So it’s time I got around to writing up about my second two weeks at Ashburton. I’ve been so busy since my last blog post that I’ve barely had chance to breath. Sadly my 4 weeks of cooking are nearly at an end! It’s flown by and I can’t believe that I’m back in work on Monday! Shock horror – I have to go back to my research job, which seems like another world at the moment that doesn’t actually exist. Unfortunately it’s the cooking world that doesn’t really exist for me, but hopefully that will all change in the very near future. It honestly feels like the end of a great holiday and the flight home is looming. I’m definitely going to suffer from chef blues when I’m back behind my desk.
I’m sat writing this at a Costa Coffee in Halifax town centre, sipping on my latte, before heading up to Dean Clough Mill to start my final day of cooking. The last week has been assessment week – very intense. But today is celebration day and we’re going out with a curry bang – love curry so can’t wait to get stuck in and hopefully make an amazing Rogan Josh 🙂 But before I get carried away with talking about the pressures of assessments and how this week has gone I should probably say a bit about week 3.
So first’s things first; during the weekend in between weeks 2 and 3 I managed to somehow fit in a bit of practise for bread rolls and fish filleting. I also hung around my local supermarket bakery in order to beg for some fresh yeast, which actually worked. I could be wrong but I’m certain fresh yeast is a lot easier to work with than dried – and it definitely gives the bread a better flavour. The lovely baker at the supermarket produced 65g of yeast for me which was plenty and resulted in these lovely fresh bread rolls.
You can’t beat making bread from scratch; it’s so satisfying and so tasty 🙂 I also picked up a whole sea bass and whole rainbow trout in order to try out my new knives (lovely surprise present from Ben) and to make sure I could repeat what I’d learnt about fish prep in week 2. Amazingly the filleting went really well and I was super proud of the four fillets I sliced off the fish:
Look ok don’t they? – however, don’t be fooled by this lovely picture – this was after I’d cleaned up the tiny bit of a mess in my kitchen. I even managed to get scales in my hair!! But practise makes perfect eh 🙂 (there’s definitely no picture of me after I’d finished this task #FishScaleHair)
So on to week 3 – the week of lamb racks, profiteroles, tart tatin, pan fried seabass, roasted duck breast, dauphinoise potatoes, roasted pork belly, pizza, pasta, tiramisu, panna cotta, tuille biscuits….it was a jam packed week and I absolutely loved every second. I can’t tell you how pleased I was at producing my own profiteroles on day 11 – they do take a while to make and have a few different elements to prepare and bring together, but they are so worth the effort. Also, I think I’m addicted to the vanilla crème diplomat we made for the filling – so tasty!! After the amazing profiterole achievement we went on to make a tart tatin, which is also a bit of a fantastic dessert. I have no doubt I will be making a lot more tart tatins at home and will definitely be getting a recipe up on the blog soon. So, two pretty amazing desserts on day 11 – but we weren’t finished there….we also prepared and cooked a rack of lamb with a mustard herb crust – honestly it was just a great day all round #StuffedMyFace.
Day 12 was sea bass day and we were shown how to pan fry a fillet to perfection and how to neatly slice off raw strips to create a beautiful plate of carpaccio. And as if all that lovely fish wasn’t enough we also roasted a duck breast so it was nice and pink and served with a beetroot and chickpea salsa – yummy!! I was also highly delighted with yet another fantastic dessert of chocolate fondant with raspberry sorbet – It’s incredible how much amazing food we produced.
Day 13 was one of my most favourite days –Italian day!!! The pictures for this speak volumes so I don’t think I need to say how amazing the pizza and pasta were:
The following day we mastered two dishes, which previously I have considered to be difficult to get right: Panna cotta and dauphinoise potatoes. So I’m pleased to be able to report that both of these turned out pretty well and I even managed to repeat this success during the assessments. Dauphinoise will definitely be featuring more often on my home menus.
As the end of week 3 crept closer and assessment pressure began to build the whole group suddenly seemed to go into panic mode about what the next week would bring. We had been told that we had to produce a time plan for each day and this seemed to be the main worry for most of the group – myself included. To add to the stress the final day of week 3 brought snow!! But I was determined to keep up with the cooking and battled my way in. The drive to the train station was a little hairy but I made it to the train just about and apart from a couple of unscheduled stops I got to the cookery school without too much hassle. Whilst I got to work mastering the pork Holstein dish (bread crumbed pork topped with a fried duck egg and burnt butter) the snow continued to fall at home and when I got back everywhere was white and the snow was quite deep in places. So we had a very pretty, winter wonderland weekend.
By the start of week 4 the snow had cleared and I nervously made my way to Halifax with my first time plan safely printed and folded in my bag. Honestly the time plans took me hours – It didn’t help that I kept changing my mind about what order I was going to cook things in and I spent most of Sunday on my laptop trying to come up with the perfect time plan. However, during the actual assessments there was definitely a few occasions where my time plan went out of the window and I just continued to cook in sheer panic (although of course I was always fully in control and knew exactly what I was doing 🙂 ). It really is incredible how time pressure affects performance.
Monday was the mock assessment day and so we were all given feedback on how we did. Generally this was quite positive and helped to focus me on areas to improve on for the real assessments. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were the 3 real assessment days and if ever there was a time for me to cook really well, these days were most definitely it. I can’t say that everything went perfectly and I definitely made some mistakes. But I can say that: my bread rolls proved well and were spherical, my soup was a great consistency and didn’t taste too bad either, my profiteroles baked well and were crammed full with lovely vanilla diplomat, I filleted and skinned the fish quite well and served this baked with a pretty good poached egg (I got a runny yolk!!), my quiche filling set well, my panna cotta had wobble, the dauphinoise potatoes were a real success and tasted amazing, and finally my lemon drizzle was a good colour with just the right amount of lemon. So overall I was pretty pleased. It was also good to hear from Chef that there were no major mistakes and that everyone in the group had produced good food. Assessment week really was one of the most intense and amazing experiences of my life – Yes it was stressful and very hard work but I absolutely loved it 🙂
I can honestly say that signing up to this course was one of the best decisions I have ever made, Hopefully this will have set the foundations for me to get going with new and exciting foodie ventures….watch this space!!
To read about my previous weeks at Ashburton click here.