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Archive for January, 2012

Two weeks in and I am beginning to settle in to my new life. Days are long, information is plentiful, the pace of learning is relentless. Days are split in half, either cooking or watching demonstrations, scribbling madly to ensure nothing is missed as you are bound to be cooking it, or a variation sooner or later. Then it is home to write a timeplan for the next day.

In the past couple of weeks  I have probably consumed as much, if not more,  butter, cream and meat than in the six months previous. Sweating onion in olive oil is a distant memory, everything is cooked in butter. I’ve pot roasted partridge with lentils and pancetta, made veal and ham raised pie, baked creme caramels, ridged, rolled and folded flaky pastry for my chicken pie, made gougeres, risotto, hollandaise, and enjoyed trout en papilote.

Demonstrations are great, yesterday we munched our way through various offal. I enjoy calved livers but rarely venture beyond them in restaurants or in my own kitchen, so I was pleasantly surprise to love lamb kidneys, faggots, and slivers of pan fried ox heart. Tripe less so – just because it is so bland! I will definitely be more confident ordering offal dishes in future.

They warned us we would be exhausted by the end of the first two weeks and they were right. My fatigue was enhanced by completing the cooking for 50 challenge, where 4 of us cooked for the harshest of critics, fellow students. It was up to the wire – making vast amount of rough puff pastry took longer than I thought but my right angles are now near perfect –  we made it and the majority seemed to enjoy it. We get feedback next week…

 

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For the next six months I will be making the trek from North East London to Shepherds Bush, a three hour commute. First week excitment has had me jumping (well crawling out of bed) at 6.30am (an hour not usually known to me) to get there in time to change into my chef whites.

On the first day 19 or so excited yet nervous new intermediate chef school students entered the glass doors of Leiths School of Food and Wine. Some confident in their abilities, others wondering if they should have done the foundation term. We were issued with chef jackets, blue check, elasticated trousers, skull caps, neck ties, aprons and the most hidious kitchen shoes known to man. This certainly isn’t a fashion parade! The first morning was spent learning a little about the course, assessment and what we would be covering in the first week, with many references to “this should be revision to you, you should know this”. Cue nervous glances from nearly every student in the room. Did we know enough? We were about to find out…

Dressed in our chef whites for the first time, our knife skills were put to the test on an onion and a carrot. My onion chopping skills passed muster, my carrot batons needed a little practice to be at the required 90 degree angle demanded by our firm but friendly teacher. Next up was preping and cooking a rack of lamb which made a delicious lunch before an afternoon of demonstrations.

Thursday was a whole day in the kitchen, we’d all made a timeplan the night before and set to putting our shortcrust pastry skills to the test by making Quiche Lorraine. Now I’m not usually a fan of Quiche Lorraine, a bit retro, a bit naff, but done properly, I had to admit it was rather delicious. Beef Carbonnade was even better and Mr W. appreciated the Lemon Sole Meuniere for dinner, even though it had been reheated – not great for fish.

Friday concluded with an afternoon of wine tasting, I’ll admit to swallowing the wines I did like, it was Friday afternoon afterall but I won’t be repeating it in the morning class. Perhaps not a great idea when one has to brandish knives in the afternoon.

So at the end of the first week I still have all my fingers and have yet to burn myself but I did along with 80% of the class gain a blue plaster after cutting myself on my very sharp new knives. Fortunately, it is only a teeny cut, there were worse – much worse! Even better I met the required level to join the foundation students whom I meet tomorrow along with my tutor.

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