Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Braised pork belly

This was one of my favourite dishes of the course and will definitely be appearing on my menus in the future. The pork belly was meltingly soft, the crackling was salty and crunchy (mmmm salt), whilst the flavours of the mushroom/chorizo accompaniment mingled together with a little paprika kick. Oh and it looks wicked too. I love the way the colours all seem to have come from the same paint chart.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mmmmille feuille

Technically this isn't a mille feuille, it is a trois feuille but I don't think we need to worry too much about that. I've been feeling very French the last couple of weeks, perhaps due to the high levels of salt, butter and cream coursing through my veins.

Anyway, where were we? I'd usually do this with plain shortbread and strawberries in the summer but this is a lovely variation to use when berries are out of season. Shame on you people buying soft fruit out of season (very close relatives of mine, mentioning no names W** J**, bad food karma for you).

Week 2 @ Ashburton - Red mullet nicoise

So it's back to the stove for my second week of training at Ashburton. What a great dish to start the week with. The colours are just fantastic! Oh and it tasted pretty good too.

We had a new chef today, Stuart. He is lovely. Here he is putting the finishing touches to our main for the evening tasting.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Final dishes - Surf n Turf and Lemon tart

Ponce about for long enough with your presentation and this is what you get (oh and slightly cold food in my case). Beany tomatoey stew into little piles, topped with crispy fried mackerel, slices of pork belly and all finished with a meaux mustard sauce.........oh and don't forget to crush the crackling and add that as sprinkles (ooh I like my sprinkles). Ta daaa! Perhaps Gordon Ramsey should change his catchphrase from 'Done!' to 'Ta daaaaa!'

Nestling in that group as we all looked on in amazement........Penny was putting the perfect brulee crunchy top onto our lemon tart.
The finished lemon tart

Ooh what a motley crew. Here you can see our group in their full.........errmm.......glory

Day 5 - Fish fish fish

We had a new boss today, David. He showed us how to fillet flat and round fish, prepare squid and scallops.

I loved preparing the squid.......hmmm I enjoyed eating it even more though. The tentacles are absolutely the best bit. Pan-fried very quickly with a splash of sweet chilli sauce added at the end.

Ready for a squid fact??? Course you are! Squid is the most widely eaten seafood on the entire planet, so there you go.

Creme success!

Now look very closely at this creme brulee.............notice anything strange or different about it?

For those of you that our chef Darrin didn't phone to tell the momentous news.............the vanilla seeds are evenly distributed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I bet you're kicking yourselves now. Usually the seeds all fall to the bottom of the dish as the brulee cooks and solidifies. Darrin had a little experiment with these ones and his theory was a success. Of course I would tell you how he did but then I'd have to kill you.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Vegetarians and Weight Watchers.......look away now!

What a classic dish. Fillet steak, proper chips, roasted mushroom, tomato and a 'drizzle' of bearnaise sauce.

Apologies to anyone sat near us in the pub that night. We had a long discussion on chip cooking methods, thrilling stuff!

Ooh let's have another look at those little beauties

Day 4 @Ashburton - Ham hock tartlet with salad

Lurking under the garnish is a beatifully crumbly tart with a very rich filling of ham hock, spring onion, cheese and plenty of cream. There is no chance of Devonshire dairy farmers going out of business whilst this cookery school is in operation.

The tart was garnished with salad leaves and a simple vinaigrette

Thai sorbet with ginger tuille biscuit

Needing to up the competition with Kitchen Two, our teacher tweaked the recipe for our Thai inspired sorbet by adding some fresh chilli to the stock syrup infusion and then to the sorbet mix itself. The result was a cool creamy, coconut, limey, lemongrassy mouthfull with an unexpected chilli warmth at the end. A really lovely refreshing dessert. This had us all wanting an icecream making machine.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Pork tenderloin with Apple Mash

This is absolutely perfect chilly day food.

After a long discussion about salting/not salting the potato water (no laughing, it's an important topic!) 'we' created creamy, fluffly, apple-y, mustard-y mash to go with the pork.

