Leiths: Foundation Term, Week 4

Let this week go down in history as the week that I actually seasoned some things correctly. On Monday, I made cauliflower cheese, and the seasoning was pronounced acceptable.

Let us all take a moment to consider this achievement.

Let’s bask in the glow of a correctly seasoned cauliflower cheese.



The ride continued when, on Tuesday, I produced well-seasoned spinach and chicken in tomato sauce. Then, on Wednesday and Thursday, well-seasoned fish. Want to know the secret? Loads of salt. Seriously. You season something as you normally would. Then add more salt. Add more salt. Think that’s enough? Ha. Fool. Add more salt. Now you’re good.

Another first, though less triumphant: this week I got my first burn. Not my first burn ever, obviously, but my first at Leiths. I took a tray from a 200 degree oven using oven gloves that had a hole in them. I didn’t realise they had a hole in them until the whole pain and burning flesh bit. Ow ow ow. Aren’t burns annoying? You sort of forget how inconvenient they are until you get one and then you remember the stinging. Oh, the stinging. On the plus side, that was on the Monday morning that we made roast beef as a table of four, and everything went surprisingly swimmingly. We had so much to do that morning that we thought we’d be stymied from the off, but we worked efficiently as a group and hit the service time perfectly. Also, best lunch ever.


Continuing down First Lane, we had our first real and proper exam this week: the WSET Level 1. Now, luckily we weren’t examined on our wine tasting skills, because as I have mentioned before, I am a bit, um, terrible at tasting wine like a professional. It tastes of booze, damnit, now bring me the bottle and stop asking questions. Instead, we had a 45 minute multiple choice question paper. Luckily they don’t tell us the results until just before Christmas, so I’ve got ages before I have to find out how badly I’ve done.

On Wednesday, we filleted sole. Tip: do not wield a very sharp filleting knife if your hands are shaking. Luckily we got to have another go at filleting on some beautiful plaice on Thursday and I managed to avoid completely cocking it up. We also made delicious meringues of joy (technical term for you there). You know, I thought I wasn’t that mad on meringues – I mean, I’ll eat them, I’m not crazy, it’s dessert – but when Hannah made them in the dem last week they were so good that I changed my mind, and luckily mine went well too. Perhaps I have just been doing them wrong for years. Anyway, I am a meringue convert.


We also had a cake dem with Sue, which was amazing because, well, cake dem. Scones, fruit cake, Swiss roll, ginger cake, yoghurt cake, Victoria sandwich… this was right after the meringues as well, so I floated home on a cloud of sugar. That’s a lie, obviously: it poured rain that day and I slogged back to the station to cram onto a train as always. But that’s a less romantic image.


This week, we also made Christmas cakes. In October. We’re going to lovingly feed and nurture them with alcohol for the next few weeks until we get to decorate and, hopefully, eat them. I must admit that traditional fruit cake is not usually my favourite, but when we tried some in Sue’s cake dem it was actually delicious. I am quite happy with how my little cake came out and am really looking forward to tasting it. In a few weeks. We’re all about the delayed gratification.


I went into the week thinking that Friday would be a lovely day, as we were starting with a slow-cooking meat dem and finishing by making lots of cake. Unfortunately, I reckoned without my comically brilliant ability to injure myself in ridiculous ways. I got up at 5.30am as usual, got into the shower, leaned down to pick something up, and my back went. I’ve been having issues with my back since an accident way back in July (I was trying roller derby and the universe always warns me off organised sports by making terrible things happen to me), but this is the first time I have had the experience of my back going from fine to completely not fine in one second for no apparent reason. I was literally paralysed, couldn’t move my legs, and thought I was going to black out from the pain. Poor James was sleeping, as normal people generally are at 5.45am, and was roused by me hysterically shouting for him in panic. He had to carry me out of the shower and lay me on the bed and together we slowly worked to get my legs moving again. Romance isn’t dead, people.

At this point, I was crying with pain, prostrate on my back, and half-paralysed, but bullish and determined to make it into school because I am a massive idiot. I took many painkillers and put on a heat pack and practised walking slowly around the bedroom until I felt less like collapsing. Of course, this all took such a long time that I missed my train, and I knew there was no way I’d be able to ride a bike for 4.5 miles at the other end of the journey anyway, so I decided to drive from Oxford to London. It was after I’d been stuck in solid, unmoving, accident traffic on the M40 for half an hour, still in agony and starving because I’d not had the chance to have breakfast, that I started to think that perhaps I should have admitted defeat and stayed in bed.

It was all worth it in the end though, because Heli did the slow cooking dem for us, and the food was pure, delicious comfort. Cottage pie, lamb daube, carbonnade of beef, oxtail stew, and loads of mashed potato. I sat in the dem room and slowly calmed down, aided by occasional injections of slow cooked meat and carbs. Then I limped through an afternoon of baking. My Victoria sandwich was one of the messiest cakes I have ever made, but I was happy with my Swiss roll, and even happier that I got to gently medicate myself with sugar all afternoon.


On Monday we begin Week 5, the completion of which will mark the halfway point of the first term. Somehow it’s nearly November, the leaves are going, I’m back in wool tights and knee-high boots, and the fact that there are Christmas things in the shops doesn’t seem utterly ridiculous.

I bought some Calvados to feed my Christmas cake. That’ll work, right?