After three days of learning about the perils of food safety, it is safe to say that we were positively champing at the bit to get into the kitchen. We were treated to the most delicious lunches every day, with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies to go with our teas. How spoilt are we?!
Chicken curry with basmati rice and coriander.
To fuel us pre-exam, we had freshly baked bread, local butter, a selection of Devonshire cheeses and cured hams. (Pinched from Paul – there are times when the hunger takes over and a photograph is forgotten!)
Friday finally came around and we were released from the classroom, to don our stiff and starchy chef’s whites for the first time. We each have our own pristine section in the kitchen, comprised of a marble topped workspace, two induction hobs, two gas hobs plus an oven to share. You have an array of knives that are too sharp for words, every type of utensil and crockery, all of which have to be replenished at the end of the day. There’s a magical trolley where we put all of the dirties, and they instantly reappear washed and dried by the lovely kitchen porters.
After being told the kitchen do’s and don’t’s (do keep your station sparklingly clean, don’t ever try to catch a falling knife), we kicked off the day by making dough for our white bread rolls. The chef, Rob, gave a demonstration at the front of the kitchen (complete with fancy cameras and TV screens to see a bird’s eye view), and talked us through the motions while we scribbled notes on our recipes. He then sent us away to complete the steps, before returning to the front for our next demonstration. The pace was rapid, as there is so much to get through in one day. It was made a thousand times speedier with the help of Tom, a chef tutor, who set out all the pre-weighed ingredients, for each recipe, for each student, and helped us along the way with our kneading technique and (lack of) knife skills.
We played around with our six bread rolls, sprinkling some with cumin, poppy and sesame seeds, and snipping others into funky shapes. The one pictured above and behind is supposed to be a hedgehog roll. We were all blown away by the wonderful taste and flavour of our freshly baked bread, even being as simple and humble as these white bread rolls. The local butter they have at Ashburton just so happens to be crazily nice, which helps!
We enjoyed the resulting rolls with our vichyssoise for lunch, which in fact, is the humble leek and potato soup (this was news to me, too). The soup was silky smooth, garnished with double cream, chopped chives and a swirl of truffle oil.The whopping amounts of salt used to season these dishes along the process of cooking is astounding, but we are reassured at every corner that it is well needed, and our tastebuds will thank us for it. Our knife skills were put to the test with a dish of vegetable broth, involving different types of cut for each type of vegetable. We learnt the brunoise cut, which is for cubes of carrot. The paysanne cut, meaning peasant’s cut, sort of follows the shape of the vegetable, but sliced thinly. The macedoine cut is the smallest dice, so is going to involve lots of practice with chopping onions and watering eyes.Again, I forgot to take a photograph of my broth, so I pinched Paul’s! It was a wonderfully fresh soup, with all the vegetables you can imagine (plus bacon for the carnivores) and pearl barley for some sustenance. We presented our dishes in the dining room where our chef tutor, Tom, gave us all individual feedback.Mine got a bit splashed, but it says:
Presentation: good, clean, a little too much liquid. Seasoning: almost there (a little more). Veg cuts: good, room for improvement. Cooking good, nice texture. Well done.
All in all, I was over the moon with my comments! Myself and Tom were sharing a section, and we both followed the recipe to a ‘T’ which I think stood us in good stead. We both started off a bit slow in the morning, but got into our stride by the afternoon and felt a lot more on top of things. We both needed to be told to loosen up and relax a bit with our knife skills. You find yourself chopping a piece of carrot, getting more and more tense, gripping the knife handle for dear life. It just takes someone to say ‘Relax, it’s only a vegetable!’ and it all becomes a lot easier.
To finish off the day, we enjoyed our dark chocolate pots which had been setting in the fridge. They took a grand total of two seconds to make, where all we had to do was heat double cream, whisk in chocolate, olive oil and sea salt. They were beautiful! So smooth, not overly sweet, topped with vanilla cream and some musically inspired chocolate work.Unphotographed, we also baked scones to take home which were light, fluffy and delicious. Despite this first day being a supposedly simple day of cuisine, I was blown away by the flavour of every dish that we produced, and how professionally ran the whole day was. Our itinerary for next week is packed with more and more complex dishes, which is just so exciting! Now, you’ll have to excuse me, I’m off to buy a bag of onions to practice my macedoine.