Two Days at Rick Steins Cookery School

It was earlier this year, March to be exact. Like many people, some less open as me, I had just come through a bought of serious anxiety and depression, sick to the teeth with the company was working for, I needed an escape plan! Historically, I had always had a holiday booked in advance, and usually some sort of foodie adventure. It was to take a while to sort out work, which I have done, feeling like a new person within minutes of getting the job offer, but to keep me going I needed to book an escape before that series of events took shape.

Them the boss at home said, ‘try and find a short cookery holiday, see what you can dig up’, so finger at the keyboard I ‘hit’ on Rick Steins Cookery School in Padstow, fish is my preferred protein over meat (most of the time), so I found a two day course that worked, and also a nice hotel, 2 minutes from the School, perfect, so I booked the 2 Day Fish & Shellfish Course for November which looked ‘fab’!

Hun, I have found something, a two day course, Ju Ju (that’s what she sometime calls me), that’s a long way to go for two days, make it a week and see if you can find some nice places to eat…….. Padstow, nice places to eat, hell yeah!

I left first thing on Monday, I had hired a car as my company car was not ready, I used a local firm rather than one of the well known brands and boy was I pleased I did. A mere £362 (including all the optional extras like collision damager waver etc.) and I was the temporary owner of a BMW M Sport Series 530 EDrive, wow what a motor that was! I had booked a series of restaurants for the week which will feature in separate reviews but the itinerary was Monday – Caffè Rojano, Tuesday Lunch – The Mariners in Rock, Tuesday Evening – Rick Steins Seafood Restaurant, Wednesday Evening – St. Petroc Bistro, Thursday Evening – Paul Ainsworth at No.6! I arrived late afternoon and took a wander to get my bearings in Padstow, the restaurants, school were all within a hop, skip and jump of the hotel, perfect.

It was soon Wednesday and after a quick cuppa, I was at the school in minutes. It was very spacious, well laid out with plenty of COVID precautions in operation from individual bacterial hand wash at each station and instructions to wear masks if we went into reception on the way to the toilets. Our Head Tutor for the week was Nick, ably assisted by Arran and the rest of the team, all we had to do was focus on learning and having fun, all the cleaning, ingredients trays, teas’ coffees’ and lots of wine were supplied like magic, there was over 40 years of professional cookery experience available to us and we could ask anything!

There were a mixture of people attending from complete novices, to my newly found friend Graham, who had the station in front of me, and had been a Chef on Naval Submarines for years! I am kind of a really keen cook, amongst the considerable number of courses I have attended over the years, I did a 5 day seafood course in France a while back so understood some of the the basics but there is nothing like practice and spending more time with ‘fish experts’ as these guys really were.

To set the ball rolling (and make our first of several ‘snack’s, it was a grazing kinda day), we were to make a Sliced Salmon with Ponzu and Pink Grapefruit, which was to introduce us to preparing a Sashimi style dish. Nick demonstrated how to prepare a whole salmon and then we got to cut our own ‘steaks’ into appropriately sized slices, whilst the Ponzu dressing we had made rested and developed the distinctive flavours. To add extra interest we also had to finely julienne some daikon radish and deal with nori seaweed, which is more difficult that you think.

Poached Lobster Risotto Anyone? Yes please, well to be honest I had the Lobster Risotto in Nicks famous Seaford Restaurant the night before so it would be really interesting the compare the results! Due to time, the Lobster had been cooked, but we were shown how to tell the difference between Male and Female, had to remove the lobster and head meat from the shell and make the Risotto, a large pot of stock was prepared in front of us to share so we could again, save time on the more laborious tasks which were time consuming but relatively self explanatory.

I was well chuffed with my Lobster Risotto, I have only cooked Risotto 3 times before, once in Italy at a cookery school, the 1st time abroad learning to cook many years ago, the 2nd (a failure to be honest) at home, and then last year on a another Italian themed online (zoom) event which went much much better. I was slowly getting it right, it was very rich and tasty.

Padstow is beautiful, and the school location offers stunning views over the estuary towards ‘Rock’, which I had visited the previous day on the small ferry, great fun indeed. My mind was drifting, I was happy, content, in my personal foodie space and as the day drifted on we learnt more techniques, working with Mussels, Clams, braising fish, emulsions and chowder, it was thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying, and then we had completed day 1, time to rest for a few hours before eating !!!

