandaise. Only for a few seconds or you really will have a burnt hollandaise and not a gorgeous golden brown colour. 

Demonstrations this week included gluten free cooking techniques by former Leiths student Adriana Rabinovich. Adriana's approach is to develop recipes which can be enjoyed by all. Her first question when dining out is whether someone working in the restaurant has a family member or friend with gluten intolerance. The logic being that the restaurant will then really care and understand. Her glorious peanut butter cookies showed that she really really really cares...and her focaccia and Bakewell tarts. Some of her other recipes are here

The week finished on a savoury note with a demonstration on sauces including the classic Espagnole, or brown, sauce. No HP jokes now please. 

Here's to week five and getting that wild meringue under control. Maybe someday my meringue will behave like my teacher's:

Mini meringue baskets with blueberry mousse and pistachio praline