We started off with lots of pork! We prepped pork belly in pairs by scoring the skin with very sharp knives, not to cut through to the flesh but to create a lovely crackling for when we roast the meat later in the week. We sprinkled this liberally with salt, rested the meat in a roasting tin on top of a bed of chunks of carrot, celery, onion and leek, along with thyme, smashed cloves of garlic and broken up star anise. We topped the tin up with water up to the top of the vegetables, covered the meat with baking parchment and foil before putting the meat into the oven at 150°C for 5 hours. Belly pork is an economical cut - 800g will cost about £4 - but it is worth remembering that it will lose about 1/3 of its volume in the cooking process, so a piece this size would make two portions. The meat can also be cooked as a confit to make pork rillettes. Once the meat had cooked, we removed rib bones, cartilage and excess fat layers underneath before wrapping the meat in portions in clingfilm. It will be pressed overnight in the fridge by placing a tray on top of it with a pestle and mortar, and we will roast it for lunch tomorrow.
|Pork tenderloin, before.|
The tenderloin was laid on top of a bed of sliced shallot, garlic and fennel, small wedges of apple and sprinkled with thyme. We were making parcels with our meat so this all happened atop a square of parchment and a big piece of foil. We folded out parchment over the meat, then the foil and sealed two of the three ends of the parcel. After pouring away any excess fat, we deglazed our meat-sealing pans with a little cider before pouring this into the parcel and sealing the remaining edge. The parcels would be put into the oven when the accompaniments were ready. Cooking food in a bag is a great way to retain a lot of flavour and moisture, and can easily be prepared in advance, ready to go in the oven and be served with a bit of theatre at the table for your guests. This can be done with a lot of meats, such as chicken, and fish, particularly non-oily fish that take on flavours well, and all sorts of aromatics, such as lemongrass, chilli, lime and a variety of vegetables can be used.
One of the accompaniments for the tenderloin was potato dauphinoise, which is one of our assessment dishes. King Edward or Maris Piper potatoes are used and sliced very thinly (this could be done using a mandolin or even a peeler, but we are being tested on our knife skills!) before being layered up in a small buttered dish with a little seasoning in between each layer. Meanwhile, we heated cream and milk with a smashed clove of garlic until it boiled before taking it off the heat and allowing it to infuse. We were making individual portions to practise for our assessment, but this could be done in a large dish, with portions cut out later. The large dish would also have to be buttered, and if it is also lined with parchment the finished dauphinoise can be lifted out when cold to cut and reheat. The dish can also have the addition of cheese or be adapted by substituting 40% of the potato for other vegetables such as sweet potatoes, parsnips or butternut squash. Once the layers had been built up, we strained enough of the infused cream over them to cover before baking for 45 minutes, pressing the potatoes down into the cream every 15 minutes. Once the dauphinoise had cooled, we used a cutter to cut a tower out of the dish and put it on the same baking tray as our pork parcel to cook in the oven for 10 minutes at 200°C.
Once the pork had had its time in the oven, we snipped a corner of the bag, poured the cooking juices into a pan and started to reduce it vigorously. Earlier in the day we had blanched and refreshed broccoli and now we reheated it in a little water before adding spinach to the pan to wilt in the heat. When the sauce had reduced, we added cream and took it off the heat before adding butter to 'monter au beurre'. The tenderloin had its strings removed before being carved and presented with its accompaniments. I kept the spare bits aside from my presented plate but decided once I had tasted it that it was too delicious to last until the journey home!
|Believe me I was more impressed at the prospect than I look|
|Trying not to get grabbed!|
I have never held a live crab, and jumped out of my skin when I was tentatively reaching into the box of crabs and one of them had a shuffle. The trick is to stay well clear of the claws and to hold them upside down.
|Checking that Dave had passed into crabby heaven|
Once Dave had joined the crab king upstairs, he went into a pot of boiling water with his mates and sliced lemon, onion, fennel and celery with bay leaves, star anise and black peppercorns. We cooked them for 20 minutes before leaving them to cool in a sink full of cold water. Apparently it is not too much of a problem to cook crabs for a little too long, but lobster is very easy to overcook. The crabs were stored face down, vertically in the fridge so that water within their shells didn't sit inside and stagnate overnight.
In between our porky tasks earlier, chef had demonstrated how to make pannacotta by heating equal quantities of milk and cream before adding honey, then stirring through gelatine leaves that had been soaked in water. 1g of gelatine is enough to set 100ml of liquid and our recipe called for just short of these proportions because, as chef said, we needed 'to live on the edge' and our pannacotta had to have a good amount of wobble. Once the mixture had cooled, we stirred through greek yoghurt and poured the mixture into mini plastic pudding basins, otherwise known as dariole moulds. These were set in the fridge for as long as we could during the day, and chef moved them to the freezer for a little additional chill as he was concerned that they needed a little longer to set properly than we actually had. We glazed fig pieces in a reduction of orange juice, sugar, orange blossom water and orange zest before roasting for five minutes at 200°C. We reduced the remaining glaze down to a syrup to decorate the plate. Getting the pannacottas out of their moulds was tricky! We carefully used knives to loosen the edges and then very gently used fingers to try to create an air pocket before inverting them over the plate and letting them slowly release themselves.
We served the pannacotta and the figs with tuille biscuits. After seeing them on The Great British Bakeoff so many times I was very much looking forward to having a go and am pleased to report that they are not as tricky as the contestants made it seem! We made the batter by creaming equal quantities of everything - first egg whites and sugar before mixing in sifted flour and then slowly trickling in melted and cooled butter. We added vanilla seeds to our mix but other flavours could be used, such as lime zest or by substituting 10g of flour for cocoa powder or ground nuts. We chilled the batter for a while before piping long strips of it onto a baking sheet and using the back of a wet spoon to create a circle of batter. The batter was cooked in batches for five minutes at 180°C until lightly golden. Once they are taken out of the oven you have 15 seconds at most to use asbestos fingers to shape strips around wooden spoon handles and to squeeze the circles between two pastry tins to make cups. They set very quickly but if you are too slow they can be popped back into the oven for a few moments to re-soften.
Templates can be made using ice cream tub lids and batter can be spread in the cut out area using a palate knife. The biscuits can be kept for one day before they will go soggy, and are best stored in an airtight tin with rice to absorb moisture. Savoury versions can be made by using glucose instead of sugar and including parmesan. I ate this before I left school today, which means having yesterday's tiramisu for dessert after my leftover pizza for dinner tonight is fine, right? Right?