Being a working harbour, with fish boats constantly leaving and arriving as the tide allows, and nestling in an estuary the harbour entrance needs constant dredging, as I watched my mind wandered to those brave fisherman who often tackle storm waters to bring us a constant supply of whatever they are allowed to catch or fortunate to find in their nets. Much of what you learn on the course is through questions and conversation, the state of the industry both restaurant and fishing, it SHOULD change your perspective on shopping and eating and cooking especially with what has been happening over the last few years, its priceless value just for that alone.

I believe this was one of the whole school’s favourite dishes! Deep Fried Coconut Prawns with a Papaya Dipping Sauce, jeez it was damn good, and came from Rick Stein’s ‘Road to Mexico Book’. The school was originally setup to help chefs working in Ricks’ restaurants, he is a cook not a chef and as we were told on numerous occasions, examples of choice words when things were too ‘cheffy’ which is not his style at all.

So, onto Madras Fish Curry of Sea Bass tomato and tamarind, we had to deal with filleting and pin-boning a beautiful bass, a lovely fish and definitely one of my favourites. We were shown the technique on the two large overhead screens which everyone could see and made some of the explaining so much easier, ok, lets give it a go.

Not too shabby, haven’t done that for a few year too, after a few minutes grappling with the fish, swift smooth knife action and tugging with some seriously good bone pliers the job was done and all that was needed was a little bit of tidying up.

This dish was another belter, the Madras sauce only taking 10-15 minutes to prepare the combination worked very well, and another ‘snack’ was ready to consume. Before you think I eat a lot, I had not had breakfast since Sunday, and I had not eaten all of the dishes in their entirety, especially as evenings had been 3 course meal events my constitution has its limitations!

Each station has its own professional range, they were great fun to work with, in this case doing the final prep for Malaysian fried Lemon Sole with roasted tomato and chilli sambal, another knockout dish.

So, over the two days we cooked 8 dishes and were treated to 2 cooked by Nick and the team as ‘end of the day relax and wind downs, they were all fantastic to cook and eat, and on the way introduced you to a range of cooking techniques you can easily reproduce at home in a normal kitchen without any specialist equipment, although a small temperature probe for getting the fish ‘on-point’ is probably a small investment worth making, I have one and it does make the different between perfect and ‘bugger, overdone’, they are not expensive.,

So to sum up, apart from having an amazing escape to a beautiful and peaceful part of the UK, free parking in the hotel for a week (The Harbour, through Booking.com), enjoying some great food, I went for the school, and it lived beyond expectations from the booking, follow up calls confirming and details of having my own station/bubble, Nick and the team were fab, Harri on the reception desk welcoming us with a beaming smile each morning it was a brilliant experience and one that will remain with me forever.

Would I go back, bit fat yes, when the diary allows, I already have my twice covid postponed annual trip to one of my two French Cookery Schools booked next year but if can enough spare time, The Rick Stein Cookery School is top of the list.

……………………………………Until next time……………………………………L8ers…………………………

The Michelin Experience “Chefs Table” L’Ortolan Style

It’s my last night in Padstow after attending the Rick Stein Cookery School for two days on a Fish and Shellfish course, and eating my way through 5 restaurants, the last being Paul Ainsworth at No.6, which is happening later. To say I have eaten well is a complete and utter understatement, and a bit surprising considering the horror stories of supply chain, availability of ingredients etc. When you hear the difficulties faced by restaurants it a miracle any of them are open, but evidence of the passion and effort they put into making it happen and cooking fine fare available at a price that enables them to pay staff and contribute towards our economy.

Following our recent trip to L’Ortolan in Shinfield near Reading recently we received a thank-you note, and an offer for a discounted “Chefs Table” at a future date, well, why not, none of us had done a Chefs Table, we understood the principle and had loved the previous visit so an ‘intimate’ insight into the workings of a Michelin starred restaurant seemed too good to miss, so we booked a date.

