So I just ate an almost edible seatrout “timbale” with no signs of the fennel and orange salad by which it was apparently to be accompanied – followed by “seared” seabass with some thick yellow sauce and overcooked potatoes with sloppy fennel. When you “sear” bass in a British Airways oven at 33,000 feet, the result is always going to be less than, erm, well “seared” …. And I’m not sure if it’s the bass or the oven that lends such a tinny taste at this height, but hey – they only said it was “packed with flavour at altitude” – not what flavour it was packed with!!!
Bit of a comedown really after adapting to such refined habits on the More Advanced Cooking course. Same as most things over the past week really. Perhaps the biggest letdown has been the lack of a washer upper chez moi (other than moi)!! Either that or the lack of a chef in a blue apron to rescue things when they’re not quite going to plan!! Or maybe both.
However, if you judge a course by how the participants put what they learnt into action back in their own kitchen – then this one really couldn’t score more highly! Other than 2 days when I really couldn’t eat more than cheese on toast, here’s what I practiced so far:
· Clingfilm – never have I got through so much clingfilm in 1 week! Or perhaps ever! First I rolled up a scallop-crab boudin in parma ham (poached then gently fried) then a cabbage leaf roll filled with properly shredded cabbage (recipe per Nathan Outlaw, but with an added sprinkling of Chef Rob smokey bacon), then I made a roll-up with some hazelnut-herb butter, just to be sure. Queen Sue of the clingfilm (self-proclaimed)!
|Scallop and crab boudin, wrapped in parma ham.|
· Vac-packing pasta – oh yes, it really did work – my ravioli was very thin and flexible, I managed to make them all before the pasta sheets dried out, and they didn’t explode. Also, I felt a bit edgy.
- Fish mousse - of course the filling for the pasta was the crab-scallop mousse, including blanched ginger, just to properly test the 3-step “blend the heck out of it – pulse carefully with just a bit of cream – beat rest of cream in with a spoon, cos only a muppet can f*** it up that way” approach. I proved I am not a muppet, hurrah!!
|Ravioli with crab and scallop mousse, "ratatouille" tarragon sauce, king prawns.|
- Sabayon – heating my many-yolked ice cream custard JUST to the point where it started to thicken on the bottom of the pan, but didn’t scramble. No pressure! Alright yes, I nearly burnt my nose by peering so closely into the pan, but I didn’t care, cos I held my nerve, and it worked!!
|Szechuan pepper ice cream with grilled pineapple and pine nuts (throwback to advanced course!)|
- Gelatine – not only did I use some to stop my lovely cherry and almond sorbet from hardening to a block of bright pink ice, but also made a nice little set watercress cream – ok, so it wasn’t my idea, it was another Nathan Outlaw job – quite similar to the pea jelly, but with a splash of cream. Since I left it in the fridge for quite a while, it set pretty well – until I put hot scallops on it of course, when part melted, and the rest stayed more jellyish, which was all a bit exciting.
|Grilled scallops with hazelnut butter on watercress cream|
- Alcohol as a flavoring. Now this one is truly me – and henceforth, all my sauces have a little splash of “something” just to finish … and my ice creams are all the better for an extra (!) splash of rum (Szechuan pepper, yes of course I tried it again!), or amaretto (cherry and almond, for sometimes I even make up my own recipes)! E14 kitchen now doubles as a cocktail bar – every hour is happy hour!!!
|Mmmmm. Cherry and almond sorbet, amaretto soaked cherries, roasted almonds.|
- Chopping – I had another go at the chicken-bone chopping technique in order to make some stock – and employed same technique for getting thru the spine of a turbot! Proof it works is that I am currently typing with 10 digits, all my own!
Hurrah, my stock is proper - wibble wobble jelly posh turbot stock!
So, I think it’s fair to say that all in all this week has not seen the start of my diet.
Nor has it seen a whole lot of concentration on work – I maintain that little band of chefs put tiny electrodes on my head when I wasn’t looking, to empty it of everything other than cooking. It’s like I was whisked away by aliens in a First Great Western spaceship, and dropped back to Londinium with no recollection of life pre-Gellan F!
So still plenty of things to go at yet – strangely for me, I’m now wriggling out of work trips and airmiles, to stay home and try out some more stuff, for instance:
- Spherification – both forward and reverse. Maybe curry oil spheres with that intermediate haddock recipe – or basil oil spheres with tomato salad. And could you do reverse chocolate goo spheres?? Ooh, or liquorice goo spheres, surely that’s possible??
- Tuiles – a bit disappointed I didn’t get round to tuiles this week, they were starting to feel like chips (easy, cheap, and go brilliantly with everything!)
- Pigs’ ears – if only to upset my sister who swears they are horrid and she won’t eat ‘em.
- Smoking – the gun has not been back in action, but I’m going to do the brining chicken breast prior to smoking trick I scribbled down at one point!
The chef was Ross Burden – born the same day as me, died last week in Auckland, NZ. The inspiration and enthusiasm he passed on and all the things he taught me are priceless! I’ll never forget.Push on!