‘Food’ Magazine writer Laura Tucker is spends a week sharpening her cooking skills at Ashburton Cookery School on the Intermediate Cookery Week.
Wow, what a day! After nine hours of chopping, poaching, sweating (onions, not me, yet…), seasoning, boning, frying, peeling, melting, crushing, quenelle-ing and piping, I’m already feeling inspired and excited about getting back into our kitchen at home. And there are four more days to go!
Our tutor Phil is one of those people whose boundless energy and passion for what he does has quickly rubbed off on the six of us in the group. All from different backgrounds with varying levels of experience and knowledge, I think we’ve all managed to pick up some great ideas, tips and new skills already and the endless questions and comments from each of us don’t phase Phil at all, which instantly sets everyone at ease. With so much to get through in a day, the pace is pretty fast but it never feels rushed and there’s always time to go over or practise new things. I secretly thrive under a bit of pressure too, so it works for me.
Although I consider myself to be quite at ease in a kitchen environment, I’ve really noticed today that having to think about how you prepare and cook each element of a dish puts a whole different level of pressure on cooking – I made a couple of real school-girl errors during the course of the day… I won’t embarrass myself by sharing the details with you, but let’s just say that I would definitely advise putting a bowl underneath a sieve before you pass a stock through it… yup, that happened.
You may remember from yesterday’s blog that I set a goal for the week: making friends with meat. Well, today, I most definitely made friends with a chicken and I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself about it. Two beautiful breasts, a couple of fillets (ok, one and a half, I had a few knife issues), lovely legs and a couple of wings, and a mound of bountiful off-cuts simmering in the stock pot. Never again will I buy ready-prepared cuts of chicken – it really and truly took no time at all, even for a first-timer with limited knife skills and squeamish tendencies. A first day triumph!
We worked in a mixture of pairs and individually during the day and got to spend time getting to know each other over lunch and supper, which we’ll be eating each day in the school’s lovely garden dining room. The fruits of our labour included lunch of poached salmon with saffron risotto and supper of chicken breast on a bed of ‘Paysanne’ vegetables followed by a chocolate pot with booze-soaked fruit and crushed amaretti biscuits topped off with cream quenelles and chocolate work – my goodness was it delicious. I got a bit over excited with the chocolate piping work and here’s a little ‘ode’ to my lovely colleagues back in the food mag offices. Hope you like it guys!
And so on to the next culinary adventure. Lamb is our focus for the day – admittedly one of my less favoured meats and therefore the one I have least experience with, so I’m excited to get to grips with it. Easter is coming up, after all, so it only seems appropriate to add it to my repertoire at this time of year at least.
More to come tomorrow…