‘Food’ Magazine writer Laura Tucker is spends a week sharpening her cooking skills at Ashburton Cookery School on the Intermediate Cookery Week.
Give us a tuile
I’m not even sure where to begin! Day Three was so packed full of incredible things and it flew by in what felt like less time than it takes to burn a tuile (more on that later) – I am so impressed with how much we’re all learning and making, all testament to the way Ashburton structures it’s classes and teaching techniques. Focused, yet flexible and fun.
In fact, so packed was our day that I’ve decided to dedicate most of this post to sharing some of the tips we picked up from chef Ross. Some are things you may already know or have your own methods for, but many of them refreshed my skills and knowledge, so I thought you might like to know them too.
But before I get into that, I have to tell you about what we prepared, cooked and ate, and I must start with the eagerly anticipated sorbet. For the five (maybe four) minutes it took to eat it, I was momentarily transported to somewhere warm, tropical and idyllic by the smooth, creamy, perfectly balanced sweet and sour coconut and lemon grass. Amazing.
Special mention must go to our tuile-making session (the inspiration for today’s title). A bending, moulding, manipulating frenzy ensued with an array of elaborate and creative delicately crispy sweet biscuits made. Well, a few. There were a lot that burnt, broke, were dropped or eaten well before time. It was a lot of fun.
Our theory session in the morning was pork-based – anatomy and cuts with appropriate cooking methods. Putting theory to practise later, our pork tenderloin ‘en papillote’ with fennel, apple, cider and thyme served with apple mash, carrots and celeriac was blissful.
Remember the poached egg revelation yesterday? Well, the said eggs were quickly heated in boiling water and perched atop lightly smoked haddock on a bed of nutmeggy wilted spinach with melted cheese and curry oil. Oh, and I forgot to mention that we knocked up a quick sourdough overnight which we used to mop up the eggy, curry, cheesy deliciousness.
Right, onto the tips and knowledge refreshers – here are just a few we’ve picked up over the last few days:
- Cheese soaked in milk. Ever wanted to melt hard cheese on top of something (in our case, haddock) without it running everywhere? Immerse it in a bowl of milk, cover, and put it in the fridge for a couple of hours before you need it.
- Two tips in one, you lucky people. Firstly, scrunching greaseproof paper up in a ball then smoothing out before you use it to line something (a tart tin, for example) makes it much easier to handle. Secondly, hold a small piece of greaseproof directly onto the grater before you zest a lemon – all the bits collect on the paper rather than awkwardly down the inside of your grater.
- Boiling veg. Any veg that grows underground (spuds, carrots, etc.) should be brought to the boil in cold water. Any that grow above the ground (broccoli, peas etc.) should be put into the water once it’s boiled.
- You can get fresh yeast for baking from your local baker or supermarket. (And usually it’s free…)
- Chef Ross’s inside tip for plating pretty is to draw a picture of how you’d like your plate to look before you start.
- Braising, stewing and pot-roasting. It’s good to be reminded of the subtle differences: braising means pouring liquid in to half way up the meat and covering with a lid; stewing means fully immersing the meat in liquid and covering with a lid; pot-roasting is basically braising in the oven but without covering, so the top roasts.
- My favourite thing about this week so far was a conversation about making our own dry-cured bacon at home. With a few very simple steps taken over the course of around 10 days, it’ll be good to go. Pop in and ask your local butcher to help – job done! What could be better than a weekend bacon bap that’s completely home-made? Not much, as far as I’m concerned.
So, more than half-way through a fantastic week week and next up is beef, pasta, savoury tarts and crème brulee. (Note to self: next time I go on a residential cookery course, bring my running shoes…) More tomorrow!