And so it begins…out of the frying pan, into the fire

Our first full week at Ashburton kicked off with a slightly Italian theme. We were left in the capable hands of Joe Bartlett, a wonderful chef with a stonkingly good Instagram page. Our morning began with the task of creating French baguettes (not quite Italian yet, I know) which left us all in a bit of a sticky mess. We attempted to master the kneading technique for a wet dough, comprised of scooping it up and chucking it down. The room was filled with the sounds of dough slapping on marble, and after some hard graft we ended up with some beautifully rustic baguettes to enjoy with our lunch.Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 18.02.06

A perk of our top end course is that we are allowed to use some of the finest ingredients in all the land. Our lunch consisted of a saffron risotto, with wild mushrooms and pears. It is fair to say that some of us were dubious about the idea of a pear lurking in our risotto, but it complemented the dish beautifully. Using an ingredient worth more per gram than gold, plus utterly unreasonable amounts of butter, turned out a delicious plate of food.Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 18.00.52

The afternoon brought with it adventures with fresh pasta. We whacked out our pasta dough that we’d made in the morning, and began to crank it through the machine. Joe made it look so effortless during the demo, never getting in a tangle and ending up with a uniform sheet of transparent pasta.IMG_2659

My attempts to replicate his method left me in a bit of a wonky mess! But he soon put it to rights, and my pasta nests were formed.IMG_2661

We whipped up a meat ragu, using a tomato sauce that we’d lovingly made from scratch in the morning, plus a creamy and rich tagliatelle carbonara.Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 18.01.18We were each given a whole chicken to butcher, taking apart the legs, breast, wings and crown. It was amazing to witness how from one whole chicken costing £8, you can end up with enough bits and bobs to last you multiple dishes throughout the week. From now on, I think we’ve all been converted to buying the bird whole and breaking it down ourselves! Using the leg, we made a beautiful coq au vin, with buttery mashed potato and a crispy bacon rind for a garnish. Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 18.01.57Saying a sad goodbye to Joe who had to go upstairs to teach a Patisserie course, we met the lovely Ross who was going to look after us for the next three days. With his guidance, we made a roasted vegetable and goats cheese tart, with a fennel slaw.Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 18.02.15The slaw was made using our very own mayonnaise, which was a total dream. Never again shall I buy the whiter than white Hellman’s bottle! This stuff was light, creamy, and versatile enough to transform into an aioli, tartare sauce or even a sauce to serve with fish if you squeeze in a bit of blood orange.

After lunch, having debated the matter of which recipe results in the best brownies (Hummingbird bakery gets my vote), we whipped up a batch of individual chocolate brownies containing chopped hazelnuts and white chocolate chips. Still warm, we drizzled some dark chocolate into fancy patterns onto a plate, filled them with a creme anglaise that we’d made the previous day, and garnished the plate with fresh strawberries and edible flowers.Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 18.02.22Having guzzled it down, on a collective sugar rush we whizzed round the kitchen to do our clean up. It genuinely took half the time than usual!

Armed with leftovers to feed a small army, us three at Finlake are lucky enough to know a team of hungry fitness instructors who are more than happy to help out. They are currently enjoying a lemon drizzle cake of mine, with the promise of more to come. This is great news, as in the next few days we are making treacle tarts, bakewell tarts, and God knows what else!

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