Thursday, 13 March 2014

Posh fish finger sandwiches!

Today we were taught by the fantastic Rob Dawe, who has worked with Rick Stein and now, seven years in, tutors at Ashburton part-time while he concentrates on other personal projects such as pop-ups, supper clubs and restaurant consultancy. He has a long history of teaching and enthusing others about food and cookery and it really shows. Like all the tutors, he clearly loves his job, and it's impossible to not be swept up in the enthusiasm and to want to absorb as much information as possible.

We started today by making spelt bread. Spelt is an ancient grain currently very popular as a gluten-free alternative to wheat as it is easier to digest. We made the dough in much the same way as on Monday, creating a wet dough ('wetter is better!') with honey rather than sugar to activate the yeast, and adding a little cumin for flavour, kneading for 10 minutes before proving it in a loaf tin for about an hour and baking it for about 25 minutes. Despite being a whole grain loaf, it is light and has produced an airy loaf with a lovely crust, likely due to the dough being wetter to start. I am having some for dinner!

Rob gave us some tips about breadmaking, such as proving dough slowly overnight in a fridge so that it can be baked first thing in the morning, and proving and shaping dough before freezing it, so that it can be defrosted (allowing it to rise) and baked, which helps with baking large quantities.

With thanks to Daisy for allowing me to take this picture,
as I had started eating mine before I remembered my camera!

Lunch today started by warming through the caramelised onion soup, seasoning it to taste and serving it with parmesan croutons. After filleting our fish yesterday, today we turned them into goujons. We cut the fillets into long strips, dipped these in egg beaten with a little milk, followed by flour, followed by panko breadcrumbs (a process known as 'to pané.) While these chilled, we turned our leftover mayonnaise into tartare sauce by adding finely chopped red onion, washed capers and gherkins and sone flat leaf parsley. We deep fried our goujons at a high heat and had them for lunch with a little tartare sauce.

All through the morning we were boiling a knuckle of ham - we brought it to the boil, changed the water and refreshed it, added an onion studded with a couple of cloves holding a bay leaf onto it (a 'clouté') and left it simmering all morning, occasionally skimming off scum or topping up the water. We will make use of them tomorrow but in preparation we made piccalilli. We cut cauliflower, shallots, green beans and deseeded courgettes and cucumber into the same sized small chunks and layered them with salt, covered with water and left to brine for about 45 minutes. This process keeps them crunchy and vibrant by drawing out excess moisture. Meanwhile we mixed caster sugar, crushed garlic, mustard, ground ginger, turmeric and distilled vinegar and brought this to a simmer until the sugar dissolved. The kitchen turned into quite a potent mist! Once the vegetables were ready they were drained and well rinsed before adding to the mix and cooking for fifteen minutes. Then we added a small amount of flour mixed with fresh vinegar and cooked to thicken for five minutes. It smelled delicious and I will confirm tomorrow! If we were making this at home it could be stored in a sterilised jar for six months and once opened it would need to be used up within a fortnight.

We made sweet pastry today ready for bakewell tarts tomorrow by gently mixing softened butter with icing sugar by hand, before gently mixing in sifted flour and gradually adding an egg yolk beaten with a little water to form a soft dough without overworking it. The egg yolk adds colour and the icing sugar gives a softer and more consistent texture than caster as it is much finer. The pastry will be chilled overnight and used tomorrow. Pastry cases can also be prepared this way, chilled, rolled and used to line cases before being frozen in their case and blind baked from frozen.

Thanks to Liz for loaning me her tart as a model after
my co-chef inflicted a minor mishap upon mine!
We used yesterday's spare shortcrust pastry case to make treacle tarts by blending an egg, double cream and lemon zest with golden syrup, adding breadcrumbs and almonds (for flavour and texture) and pouring this into the case before baking for about 22 minutes. I am planning on treating myself to this with a little clotted cream leftover from last week's scones!

One of our assessed dishes for the course is griddled chicken breast with sweetcorn a la Francaise, and we practised this today with feedback from Rob. We used the chicken breasts we had butchered on Monday (these had been vacuum packed and frozen to preserve them), which we oiled before sealing in a griddle pan to retain moisture and flavour. They were then oven baked for 10 minutes until they reached a core temperature of 70°C. Meanwhile we sautéed potatoes by frying slices of potato we had cooked in its skin before cooling and peeling, using clarified butter for crisp tastiness. The sweetcorn a la Francaise was made by frying thinly sliced shallot and small chunks of chorizo, adding a little flour once softened to make a roux, cooking off the flour before adding chicken stock. Once the mixture had thickened a little we added sweetcorn, finely sliced baby gem lettuce and finished the dish off the heat with a little creme fraiche and seasoning.

Chef was pleased with the finished dish which he said was well seasoned, proportioned and presented. I'll take that! It certainly made a lovely dinner.

Hard to believe that tomorrow marks the point at which we are 1/3 of the way through the course, already. With everything I've learned so far, who knows where I'll be and how I'll be getting on in another two week's time!

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