We arrived on-time and were ushered into the conservatory for a glass of Champagne, and very nice it was too. the premise of being invited into the kitchen during a live service was playing on my mind, what would we see, what would we hear! what was going to happen, how long etc. After 15 minutes relaxing we were escorted into the kitchen area, a large historic wooden table that was so robust it would seem equally fitting in a castle awaited us, directly opposite the pass, by a gap of about 3.5 feet, enough for the waiting staff to pass by as they collected dishes to be taken to the diners!

James Greatorex, the Head Chef walked around the pass to say hello, describe the evenings events, and then gave us an introduction to each member of the team and their role in the kitchen, then returning to start service and call out the orders as they arrived from the dinning room, it was utterly fascinating, seeing how each section jumped into gear with each call, ‘oui chef”, well it is a French restaurant!

The Chef’s Table uses the Tasting Menu with the odd subtle change so some dishes were familiar (but still delicious), and others new and exciting to try. Throughout the evening James would prepare dishes for us, and serve us personally explaining the composition, the provenance of the components, why particular ingredients were chosen, which made for a brilliant foray into the life of a kitchen and how particular dishes are constructed, even Justin our 15 year old and my better half of 32 years found the whole experience really interesting, and the food of course was probably the best we have ever eaten, and James could have been my son nearly twice over, he is just brilliant.

I love the above picture, when we arrived at the Chef’s table there was only one ‘Check On’, an order on the way so to speak, and now it was like, oh my god, what is what, who, which table, jeez. Not at all, the skill by which James ran the pass and managed the orders just has to be experienced, especially as there were a combination of people ordering ‘a la carte’ and the tasting menu which requires impeccable timing to start dishes at the right time, assuming how long someone might eat a particular course, or an awkward git like me that often says ‘can we have a 10 minute break between course 3 and 4 please’, it was an example of superb organisation, timing, control and management of a team of chefs and waiters in perfect unison…….. And only to think that if a Michelin inspector is in the restaurant on a ‘bad’ night, you could so easily loose that precious star!

So, we had another fantastic evening, it was a worthwhile investment, it was entertaining, educational, interesting (no fascinating) trying to get your head around what really happens in a high end eatery, we were able to ask James questions all evening about restaurant life today, and he was very open in explaining the highs, lows, challenges in obtaining ingredients, staff etc. The food was amazing (again).

I would thoroughly recommend anyone with the slightest interest in good food, to save for another week or two, or however long it takes and and go for a Chef’s table. It’s a intimate insight into the working of a high end restaurant with, personal chef, waiter and educator, comedian and entertainer all in one and I would like to think that it’s an experience we will continue to repeat as time (and budget) allows, its worth every single penny.

Thanks James and the L’Ortolan team for our best ever eating our night………… ever……

Next time I will be focussing on the Rick Stein Seafood Cookery School I attended for two days, and start on the 5 restaurants I tried whilst on my mini ‘foodcation’ to Padstow.

……………………………………………………..Until Next Time……………………………L8ers……………………………..

The ‘Michelin’ Experience Part Deux!

I am definitely of the opinion that once you have tasted ‘good’ food, then ‘excellent’ food is something very special. So we had several excuses to eat out again, my birthday of course, new job, feeling happy, lockdown easing, I was desperate to actually ‘get out’ being in the class of ‘at risk, stay at home at all costs’, the last two years have been like a prison cell.

It’s a stunning day on the 2nd of my Padstow trip, the sun is shinning on the Estuary, the ferry started crossing to ‘Rock’ earlier, a trip I am taking later to try another eatery. Last night was epic, thanks to Senior Sous Chef Sam Bessant who was heading the brigade at Caffe Rojano, and to Jade and Mauro who’s front of house skills were to be applauded, more of that another day!

Hey Justin, fancy a trip to another restaurant for lunch? Yes please Dad, so we booked L’Ortolan in Shinfield near Reading, another 1* Michelin Restaurant with James Greatorex heading up the kitchen. At Under 25, he is very young to have such an honour bestowed before him, but hey, age is not everything and youth has its advantages, like energy, passion, commitment, a young brain has the ability to soak in lots of information so we were sure it was going to be a great experience, and we were not wrong.

After some obligatory but nonetheless delicious bread and cultured butter was served we were presented with a tray of ‘tasters’, little morsels of deliciousness on a tray indication land and sea. The land was a Wagyu Beef tartare with a little egg yolk in a delicate pastry case, the second was a Cod Brandade Ball, fried, with a topping of a delicate spiced mayonnaise which was utter delight. if this was the of things to come the lunch was going to be fabulous.

