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.)

Endive leaves, stuffed with diced apple, walnuts and roquefort – possibly my favourite of the canapés, the creamy, salty cheese contrasting perfectly with the crisp leaves, crunchy walnuts and sweet apples.

Mini Yorkshire puddings stuffed with slices of rare beef fillet and horseradish

Cocktail sausages tossed in honey glaze and stuffed with mustard mash

We were given the recipes for the eight canapés, trays of all the ingredients and got to work as quickly as we could. The key to success was to plan and work out a running order, making sure our meat went in to marinade first, our pastry got rolled out and left to rest in the fridge along with a Yorkshire pudding batter and our potatoes were put on to boil for mash.

Mini chicken drumsticks -made by scraping the meat down the wing bone (I think the winning dish of the latest Great British Menu had one of these as a component) – marinated in a teriyaki sauce. Cute, sticky, addictive.

Crispy baskets filled with diced duck breast, spring onion and avocado. These had a beautiful lime and chilli kick.

Croûtons topped with black pudding and fried quails egg. This was the first time I’ve eaten black pudding, and if I tried hard not to think about what it was as I ate it, the canapé as a very tasty one, with a nice mix of textures from the crispy croûton and the warm and oozy fried egg.

It was a very rushed, slightly manic hour, but it got a little adrenaline pumping and actually turned out to be quite good fun as well as satisfying when all eight different canapés were brought together and arranged attractively on plates, near enough within the hour. We were then rewarded for our hard work by sitting down to platefuls of some of the nicest canapés I’ve ever tried.

Who could resist these?… The other two little canapés were cherry tomatoes stuffed with crab and mini puff pastry parma ham and mustard croissants.

If fifteen or so canapés didn’t quite hit the spot, there was still pan-seared scallops with pea purée and saffron foam and a tarte-tatin with caramel sauce and clotted cream to come. We learnt how to remove the scallops from their shells and prepare them for cooking, along with the need for a smoking hot pan and a very brief cooking time to ensure the scallops were seared on the outside, warmed through and just cooked without being turned to rubber.

The tarte-tatin was very attractive and simple to prepare, although I possibly lost an eyebrow hair or two in the process of flambéing the apples in calvados. The pastry base was crisp in places, a little chewy in others and the tartness of the apples contrasted with the sticky sweet caramel they were cooked in, as well as the moreish caramel sauce.


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