Isn’t it amazing how a four day week feels like a special and magical treat when you are used to a five day working week routine? Only one day off, and suddenly everything seems much more lovely. Thursday is the new Friday. Wednesday is the new Thursday. By the end of Tuesday, you’re already halfway through. It’s excellent.
Can you tell I had a four day week this week?
Once again, we started our Monday morning with a wine lecture. It’s a bit of an odd curriculum choice, because I never particularly feel like wine quite so early, especially not on a Monday. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still drank it. I’m only registering that it feels strange. We also got served food to taste with the wine to see how they affected each other, which I was very happy about because the food included goats’ cheese and duck. Might be too early for wine; never too early for goats’ cheese. That’s my new motto.
Monday afternoon featured a disarmingly relaxing cooking session. We started off by making a lovage cream. Don’t know what that is? Me neither, really: before I started this course I hadn’t a clue what lovage was, let alone how one might make a cream out of it. I’ll show you a picture in a minute and then you will be enlightened. We also made cheese soufflés, which I don’t have a picture of because mine were rubbish. A savoury soufflé is a dish that requires both a soft, slightly undercooked centre and a risen, proud and golden dome. Suffice to say it’s quite tricky to achieve both these things and mine ended up looking a bit anaemic. Still ate them, obviously.
Tuesday morning started with an offal dem, which I was happy about because I love offal, and which I estimate around 85% of students were not happy about because they decidedly did not love offal.
In the picture above you can see Phil lovingly caressing the ‘pluck’ from a pig. This is the entirety of a pig’s innards which have been plucked from the animal and left intact. This was the morning during which we ate liver, kidneys, sweetbreads, heart, and bone marrow. All frightfully good for you and absolutely delicious.
In afternoon we served our lovage cream, which had set from the day before, and I actually got complimented on my presentation for the first time in approximately, ooh… forever.
We then made a honey bavarois to serve the following day – on which more later – and our first attempt at pâte sucrée, a French sweet pastry. We made it the classic way (of course), which involves no whizzing up of ingredients in a machine but rather smushing (the technical term is ‘pecking’, but it felt like smushing to me) butter, sugar, and egg yolks together with our fingers directly on to the table top. This very much appealed to the five year old in me who misses finger painting, and all in all it was much more fun that shortcrust.
Wednesday’s dem had a far wider appeal than Tuesday’s offal offering, because it was on steaming. Think treacle sponge, steak and kidney pudding, and stacks of steamed vegetables. I have never steamed a pudding in my life (well, had never, I should say, because we did one the next day), and while it did all seem like a bit of a hassle, I have to say the end results were absolutely delicious and have almost inspired me to purchase a pudding basin. I might cheat and buy one with its own lid though, so as to avoid faffing around making a water-tight foil and greaseproof seal and a handle out of string.
The afternoon saw the return of offal, with the preparation of the kidney dish you see below. Kidneys are actually surprisingly tricky little things to prep: you need to remove their outer membrane and internal vein system, both of which are pretty fiddly and hard to do without damaging the delicate meat. I was praised on the taste of my sauce but criticised for my sloppy presentation, which is pretty much the norm for me.
We also served our honey bavarois, made the day before (told you I’d come back to it), with roasted rhubarb and pâte sucrée biscuits. A bavarois, for the uninitiated, is a custard lightened with cream and set with gelatine, and I was very happy with mine because it was completely delicious. I made lemon and ginger biscuits to go with it, along with the rhubarb you see there. I love the sharpness of rhubarb and can eat it raw – yes I know you’re not supposed to do that – so I left it with a bit of bite and sourness to contrast with the sweetness of the bavarois and biscuits. This turned out to be a bad idea which slightly horrified the tastebuds of the teacher marking that day.
We ended the week on Thursday with another dem from Phil, this time on sauces. It’s not as theatrical a subject as offal but Phil managed to keep it interesting and everything we got to taste was amazing. Sauces are one of those things that aren’t too flashy or necessarily particularly theoretically exciting, but worth getting right because a really good one can boost an average dish into another category.
In the afternoon we got to exercise our newly acquired steaming skills to make a treacle sponge. The collective amount of effort it took in the kitchen to get the entire classes’ sponges neatly wrapped up and kept snug in a pot of cheerfully bubbling water that never boiled dry was pretty astounding, and I went back to thinking it was all too much of a pain to manage until I tasted mine and it was airy and sweet and warmingly lovely and I started thinking about buying a pudding basin again. We also made a wood pigeon salad, which you may have noticed at the top of the page. It was my choice cover photo this week because once again I was actually praised on my presentation. Either my class teacher was feeling very forgiving or perhaps I am finally learning something.
My fabled three day weekend has now almost drawn to a close, along with Week 3. I am firmly back in the swing of term now: gone are the holiday days of binge-watching Orange Is The New Black and baking experimental brownies. Come at me, Week 4.