Again, a delicious looking tasting menu was on offer, and was a easy choice, let’s see the ‘mettle’ of the chef and we were glad we did. Dad, can we have the ‘Oscietra Caviar‘ course please, booom , that came from nowhere, oh and the Waygu Beef, I have heard its really good! This meal was going to be more of an investment at this rate. So the caviar came and was woofed down by all of us, it was a delicious plate of food, perfectly cooked pommes soufflée a light Crème fraîche, Trout Roe and the Caviar……Yum

Next came the ‘Salad’ of Lamb, with Isle of Wight Tomatoes, Anchovy and Seasonal Leaves, another delicate but accomplished dish the lamb was rich and full of flavour, the tomato, acidic, cutting through the richness, the anchovy adding some seasoning and leafs ,some texture. Another fantastic dish, so where to go next, this was a cast of the rich and famous already?

Let’s cure some beautiful Tuna with Citrus, and serve it with Apple, Cucumber and Nasturtium a real play on Mexico cuisine in my humble opinion but not do much in your face like the traditional ceviche, flavours dancing all over the palate. Yum. Service was unhurried as we tackled each dish, discussion between us the merits of quality (expensive) ingredients treated with the utmost respect, by an extremely competent chef, aided by his equally competent brigade.

Sorry to say I am a sucker for Foie Gras. I have an annual cookery trip to France, to Gascony, where such produce is revered and commonplace on menus in restaurants and in the home, and I was fortunate to be taught three methods of preparing this highly prized ingredient, cru (cured with salt and Piment d’Espelette), mi-cuit (half cooked), and used as a wrapper for a French style of gingerbread. This was a Terrine with Fig and Walnut, I was in heaven, rich, umptious, sweet and savoury it tickled every taste bud available at time, and for many minutes after as it searched out more.

Now something interesting happened, in my previous posting we had Gigha Halibut from the island in Scotland with white beans, snap, here it was again, but with brown shrimp and foraged seaweed, completely honest and back to nature type tastes which went perfectly. And again, I was the bean fan, my wife and son not being so keen. It was interesting to see something so familiar but subtly different cooked in a quality restaurant, another yum. The fish was cooked perfectly.

Are we there yet! at this part of the adventure our son had opted to go for the Waygu, which he stated was the best beef he had ever eaten, after already saying that at the previous restaurant, it looked good and smelt great. Myself and the better half went for the Fallow Deer, I am a sucker for game and regularly get such produce from our local butcher, who also supplies this restaurant too, great minds and all that. It was a very ‘earthy’ dish aided by the addition of beetroot, savoury and grelot, a small French Bell Onion served with a rich sauce, utterly beautiful another winning dish.

The ‘pre-dessert’ arrived, an interesting and delicate looking morsel, an ice-cream sandwich but not as we had ever had before! beautiful crisp wafer layer, encompassing a citrus ice-cream, with a lemon centre, it really cleaned the palate a treat, I could have eaten several of those one after the other they were that delicious, and then we had the finale……

Yes, I know we had already celebrated my birthday, but, we had tried to get bookings in two restaurants and when they both came up it was a kind of ‘sod it, let’s do both of them’ moment, so we did! This was another extremely clever, and delicious dessert, Peach, Yoghurt, Verbena and Szechuan Pepper, it definitely had an after kick, that was very pleasant indeed. I think when you look at how to finish a meal, the results are often over-heavy and leave you feeling a bit ughhhhh, not here, it was a light tasty and perfect finish to a wonderful tasting menu, which we all thoroughly enjoyed.

For someone so young, James Greatorex has more than ticked all the boxes and shown what awesome cookery and presentation should be like, the front of house did a sterling job and we all felt the experience was more than worth the investment.

So the question is would we go back…………. We have already, this time to experience a Chef’s table, that will be the next post but for the moment, thank-you James and the team at L’Ortolan for making my second birthday a celebration to remember it was a delight……

……………………………..Until next time……………..L8ers…………

The ‘Michelin’ Experience Episode 1

It’s been a crap couple of years, that’s of my chest! This year I have managed to take corrective action after getting man flu and moving to new employer which has does wonders to my happiness and mojo. I cannot believe my last post was in March, time in the kitchen has been limited but that is slowly changing.

