Ashburton Cookery School Day 15

Canapé day!

If I’m honest I was a little nervous about today with its ‘canapé challenge’. The word ‘challenge’ makes me anxious. It presents the possibility of failure and embarrassment. Images of Wednesday’s flaming sieve were springing back to mind, bringing with them that stomach curling feeling of shame.

But my worry turned out to be relatively unnecessary as we were split into teams of four, so as it could be a joint effort (or joint failure, if you want to look at it pessimistically). And really there was no real way to fail at the challenge: to produce eight different plates of canapés in an hour (or a couple of minutes/ quarter of an hour/ half an hour extra, if we needed it.) Continue reading

Ashburton Cookery School Day 14

A brilliant day of thai cooking today, full of some really punchy flavoured dishes. First up was spring rolls stuffed with pork mince, vermicelli rice noodles, oyster sauce and coriander. To accompany these we made a tamarind dip, using a lump of fresh tamarind. Wow was it sour! But it worked well as a contrast to the sweetness of the spring rolls. Alongside the spring rolls, we made thai fish cakes (Tod Mun Pla) with red curry paste, lime leaves, fish sauce, kra-chaai and fresh turmeric. To go with these we made Nam Aa-Jaad, a sweet, sour and spicy dipping sauce that really kicked. Continue reading

Ashburton Cookery School Day 13

Today was one of the most delicious food-wise so far, as well as being possibly the most disastrous for me. Being the only one in the group to mess up some of my poached quails eggs, I was shamed in having to ask for some more to re-do them. I then proceeded to set a muslin cloth and plastic sieve on fire. But fortunately the great food and a glass of red has provided a largely effective salve for such embarrassment.

We kick started the day by cracking open a bottle of bubbly to make a champagne and elderflower jelly, before moving on to an array of little jobs, including said poached quails eggs…super cute, but with cuteness comes fragility, as I expertly demonstrated. We also poached smoked haddock and sweated leeks for our lunch dish, chopped berries to go in our jelly and blanched broccoli florets and peeled shallots for dinner.

Lunch was a beautiful haddock and leek tart (or more accurately, quiche, but we came to a group conclusion that the word tart has a better ring to it than quiche, which has a unfortunate ability of conjuring up those unappealing, over eggy, soggy based supermarket quiches.) The pastry, which we made on Monday and rolled and blind-baked yesterday, was a tricky one to work with. But the fiddlyness paid off in super light, crumbly pastry. Filled with large flakes of smoked haddock, sweet leeks and an egg mix made with the milk and cream mix the haddock was poached in, these tarts were packed with flavour.

Edible flowers and micro cress- turning a £5 dish into an £8 dish

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Ashburton Cookery School Day 12

We had lots of mini meals today but unfortunately no dessert (excluding yesterday’s brownie which we had at lunch time). Surely it’s no good thing that after two weeks we’ve all grown to expect some sweet/ baked/ pastry-based/ chocolate-covered treat after every meal and feel a twinge of disappointment when there is nothing to be had, regardless of how full we all feel from the main course, or in today’s case, four small meals.

Today focused on vegetarian food and the first ‘light’, snack-type meal, which actually turned out pretty heavy to eat, was an interesting twist on boiled egg and soldiers. The soldiers were made from strips of set polenta, coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried and the soft boiled egg receiving a similar crumbed and fried treatment. We then served the egg nestled in the hollow of a baked mushroom. I was really impressed by how perfectly cooked the egg was and the breadcrumb ‘shell’ added a nice texture. The polenta soldiers were a quirky touch only I found them a little on the filling side.

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Ashburton Cookery School Day 11

Today was bakery day!

I was very excited for today.

I’ve attempted bread a few times before, but have never been overly pleased with the results (the last two white loaves I made and a focaccia being the exceptions), so I was really looking forward to being taught how to do it properly. Turns out I was nearly there, I just wasn’t adding quite enough liquid to my dough.

As you would expect from a baking day, we baked masses, and I have come home with enough bread to open a small bakery and no idea how I am going to shift it all. Continue reading

Ashburton Cookery School Day 10

I can’t believe I’m half way through the course already. That means there’s only two weeks left until I fall out into the currently empty void that is the rest of my life and have to make some real decisions about what it is I actually want to do. The last two weeks have led me to the conclusion that I would love to aim for a food-related career, but that I don’t think I could cut it in a busy, commercial kitchen. But I’m not going to think about that too hard just yet (although I probably should be), it’s a bit too stressful and sends me into a panic! I’ll just concentrate on the course for now.

Today we started off butchering chickens. Fortunately the head, feet and insides had all already been removed this time and I could just about remember what to do, although my joints all ended up a little on the raggedy side around the edges. We really only needed the chicken legs for today, which we jointed and used to make a coq au vin, marinading the chicken in wine, chopped carrot, onion, celery, garlic and mushrooms until the chicken had taken on a deep purple colour. We then browned the chicken, during the course of which I managed to get spitting hot oil in my face, which was a touch on the painful side! The browned chicken and vegetables all went into a casserole pot with bacon, some of the red wine and chicken stock, and was simmered together for about half an hour. To finish the sauce we reduced it and added a little corn flour for an intensely flavoured and slightly thick finish.

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Ashburton Cookery School Day 9

Another lovely and very enjoyable day. I felt completely absorbed by everything we did, possibly because we covered a lot of things I’ve never encountered before, and the day seemed to fly by. First on the list was making salmon gravalax. Once the generous side of salmon was coated in salt, plenty of dill, some pepper, juniper berries and brandy, the smell was wonderful. Next we made pasta dough. This was my first time making pasta dough, and I was impressed by how simple it was to do. Almost like making bread dough with all the kneading involved. With our pasta dough ‘smooth as a baby’s bottom’, wrapped in cling film and left to rest in the fridge we put our corned beef on to cook slowly in a large pan full of chicken stock, rinsed the marinade off our rabbit legs from yesterday, and cooked them in the same way as yesterday’s duck confit…submerged in a roasting tray of duck fat and cooked in a low oven for several hours. Then we prepared our crabs, a very time consuming process, picking out all the tiny bits of meat from inside the legs and trapped within the body, followed by painstakingly checking the meat for any fragments of shell.The brown meat was blended with breadcrumbs, lemon and Tabasco to boost the flavour and make it a little more appealing looking to eat. We then used both the brown and white meat in a saffron risotto with some poached salmon fillets and peas. The salmon skins we tossed in flour and paprika and shallow fried to make them extra crispy. I’d found myself going off risottos recently as all the ones I was making seemed to turn out too bland. Fortunately this one had a lovely flavour. The brown crab meat may not have looked all that appetizing, but it definitely tasted fantastic in the risotto.

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