Week 9, the penultimate week of this term! Involving a new language, a Masterchef moment and another foray into mass catering – it was a memorable one.
I’ve spoken before about how long it took me to get to grips with chicken jointing. This week we took it up a notch – boning a whole chicken. Taking a chicken and then removing every single bone and tendon but leaving the meat and skin intact in one piece. I knew it would be a challenge the moment I had it explained to me and my slow (but hopefully steady?!) progress doing it in the kitchen on Monday only served to prove this. However, I did actually find it satisfying and almost made more sense to me than jointing did, so it is just a question of improving my speed! Plus, an impromptu fire drill just after my chicken came out of the oven meant it had time to rest without me being late for service! Perfect.Learning to cook can sometimes be like learning a whole new language – a point highlighted by this week’s dessert of ‘bavarois, lebkuchen and tamarillos’. I don’t think I’d heard of any of these things before I started life at Leiths but I’m sure my life has been improved now I have. The honey bavarois reminded me of the hot milk and honey I drink when I’m ill…but in a really good way! Tamarillos are a South American fruit sometimes described as a sweet tomato and taste completely different raw and cooked. When raw, the skin is really bitter and leaves an unpleasant tannic aftertaste but once poached the centre softens and becomes jammy and sweet, like a raspberry candy. Delicious!Wednesday was mock exam day and considering the (let’s be honest) debacle of my last mock exam it was a relief just to serve something vaguely edible – raw venison steak not included! My nerves were raised by the fact that I’d never cooked a venison steak or a fondant potato before – my only image of a fondant potato being from Masterchef and John Torode cutting angrily into still solid carb cylinders. Happily mine was fully cooked, if a little smushed (a highly technical term) and actually probably the least stressful element of the day. That award goes to soufflé making for when we opened our oven hoping to take our fully cooked, beautifully risen soufflés out just in time for service… only to find our oven had gone out and our soufflés were all still decidedly raw. Nevertheless a few deep breaths, a new oven and 15 minutes later and all was not lost!It seems only fitting for a cookery school to centre all social engagements around food, hence the canapé party for 200 people on Friday evening that the whole year cooked for during the day. I find something childishly entertaining about mass catering. There’s the quantities involved: 45 egg yolks and litres of cream for the crème anglaise, 3 whole bottles of pink champagne for jelly. Hunting the kitchens for the biggest bowls and whisks possible which make you feel like a giant and a dwarf at the same time. Counting out and dusting 220 tiny shotglasses for mini trifles (I was part of the days Trifle Trio with the fab Rosie and Dom) – it’s a whole new world. It’s also just immensely gratifying – seeing 200 people enjoying something you’ve made, no matter how small, is unsurprisingly incredibly rewarding and makes a huge change from just serving one plate to one teacher. Bring on week 10 – the last of this term!