So action was needed to kickstart a new chapter, and with a birthday approaching it was decided that a treat or two, or three was in order. A long search on the net and a couple of restaurants stood out that we had not tried before, and 20 minutes later they were booked.

So, I am currently in Padstow, just been for a stroll, my restaurant sitting is booked for 20:45, but that’s not what this post is about, it’s just that I have taken a week off to immerse myself in food, and have some down time to catch up with the blog posts I have been meaning to write! This trip will follow in the next couple of weeks when I have recovered.

We are really proud of our 15 year old, he has been through a torrid few years with bullying, ADHD and General Anxiety Disorder which has disrupted pretty much everything He does love good food and eating in ‘posh’ restaurants, and doesn’t follow the usual Pizza, Pasta routine and can cook an excellent ‘Fish en Papillote’ as well as make macarons from scratch. When we asked would he like to come, there was no stopping him.

Out first expedition was to ‘The Nut Tree Inn’, a quaint restaurant to the North East of Oxford, it was heaving with rain on the day, so when we arrived and were seated by a protected open fire it was very welcome. Service was very friendly and relaxed at this 1 Michelin Starred Restaurant, very welcoming and not at all stuffy. Starting with some delicious bread and ‘cultured’ butter it just felt great.

As you can see, we went for the tasting menu, let’s see the chef strut his stuff, he should be good having held his star since 2008 that’s not bad going. Mike North is an extremely accomplished Chef and it showed with his Cauliflower velouté  and Tartare of Loch Duart Salmon, absolutely delicious. I was watching an episode of Saturday Kitchen recently and they showed the proper method of making a velouté, its actually quite complex to get the correct velvety texture. Things were going really well so far.

So now we get adventurous for a 15 year old, Chicken Liver Parfait, Brioche Bun with a Pork Skin Crumble (aka Airbag) and Plum. Jeez it tasted awesome, really rich, lovely balance of plum and beautiful parfait which was perfectly smooth and melted in the mouth, it was a knockout dish. I cheekily asked our waiter if he could ask the Chef how he ‘glued’ the Airbag to the Bun, as I have some at home which I love using, she came back shortly and explained it was egg white, as it does not make the Air Bag soggy and prevent it from puffing up, fantastic tip to add to my list of ‘cheffy cheats’.

Fish Course next, Gigha Halibut. Gigha what, it’s an island in Scotland that produces sustainable Scottish Halibut which was also to feature on the next restaurant we visited. Find out more HERE it was served with pancetta, white beans, artichoke and lovage and was yum, although my two fellow companions were not too keen on the texture of the beans but that’s a personal thing.

If someone gave me the choice between Beef or Fish, I would normally pick Fish, I love it. My beloved of 32 years is the other way round, Beef is always her first choice, same with our son. Now when you all say, ‘that’s the best Beef I have ever had, ever, ever, ever’, you know the Chef must have got something really right and created something really special, the Beef was OUTSTANDING………. I would go back for this dish alone, it was AWESOME…… note the capitals it was THAT GOOD.

It was served with a smoked potato puree, if you read the menu at the beginning of the post, it stated 50% dairy, I think my mash normally has nearly 250grms of butter, it how to make proper rich mash. A king oyster mushroom and cavolo nero completed the plating nestled in a delicious reduction.

They remembered it was my birthday celebration (well at least one of the them), the pre dessert was a mango and coconut meringue pie, it was genius. Served in a sterilised Egg Shell, it was light and sharp and really cleaned the palate nicely, getting you ready for the final course.

Lets have a Valrohona Guanaja Chocolate Souffle with Tonka Bean Ice Cream. Another belting dish, I love Tonka Beans and have used them in a variety of dishes at home. It has a unusual flavour, like, but not like Vanilla, it’s difficult to explain, but paired with the souffle went perfectly.

I have to start to get ready now, for tonight’s meal at a very special bistro, but more of that on another post. Just to say that if you want a wonderful, expertly cooked, unhurried meal, with lovely service and staff that chat with your like you have known each other of years, head to The Nut Tree Inn we will be returning to this lovely homely restaurant.

