Wednesday already? Week 2.

So that expanding waistline that I was anticipating? Well it began today. I made a summer veg tart with a shortcrust pastry and double cream quiche filling. To accompany, I made in class a no-holds-barred full fat mayo coleslaw with a mix of meditaranian vegetables, drizzled with olive oil and toasted nuts.

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And dessert (because one must always have a two course lunch) was a chocolate brownie with custard. Teardrop custard that is – which basically means a wobbly line of chocolate shaped into a teardrop (or in my case, a pear) into which a thin layer of custard is poured. Now if you ask me, anything that comes with custard should be served with a jug of the custard on the side which should be so good you want to see people necking it from the jug. But anyway, I like the idea of the chocolate teardrop although its execution proved problematic and the portion of custard a bit scrimpy for my liking.

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I didn’t take too many photos today because I was concerned about inducing photographic fatigue upon my (imagined) audience and because I left my camera in the locker room this morning but I did want to show you my cream of onion soup which just involved blitzing and sieving some slow cooked sautéed onions and stock and a dash of cream but was actually surprising tasty. Although having said that, I find that most proper soups – made from fresh ingredients taste pretty damn good.

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Anyway today we had a mock assessment of our soup, and in the name of consistency I though I would share the feedback. So…the taste was good but apparently it needed a tad more salt, the portion was too small (last time we had an assessment I was told the portion was too big…) and the chives garnishing the soup were bruised (yes, this is true, I need to sharpen my knife). The salt thing is a tough one. You see, I really thought I had enough salt in my soup. In fact I was a bit concerned that I’d put too much in and so its difficult to know what to do if somebody (your tutor especially) would prefer even more salt in the dish. I think, given that our tutor was generally happy with my dish, I’d leave the salt content as it is.  I do think its dangerous veering away from your own tastebuds and second guessing somebody else’s because then you have no benchmark – everything becomes guesswork. I like my tastebuds and I do trust them, so there. And provided that the assessor generally approves of the dishes I make, I hope that come assessment day, he would cut me some slack regarding marginal variations in salt? We had a really enthusiastic course tutor this week though and its a shame it was his last day with us but tomorrow we shall have a new tutor with whom I can continue to conduct my salt experimentations…

Anyway enough chat, I’ve just got back from a boozy dinner with my coursemates and its really about time for bed.

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Night night.

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Monday and Tuesday, Week 2 at the Ashburton Cookery School

I remain committed to posting. Absolutely. When I was ten years old I kept a diary with the intention of writing in it everyday – a tall order and I think I kept it for two weeks.  So its in these early stages that I realise that even with this blog, I’m not going to beat myself up for not post daily updates (especially given that I’m basically just posting to myself). But anyway, I’m still absurdly excited by all the new things I’m learning so let me go over in painstaking detail what I’ve done over the past few days here at the Ashburton Cookery School and you (really meaning me) will have to forgive me if in the future, my posts become a little less frequent.

Monday: A good day! I made a saffron risotto with wild mushroom and pears. I probably would add more pear next time and probably not sauté them in butter because I like the crunch and flavour of the pears raw. However we had the  risotto for lunch and the wild mushrooms were delicious – first time ever that I’ve had morel mushrooms and they are truly the king of mushrooms. If you want to talk about meaty mushrooms the discuss morels at length. Its just a shame that they are so eye-wateringly expensive to buy. If you do buy them however then you wouldn’t go far wrong incorporating them into a simple risotto dish (although fry the mushrooms off separetly and add at the end to get the best out of them.

I also made fresh pasta and a mixed meat ragu.  I like making pasta although I have a fiddly machine at home with which the handle and the attachment keep falling off. But the handle and attachment were just as wobbly at the school and the pasta still turned out well so its given me more confidence (and more importantly, the motivation) to use my pasta machine at home more often now.

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At the end of the day we were mock assessed on our pasta dish and I received positive feedback which made my day! I’m obviously too modest to relay the feedback exactly but I have helpfully included a picture of the dish with the written feedback attached…


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Tuesday: A medium day. Before Tuesday I had never made decent shortcrust pastry. By the end of Tuesday I have yet to make decent shortcrust pastry… Short shortcrust gives you a nice crumbly finish once baked, but frankly its pretty much as crumbly even before baking. You can add a little more water to get a moister dough which is easier to handle (cracks less and gives a nicer finish) but I don’t like the idea of it. The texture is softer and less crumbly and I just don’t want to make anything that’s second rate (even though my method gives me raggedy looking tarts that looks like they’ve been glued together by a six year old).  It was the same problem today as always, I just wouldn’t make a moister dough, I stubbornly made it as short as possible (i.e. as little water as possible) and voila a crumbly crappy dough that I had to patch onto the tart tin. We’re making summer veg tart with it tomorrow so let’s see how that turns out.

