Quite an eventful fortnight! From the lows to the highs, the pastry to the roasts, here’s what went down…
· Midway through Week 7 was one of our most memorable demonstrations yet – Game! Walking into the dem room and seeing 2 pheasants hanging from the ceiling was an indication of how the session was going to go…It was really interesting to see and try meats that I haven’t tried before such as pheasant and partridge, and learn about classical accompaniments that I also hadn’t seen before such as Fried Crumbs – literally just breadcrumbs fried in butter and served in a heap with pheasant! The most memorable aspect, however, was woodcock. Woodcock is a small game bird and the indication to be worried was when even our normally total food-enthusiast teacher was not keen. To sum up, woodcock are roasted with their ‘entrails' still inside them, which then melt and are spread on toast and served with the roast. Yep. If you imagine that woodcock are small birds that were probably killed on a rainy October day then that is exactly what it tastes like: damp bird. Not something I’d race to try again but interesting nevertheless!
· There was an exciting development this week: we were upgraded to a Magimix whilst pastry making! So far we have always had to make pastry the traditional from scratch way, using cutlery knives to rub the butter into the flour. Although a bit laborious to begin with, it means we have a proper understanding and ‘feel’ for the pastry and the various stages. Still, it was definitely exciting to make the apple tarts above in a fraction of the time as we whizzed the flour and butter together in a few seconds. The lengthy bit came when the pastry was done, as we had to practise rolling perfect circles without using a cutter…harder than it sounds I promise! That darn pastry was just determined to roll itself into a square. Soda Bread served at our buffet, not made by me but so pretty!
· On Monday of Week 8 our cookery session was held in mock exam conditions which meant essentially meant silence, particular focus on timing and temperature and no help from teachers. It was quite surreal at the beginning having to walk in in silence and only weigh our own ingredients rather than the usual chat and hubbub as we help each other by one person getting all the flour, one getting all the butter etc. On the menu was Vichysoisse soup and pan fried sole with warm tomato caper dressing and crushed potatoes. It started well, but sadly the day went rapidly downhill for me. I won’t go into every detail but let’s just say the words ‘your soup is almost chewable’ are ingrained in my memory forever…I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t the most motivational start to the week but at the same time it did make the following days seem 10x more fun than normal because they definitely couldn’t be worse! Ah well, onwards and upwards.· Happily, I ended Week 8 on a complete opposite to the way I’d started. Week 8 was also known as Buffet Week as we were in groups of 8 cooking a buffet for 32, with each group cooking on a different morning. This meant we were very lucky and got to eat gorgeous buffet lunches everyday for a week! My group was the last of the week meaning there was lots of pressure following some delicious and beautiful dishes and our teacher expecting us to learn from everything we’d seen! I was in charge of one of our 2 desserts (we had 8 dishes in total) which was the mini pavlovas you see above. Cooking for 32 is the biggest I’ve ever done and compared to the half recipes we normally do in class the quantities felt very strange – 12 egg whites and 600g of sugar for the meringues, over a litre of whipped cream, 18 egg yolksfor the creme anglaise etc.! It was really enjoyable getting to cook our own food for a change and have complete free reign as we designed the menus and presentation. My team worked well together and were very happy with the final result. The pavlovas were topped with orange cream, pomegranate and berries and a slice of bruleed orange which was especially delicious! Bring on week 9. Caramel Apple Tart made by my dessert duo buddy Rosie!