First bash the life out of a tenderloin sprinkle with pepper, salt, sage and lemon zest. Then roll into the frighteningly anatomical preparation shown below.

Cook your tenderloin en papilotte with apple, fennel, cider and thyme. Delicious!

Day 3 @ Ashburton - Smoked haddock with poached egg

Day Three.......I tell you all this cooking is tiring. Up today is pork butchery, cooking en papilotte, apple mash, Thai sorbet, tuille biscuits.....*deep breath*......and pastry.

Above you see my lunch. A perfectly poached egg, buttered spinach, smoked haddock and an infused curry oil. A kind of posh kedgeree.

We added loads of nutmeg and salt (no surprise there, prepare to reconsider your position on seasoning if you are a salt-free person)......and a little dash of butter to the spinach.....delicious.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

For main - Rack of Lamb with Madeira Sauce

This plate is a culmination of lots of different cheffy processes.

The lamb - We butchered and French trimmed the racks of lamb. Tied it up to give perfect little eyelets of meat, then sealed in a pan before finishing it in the oven.

The madeira sauce - A reduction using shallots, madeira, butter, good stock, lemon juice and seasoning (everything has lots of seasoning here)

The wild mushrooms - After beig happily regaled with tales of killer mushrooms we carefully trimmed them, washed them then fried briefly in oil and butter

Potato Dauphinoise

Oh my god. These were just so delicious, almost obscenely so and they look beautiful as well. Here you can see John lurking for scrap while Darrin cuts them into perfect little rounds to go with our lamb main. Key to getting these right was using a mandolin to cut the potato into precise and perfectly even slices that would stick together and cook evenly.

Just look at them! If you are not drooling over these then I don't think you should be reading a food blog.


Vichysoisse = Posh leek and potato soup
Here I am making mine look even posher with a lovely cream finish. You make it posh by cutting up your veg lickle-ickle and then blending it so it is super smooth

This was absolutely delicious. Key to getting the flvour in was taking the time to sweat the onion, leek and potato, plus using your homemade top-notch chicken stock (which we did on Day 1). And yes those are my perfectly formed buns lurking in the background ;o)

Day 2 @ Ashburton - Making Bread

Here is Darrin, our fearless leader preparing the bread dough. We learnt the art of getting the dough to the right stickiness (stickier than I expected hmmmm), then gave it a good kneading, then did this little stretching manouver (the dough, not us. Although we did learn the chef wiggle and flick, more on that later). The stretch is in the photo below...

Then we left it to rise, knocked it back, then shaped it into rolls. Below are Darrin's. You can see mine with the soup in the next post

Monday, March 16, 2009

Final dish for Day 1 - Chocolate Pot

Mmmmm now you know that I am rather keen on a good chocolate dessert. This was simple to make (Dark choc, cream. Amaretto and Amareti biscuits) then you just have to ponce it up with these little chocolate decorations (real word for these is chocolate run-outs, check me out with all the chef terms). You just go for it with your little piping bag and create! These are definitely going on my new menus, I think they look beautiful.

Griddled chicken with paysanne veg and basil oil

Okay so you have to admit, all that tricky prep makes for a pretty slick looking dish. We learnt the art of French trimming our chicken after jointing it and removing the wishbone (errm not that end Donna). Plus giving our cherry tomatoes these little Gary Rhodes hairdos. All topped off with a basil infused oil and deep fried basil leaves.

Veg prep

A whole new world has been opened up to me, that of the fastidious vegetable preparation. Never again will I be so foolish as to leave my celery unpeeled or my tomato seeds intact. Here we have vegetables prepped paysanne style. Damn Frenchies making my life tres difficile!

Day 1 @ Ashburton - Smoked salmon risotto

First day at the cookery school....what a day! We covered a lot of techniques. I'll post a pic of each dish and give you a brief run through.