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Also made baguettes today. Dough was much wetter than with the dinner rolls I made last week but that’s how I like it. I’ve also started a sourdough starter as an after hours activity (a 2 minute job) so that I can make sourdough bread for the July supperclub but a bit early to tell whether it will take hold…

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Tuesday ended well though. Last thing we made today was a lemon drizzle cake. Yum. I’d forgotten about cakes of this ilk. Why aren’t all cakes doused with syrup after baking? Seriously. It makes the cake moist and flavoursome and oh so squidgy. I think I’ve finally found my calling – I’ll start the Drizzle Cake Company: Lemon Drizzle, Lime Drizzle, Ginger Drizzle, Carrot Cinnamon Drizzle. I took the cake to a salsa class in Ashburton and one classmate even suggested I could get 50p a slice. So let’s see…£5 a day, £35 a week (assuming no wastage) so minus cost of ingredients… £100 a year. Maybe I won’t be turning drizzle cakes into a global phenomenon anytime soon afterall…

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End of Week 1 at Ashburton Cookery School

So I’ve just finished my fifth day at the Ashburton Cookery School. Wow I’m tired. As I mentioned we took three days out of the kitchen to do a Food Safety Course which wasn’t nearly as dull as I feared. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no pathogen groupie but it was helpful from a business angle e.g. knowing what laws a food business would need to comply with, and the resources the Food Safety Authority have for small business to get the HACCP plan in place. It was also enlightening to the extent that I understood that the routine that a chef undergoes in the kitchen on a day to day basis, labelling, clean down, placing old produce over new produce, all has a foundation in legislation.  Hmmm I get the feeling that I’m still not making it sound interesting… Well, anyway we had a great course tutor so hats off to her.

Anyway, back in the kitchen today and it was super packed making omelette, scones, chocolate pots and chocolate run-outs as decoration.

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Yes I know I went a bit overboard with the decoration…

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The chocolate pot was… well look at it! I could live off chocolate pot alone.

We also made bread rolls (and we’re graduating to baguettes on Monday). Ashburton Days 2-5 058

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We did more cutting of vegetables which today involved a little nick of my finger as well. But I was very brave and didn’t cry. I actually macedoined a carrot to the gruff approval of our chef tutor today so I think the cut finger was all part of the sacrifice.

So hot tip of the day? Well… (1) If you want a well risen scone, don’t roll the dough out too thin. But then, who doesn’t know that? (2) when making the scones, don’t twist the scones and dip the cutter into the flour each time before pressing into the dough so that the dough doesn’t stick; (3)  If you heat the cream too much so that it is too hot then your chocolate ganache will split. Now that’s a tip! The number of times I’ve made ganache, and it’s split doesn’t bear thinking about (in fact, it happened just two days ago). But now I know – so never again will it happen. True fact. :-)

The only sad part of the day was when I coloured my omelette. A true omlette should never brown and although we made an omelette for lunch which I thought was delicious, I was disappointed because in my insistence to take a picture of my omelette while it was cooking, the omelette browned.

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Although this may also have had something to do with the fact that I left the omelette over the heat and apparently I missed the bit where out chef tutor told us that we should turn the stove off on adding the egg and let the residual heat cook the egg (?). But no fear my friends – I made omelette again for dinner – with no colour!  I also flavoured it with some wild thyme flowers I found in a field this afternoon but I’ll let you read my next post for more detail (I’m trying to organise my posts thematically).

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First Day at Ashburton Cookery School

First Day At Ashburton 001 First Day At Ashburton 002 First Day At Ashburton 005 First Day At Ashburton 009 First Day At Ashburton 015 First Day At Ashburton 017A day of firsts. First day at Ashburton Cookery School and first day of my blog. Its been a busy day!

So I started the day meeting my fellow students and our tutors explained the format of the week ahead.  Disappointingly the first week is a little sparse on the take home goodies side of things but the subsequent 5 weeks more than make up for it (lemon drizzle cake, treacle tart, Bakewell tart in week 2…) The pot belly is an inevitable eventuality I fear.

We learned to cut vegetables in this afternoon; onions, shallots, fennel, leeks, carrots, tomatoes, garlic (the list of vegetables go on but I won’t bore you).  I got really quite (over)excited at all this and maybe overdosed on the number of photos I took of my cut vegetables (the pictures I’ve attached are only a tiny selection!).  Spot the julienned, brunoised and paysanned vegetable. No prizes given to the correct answers. Aren’t the tomatoes rather well concassed? And the macedoined carrots are really quite attractive no? Ok, fine, enough of that. Anyway, then we sweated the chopped vegetables and blended to make a Vichyssoise (beautifully demonstrated by my classmate in the above picture).

Fascinating tip of the day is that if you want to cut onions like a professional, you leave the root end of the onion in place while slicing the onion (taking care not to slice the root itself, as shown in the picture above). That way, the root will anchor the slices so that the onion doesn’t fall apart while you’re chopping it and you can simply chop off the root at the end. Make sense? Yep… fascinating!

Anyway the pictures will become less focussed on cut raw vegetables and more appealing (we’re making chocolate pots and scones on Friday) but in the interim we’re doing a classroom study of germ dissemination – otherwise known as food hygiene so no pictures you’ll be pleased to know. And no Ashburton posts until Friday probably unless a particular aspect of food hygiene speaks to me.

Till Friday then.

Yohini x

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