The last week has been amazing, although extremely busy and hard work. I’m commuting to Halifax by train everyday which means I’m leaving the house at 6am and not getting back until 7pm at the earliest. So let me tell you I’m feeling the long days. That said, the way the train times fall, means that I get to the cookery school for 7.45am. This is way before the 9am start, so I’m getting chance to catch up on my notes…Oh and also stuff myself with a lovely breakfast from the nearby cafe 🙂 – so maybe it’s a little more eating rather than note taking, but it’s still in the same subject area:-)
Anyway, the point is that the travel is well worth it and I feel like I’ve already learnt and produced so much after only 3 and a half days in the kitchen. Day 2 at Ashburton started off with the formalities of the course and the introduction of our chef manager: Dominic. First impressions: Dominic really knows his stuff and he has a lot of knowledge that I hope I can take advantage of over the next 4 weeks. The schedule provided for the whole course is very detailed and a quick scan through suggests that there will be a lot of complex dishes included. Hopefully I’ll be able to take these in my stride and produce some amazing food that can actually be classed as professional standard. Seriously exciting stuff!!
At the end of the course there are several assessment days which will test my knowledge, skills and ability to be able to reproduce some of the dishes I will have mastered earlier on (hopefully). So that’s pretty scary at the moment but Dominic has reassured the group that we will all be ready and prepared for the assessments.
So after all the paper work and introductions had been sorted the chef whites came out and we headed for the kitchen. Chef whites! Very exciting! Really feel the part once the white top and little hat are on.
Stupid pose suggests how giddy I got 🙂
I absolutely love the kitchen and the way it’s organised, it’s an amazing work space and I feel so lucky to be able to work in it with the guidance of a professional chef. There’s only 6 of us in total on the course so it doesn’t feel over crowded or like we won’t get the personal attention from Dominic…..Chef, we have to call him chef…must remember that!
Chef is also pretty strict about how things are organised, washed, cleaned and put away again afterwards. I’m pleased about that as I need to be straight and organised when I’m working. We each have our own station with all the equipment needed for the course and everything is neatly stacked up on shelves or in drawers. Once we’d all found our way around the kitchen we got going with the cooking!!
As with most things we started at the beginning and day 2 was all about stocks, soups and bread. It’s surprising how much time and effort goes into a stock but I can see how the end result is definitely worth it. We cooked from 12-5pm and I was feeling pretty tired by the end of it, but had produced some great soup and amazing little bread rolls. Five of which I scoffed as soon as I got home – this course is definitely not going to keep me thin 🙂
Day 3 kicked off with chicken butchery. Definitely some important knife skills and chicken anatomy learnt here. The key is to cut through the joint….for a first attempt I don’t think I did too bad. Now I just need to source some good chickens close to home and get practicing!
The rest of the 3rd day flew by and we churned out a couple of good dishes; risotto and vegetable broth, learning about different types of wild mushroom and cutting styles with different vegetables. We also made our own short crust pastry from scratch, which took me back to my childhood and baking with my Grandma. I used to love this, especially cutting out extra shapes with the scraps – I don’t remember it being such hard work to make though. Everything has to be done by hand (no food processors allowed), this is so we fully understand the recipe and it’s consistency. Its not so easy to crumb the butter and flour and then gather into a pastry, especially when you have to work quickly and not let the butter get too warm. It made me realise how much I’ve relied on machinery to do the job for me in the past. We each lined 2 tart cases with our pastry…..not so easy either. Then chilled in the fridge ready for making a quiche and treacle tarts later on in the course.
On day 4 we got to have a mini workout making French bread sticks. I actually turned bright red trying to produce the gluten needed to stretch out the dough by slamming the dough down and across the work bench. Amazing results though – can’t beat a freshly baked baguette!
We also cooked off some of the chicken we had prepared the day before and stewed the legs and thighs to make a beautifully rich coq au vin. We ate this at lunchtime and it disappeared so fast that I swear I must have lost some between the pan and my plate 🙂
We finished off the day by baking the most amazing lemon drizzle cake…..definitely one that will be going on the list of favourite recipes at home!!
The final day of the first week flew by and we knocked out a miniature quiche, French onion soup, cream of onion soup, mayonnaise, coleslaw, piccalilli, and 2 chocolate brownie tower cakes with a custard teardrop…..YUMMY!! An amazing week and a week where I’ve definitely worked hard for my food. I’m exhausted – but in a good way 🙂
A note on butter: we’re using alot!! This is definitely going to be 4 of the most indulgent weeks of my life. But as I get a qualification at the end of it I feel that it is necessary to consume everything I make. So I intend to make the most of it 🙂
To read about my first day at Ashburton click here.
To find out how week 2 went click here.