The teaching is fantastic. We had Darrin looking after us today. He has worked in Michelin starred restaurants so I think it's safe to say he knows his stuff. Our group was nicely balanced with really friendly people from a variety of professional backgrounds.

So the risotto......first we had to hot smoke our salmon (as you do)......make a vegetable stock........chop our onion + garlic into teeny tiny pieces......make a saffron infusion. Then began the risotto process adding the stock bit by bit to the rice to a lovely creamy finish. add butter at the end then the peas/dill/salmon. The result was a beautifully balanced dish. A pretty good start to my two weeks of training!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Antipasti plate

Mmmmmmozzarella, it is so delicious. We're ecking the remains of the food we have left in at the moment because I'm going away for a couple of weeks on Sunday. It is nice to see that we can stil conjure up a decent meal despite not going to the shops since Saturday. Where am I going on Sunday? I'm sure you're dying to know. Well I'm off to do two weeks of cookery training at Ashburton Cookery School can't wait! I will post and take pics while I'm there so expect some beautiful food on here from Monday (and if I mess up my dishes I can always pretend other people's are mine hehehe).

So ......back to dinner.......pepper and baby tomatoes go into a baking dish, brush with olive oil, add salt and pepper. Roast at 160 degrees fan..........fall asleep on sofa.........wake up and stumble to oven to find slightly overdone vegetables. Tear mozzarella and basil and arrange on plate with remains of vegetables. Drizzle with olive oil and eat

No chocolate cookies tonight......I miss them :o(

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Banana and meringue ice cream

I have a confession to make...........I ate the cookies and ice cream dessert four nights in a row.......oh and I had two portions each night as well...oops. Well you can't say I don't thoroughly test my recipes can you.

I came up with another dessert last week as I had some little meringues that didn't make the grade for the pavlova canapes. They were transformed in 2 minutes into this icecream. Just softly whip 500ml double cream with vanilla extract and 50g caster sugar. Mash up a coupleof bananas and bash your meringue into little pieces. Mix your banana and meringue through the cream and then just throw the whole lot in the freezer in a shallow dish. It's ready to eat in about 30 minutes. It doesn't really keep because it's not a true ice cream and goes icy (okay I confess ours didn't last anyway..........but I reckon it would go icy)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Cookies and Ice cream

Evening All. I hope you're enjoying your Friday night. I was enjoying mine but now I am sad because dessert is over :o( it was soooo delicious and I could've eaten lots more. Unfortunately I made the mistake of inviting hungry Basil round for tea *mental note* sometimes friends are not welcome.

Displayed above is the excellent combination of homebaked choc chip cookies with Waitrose white chocolate ice cream. The cookies are made to Edith's recipe (Edith lives up the road from me, she is Dutch and does very good baking). So to make Edith's cookies.....oh apologies for ye olde measurements, she wrote the recipe down like this and I've never bothered to convert:

4oz butter
4oz caster sugar
5oz plain flour
1/2tsp baking powder - thoroughly mix with the flour
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz porridge oats
6oz chocolate, smashed into pieces, use your preferred ratio of dark:milk

i like to make these completely by hand. Squish together the butter and sugar, then add your flour + baking powder mix. Squish again. Add the egg + vanilla extract. Squish. The mixture will be very sticky. Finally add the oats and choc chips, give it a final squish.

Roll into walnut size balls and put onto a lightly floured baking sheet. Into a 180 degree fan oven for 12 minutes. These are very good on their own, but even better with the icecream. Yum.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Hey dhal!

Stokesy got on the case getting dinner ready while I was having my massage. It's a hard life isn't it. So I came home to lentil dhal, cumin/coriander cauliflower (cauli from the veggie box) and real poppadoms (fried by me).

For the cauliflower........cut into small florets then boil until tender. Drain and allow to dry. Heat some oil in a pan, then add cumin and coriander seeds until they crackle. Now chuck your cauli back in and stir fry until hot. finish with a big pinch of salt.

