Monday, August 4, 2014

Cooking classes in London

In July, Bob and I spent two week in London. Like our previous trips to London, we stayed in East London at the Queen Mary University campus, where Bob was doing research. For the first week, I hung out, visiting museums and cafes and enjoying the city. The second week, though, was my big week; I took a week-long course at Leith's School of Food and Wine! I enrolled in the intermediate cooking skills course, and I had such a great time! For 5 days, I cooked new recipes, learned and practiced new techniques, and met some fun people. We spent half the day in the large kitchens, which you can see above. We worked at work stations with 3 other students, receiving assistance from the school's chefs. The other half of the day was spent in a demonstration kitchen, where we'd sit at desks and the chefs would cook multiple things to show us new techniques that we'd apply in the kitchen.

Throughout the week we made many different things, ranging from baking to frying, appetizers to mains, breads to desserts. I'll try to cover some of what we did here! On the first day we learned how to make choux pastry, a pasty that is used to make both sweet pastries, like éclairs and profiteroles, and savory pastries, like gougères. After learning how to make the basic pastry dough, we made savory gougères filled with prosciutto and eggplant. These make for lovely appetizers or first courses.

We also learned how to prepare a rack of lamb. We had to prep a 6-bone rack, which involved lots of cutting through and trimming of fat. We then prepared a mustard and herb crust for the rack, which baked to perfection!

We learned how to prepare whole fish. I de-scaled, de-gutted, de-gilled, and filleted this sea bass, which was served with curried lentils. For the fish, aside from learning how to do the dirty work, I mostly learned how that it's important to befriend your local fish monger (so he/she can do all the dirty work in a fraction of the time)!

We also prepared monkfish, which we served with an herb hollandaise sauce and spinach. I learned a new technique for making hollandaise, which involves creating a different type of bain-marie (water bath). I will definitely employ this method, which applies much less heat than using a traditional bain-marie, when I next cook hollandaise.

Aside from appetizers and mains, we also made a few first courses, like the above summer rolls and the duck salad. I really liked the duck salad: seared duck breast, lots of fresh herbs, fried rice noodles, chili, grapefruits segments, and a sweet star anise sauce.

We learned quite a bit about baking in the course. We learned a new mixing technique for pastry crusts which has been so useful for our warm summer, when butter melts if you look at it funny. We also made breads and sweet loafs, like the pictured pear and Amaretto loaf cake.
We also made a lot of desserts, including this hazelnut meringue cake with a raspberry melba sauce. I LOVE the raspberry melba sauce, but found the cake too sweet.

On the last day, we tackled tarte tartin. Can you tell which of the below tartes is mine and which is the teachers? I have since tried to make this tarte at home, but it didn't go quite as well. I think my burner was on too high (it's a bit tough trying to apply things learned on a gas stove to an electric stove, and in a few weeks I'll be working on induction!), but I don't think Bob will mind if I take a few more practice runs!

All in all, it was a fantastic week. I would highly recommend the course, and I hope I can take more in the future!