……………………………………….Until next time………….L8ers…………………………

The Cookaway, Ottolenghi and a British Classic

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Yep, its been tough for everyone. I am just coming out of a three month long term of depression where most of my time was spent watching cookery programmes and videos on YouTube, the only problem was I didn’t want to cook anything! Thankfully, thanks to family, work, friends and Instagram buddies I am getting back into the swing of things and feeling back to normal again.

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It’s been obvious, the vast number of ‘recipe’ box’s and ‘finish at home’ food parcels appearing online as restaurants and small business’s try to scrape a living until, well you know. My attention was attracted to one particular offering from ‘The Cookaway‘, it was actually one of the cuisines on offer, and the well known cook/author behind the menu, Sumayya Usmani. I have had the pleasure of attending two of Sumayya’s cookery courses, and hope to attend another in May if lockdown permits, she is fab.

So i decided to order some meals, three in fact! The process was extremely simple, selecting when you want the boxes delivered, with lots of communication to keep you informed of the impending arrival, all good so far.

You will notice the high quality packing and very visible labels ensuring your product arrives in good shape, in fact possible the best packed food I have ever had delivered. Anything requiring refrigeration is placed in an insulated cool pack, with ice packs inside.

This was the second menu I had chosen, the first being a very successful fish dish, Almond Crusted Sea Bream with Coconut Spinach and Mushroom which was very tasty and great fun to prepare. So my first Pakistani Cookaway was to be Railway Lamb Curry with Dhania Gajar Biryani, yum.

So, you get everything in the well packed box, and the ingredients and spices are of the highest quality and where needed, individually labelled. The menu comes with recipe cards and instructions explaining and showing what to do. My better half is always the sceptic, even she was mightily impressed with what had been provided!

So read, read and read again to make sure you understand each menu item, what’s involved, time to prepare, time to cook etc. It’s very important as even seasoned cooking fanatics can make the odd mistake, like me :-). Only a minor one, I used all the green chilli in the Curry rather than reserving a small amount for the Biryani, it was clear in the instructions but I missed it!

The recipe is very clever, making sure as much flavour is packed into the resulting dishes, like Lamb Stock, which is made with the supplied high quality meat and infused with some spices during the process.

There are lots of fragrant ingredients in the Railway Curry, and you get to infuse them in the Ghee that comes in a quaint little jar, like those containing jams at breakfast when you stay in hotels! While I was cooking away the whole house was starting to be filled with delicious amazing aromas, the different spices working together to do their magic.

Now onions are a major part of most dishes from Pakistan and India it seems, and the two dishes being cooked during this particular exercise were no exception. The instructions guide you through the technique to make sure you get the best results, I won’t spoil the fun by telling you, invest in a box or two like I did.

I am told men cannot multitask, but do things one after the other very fast! Whilst the Railway Curry is doing its thing in the top pan, the Biryani is starting its culinary journey with more spices in the bottom pan, which, by the way is the very popular ‘Prospector’ from Netherton Foundry in Shropshire, the Frying Pan above is from the same company and I do need to re-season it at some point!

Mingling amongst Tomatoes and Onions are lots of deliciousness including Mace (can you see it?), Coriander Seeds, Cumin Seeds, Kashmiri Chilli and when combined in the supplied proportions make a most amazing dish which we thought could actually be a meal in its own right.

I kept the Railway Curry on a low heat whilst finishing the Biryani, I could not manage to synchronise my cooking well enough but there was only about 10 minutes between finishing the Curry and the Biryani being ready, it did look good, even if I say so myself.

It was fab, the better half loved it too and there was plenty for the two of us portion wise. So, The Cookaway, is it any good, hell yes! I stumbled across the company on Instagram when my friend Sumayya announced that some of her recipes were going to be available and I am glad I did. Ordering was simple, they have an offer on at the moment, communications were clear and precise, packing was excellent, ingredients top notch, recipe cards, easy to follow, results, delish……

This Friday we have a Sufaid Chicken Koftay with Turmeric Rice arriving so there will be more fun in the kitchen.

Some Fun with Flavour, Ottolenghi Style

Having seen Yotam ‘play’ with Celeriac on Saturday Kitchen I ordered a copy of his latest book ‘Flavour’ as a particular recipe intrigued me a lot.