The secret to getting lovely crispy and non-greasy poppadoms is to get your oil really hot before you throw them in the pan. then they are in the oil for the minimum time.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Cardamon and Banana Raita

Fancy a light delicately flavoured dessert? Simply combine the following ingredients:

200ml natural yoghurt - I like YeoValley the best
1 banana, sliced
Handful raisins (soak these in water for 10 mins to really plump them up)
Squeeze of honey
6 cardamon pods - take the seeds out and grind to a fine powder
Handful of almonds - toast then smash into pieces

Throw the whole lot in a big bowl, stir stir stir. Eat eat eat

Red fried rice

Hmmm Monday night dinner, always a tricky one. Especially tricky when you crash out on the sofa til 9pm oops! And watching trash TV too........'How clean is your house', I love those girls.

So peeling my eyes open at 9pm and responding to my growling stomach.......modern woman hunts for leftovers in the fridge. Aha some rice (short grain brown, gorgeous texture), red curry paste (made in a large batch last week).

In a big frying pan fry this lot for 5 minutes.......the curry paste, a little coconut milk, pinch of stock powder and splash of fish sauce. Now add the rice, mix mix mix and heat very thoroughly so you don't get food poisoning. for the last couple of minutes add the prawns and some finely sliced peppers. We had this with a pile of steamed kale and a big squeeze of lime juice.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

From the veg box......Roasted Baby Leeks

The baby leeks from Dot's veg box were just gorgeous. Produce like this needs such little tweaking meaning less work for me....yippee. So trim then blanch for 2-3 mins in boiling salted water. Put them in a roasting dish, splash of olive oil, a few slices of garlic, salt and pepper. I would have added a little red wine vinegar but I couldn't get the lid off the bottle :o(
Then into the oven (200degrees) for 10 minutes.
I let them cool and just ate them warm on their own, but I think they would be really good with some baked trout.
On a side note, the baking dish was a very kind present from Sheila, who is highly likely to read this. Thank you Sheila!

Mmmmm......Spiced Turnip

We all went rock climbing yesterday (Me + Stokesy, The Dictator and her husband - The Combat Wombat). We went with Kierron from Adventurous Experiences, he's the guy in the 'Visit Isle of Man' advert. He does loads of cool trips...check it out

On our return wanted something warming. Man those rocks are cold! A quick rummage in the veggie box and hey presto Spiced Turnip.

Chop the turnip into chunks then boil until soft. In a big fryig pan.......fry 1 tbsp sunflower oil, 1 green chilli (finely chopped), 1 tsp mustard seeds.....add 1tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp chilli powder, 1/2 tsp salt......then add the turnip. Mix mix mix. then finish with some finely sliced ginger and fresh coriander.

We had the turnip with lamb curry and rice (as above) but the lamb curry was all that tasty. I should have spent more time trying to get the flavour right but was too sleepy after all that fresh air

From the vegie box......beetroot/carrot/apple juice

This delicious juice was kindly put together by the boyfriend. Simply throw carrots, beetroot and an apple through your juicer...........then enjoy a super healthy drink.

Veggie box is here....yippee!

Dot and Robin Price run a small-holding in Lezayre (Isle of Man) which is in organic coversion. Dot informed me last week that they are now doing organic veggie boxes. This is so exciting for the Isle of Man!!!! To those of you reading from 'the mainland' yes I know you have been able to get these things for years, I used to get one when I lived in the UK. However I think that Dot + Robin's box is way better. Why? Because it is a truly local veggie box, all coming from their farm and travelling about 2 miles to the market.

Once I have the box in my clutches I'll then post my recipes each week that have included their produce. So this week I have: potatoes, carrots, beetroot, turnip, green cabbage, cauliflower, 2 boxes of eggs, coleslaw and some gorgeous baby leeks (see Exhibit A above). Now what kind of idiot would think they were spring onions??? hahaha yes that would be me, in my defence I only glanced at them and I had...errm...the sun in my eyes.

The entire contents of the box was just £10............I think this is an absolute bargain. So to order yours ring Dot on 470507. No, I'm not on commission.