‘Food’ Magazine writer Laura Tucker is spends a week sharpening her cooking skills at Ashburton Cookery School on the Intermediate Cookery Week.
I’m naming the second day of our five-day course at Ashburton Cookery School ‘Easter Tuesday’ because I conquered two of my long time challenges: poached eggs and lamb (get it? Eggs, lamb…).
Not only did I nail my first poached egg after a short tuition from Phil, but it’s now sitting in a nice little plastic tub in the vast walk-in fridge ready to be finished off as part of our lunch menu for the next day. Who knew? Poached eggs part-cooked then finished off in a couple of minutes to order! A true revelation I can tell you, however one that now means I probably can’t get away with expecting my husband to make breakfast at the weekends…
Lamb has never been my favourite meat. I’m not really sure why, possibly something to do with an unfortunate childhood experience when one of our semi-pet Black Welsh Mountain sheep was killed by a roaming dog… Or it could simply be a lack of knowing what to do with it. Either way, I was anxious about facing up to my lamb-fear but ready to take it on and conquer.
During our half-hour of theory first thing in the morning, we were talked through the different cuts of lamb and straight away I began feeling more confident – it’s amazing how just understanding where the meat you’re going to be eating has come from helps make sense of the best ways to prepare it. So, presented with a beautiful Best End (more commonly known as a Rack), locally sourced for Ashburton, I got stuck in with French trimming (which basically means to make something look prettier) ready for cooking. Success! We cooked this with creamy and garlicky Dauphinoise potatoes, green vegetables, a fricassee of wild mushrooms including Trompettes, Girolles, Hedgehog (yes, really), Chestnut, Chanterelles and Pied Bleus and the most delicious Madeira sauce that we all agreed was the making of the plate. Rich, silky (oh hello, ‘monte au beurre’ – another reason to love butter) and full of incredible flavours from shallots, Madeira and chicken stock.
Sounds like a lot, right? That’s nothing! Lunch was a fresh, vibrant take on a classic Vichyssoise soup (a leek and potato soup, traditionally served cold. By the way, did you know that the green part of a leek is called the ‘flag’? No, me neither) with jewel-like flecks of fresh chives and a selection of bread rolls. We made a rich tomato sauce to be used later in the week and an almond and hazelnut praline which we sprinkled over a light Grand Marnier-laced Sabayon with fresh fruit. You won’t be surprised to hear that there was mass excitement among the group when the blow torches came out to add an extra dimension to the pudding. It’s no myth, they are just as exciting in real life as they look on TV.
So with Easter well and truly in the bag, I’m excited about what Day Three has to offer, especially as the second of our two teaching chefs, Ross, will be taking over for a couple of days and will no doubt be arriving with yet more exciting ideas and techniques to share with us.
Also, I’ve been drooling about the third day’s coconut sorbet ever since we arrived on Monday – I’m already envisaging having our entire freezer at home full of this to see us through the summer months.