Imagine ‘Cabbage Tacos with Roasted Celeriac and Date Barbecue Sauce’!! Sounds a bit unusual but don’t knock it until you have tried it, is my motto, so I did.

Boy cooking genius Ixta Belfrage is awesome and helped shape his latest book with some unique combinations, it was stunning, tasty, vibrant and just delish!

Buy the book, its worth the investment for this one recipe, you won’t regret it.

A British Classic – Cooked for the First Time!

As a youngster living in Sussex we had lots of home cooked food, stews, pies, puds and one of my favourites was Steak, Kidney and Mushroom Pudding, made with a Suet Pastry.

So I decided to make my first one ever and the above results hopefully speak for themselves, it was quite straightforward and yumm. I used a technique as demonstrated by The hairy Bikers, cooking the meat first and very pleasing the results were too.

That’s it for now, hopefully I will get some more posts done over the coming weeks, this Saturday I am online with Carmela Sereno learning about Risotto’s and Arancini, May is Sumayya and more food from Pakistan and in November I am off to The Rick Stein Cookery School for two days of Fish and Shellfish which is quite exciting.

……………………………….Until Next Time……………..L8ers……………………..

‘Bao’ To The Bun – A WhistleStop Global Street Food Extravaganza With The Brilliant John Fernandez At The Jericho Cookery School

The clocks went back last night and I was up at 05:30 on a Sunday morning, to be honest I was not sure what time it was, the excitement of attending another cookery school after such a long time was too much!

My last attempt failed due to, well that ‘C’ word as ‘Junior’ had ‘symptoms’ and as a result self isolation had to take place, but I had managed to secure a place on a later date and that day had finally arrived.

This was my first venture 29 miles up the road to the Jericho Cookery School just outside Oxford, and I was using a new Phone/Camera which did not work quite as expected so please excuse the pictures, normal service will resume on the next post!

The owner Emma and I had something in common, we had both lived in Eastbourne and remembered the famous “Hungry Monk’ in Jevington, the restaurant where the Bannoffee Pie was ‘evolved’ by chef Ian Dowding, click the link to read the real story of how things happened.

Unfortunately the ‘Jevington’ Hungry Monk now closed.

Social distancing was in order, a maximum of 8 hungry and expectant pupils where ready to learn some challenging and tasty Street Food recipes from the brilliant and knowledgeable chef John Fernandez, my nearest ‘neighbours’, a lovely couple who ran a farm, had driven over 2 hours from Exeter in Devon to attend such is the popularity and reputation of the school.

The courses at The Jericho Cookery School are ideally ‘bite sized’ sessions of typically between 2.5 and 3 hours, and the team had been extremely busy before we arrived, making sure every cookery station had the Ingredients laid out, and recipes at the ready so we could all attack our particular menu items straight away.

Two large bowls with Garlic and Ginger were passed up and down (safely) and amazing aromas filled the air as we got to preparing Gyoza’s, Chicken Satay, Bau and much more.

I had been given the task of preparing the Gyoza’s (Jiaozi), a speciality for Chinese New Year, but also a popular street food. I was really pleased as this was something I was keen to master, you can see the filling I made in the first picture, Pork Mince, Prawn, Spring Onion, Garlic, Ginger they were going to be delicious. There is a ‘secret’ ingredient I won’t mention, you will have to book the course to find out!

Yep, they were very delicious indeed, especially when served with the punchy sauce/dip I had also made under Johns’ guidance adding some extra ingredients not on the recipe to ‘lift’ things a bit. We were all shown two methods of creating the folds in the delicate thin water pastry cases which was actually quite therapeutic.

The group worked really well together, chatting, sharing experiences and all producing their elements of the menu time was flying by all too quickly. In the background, the very efficient Jericho team was making sure we had clean tasting spoons, washing up, providing refreshments and making the whole session run extremely smoothly.

Now, Gua Bao, or Bao Buns, fluffy light, slightly sweet, sticky, gooey, tasty, yummy, addictive so many words can be used in the same sentence for these very popular street food, especially in……… Taiwan which has a fascinating history, click the link to find out more!

John had prepared a yeast based dough which needed to rise, and then showed us how to produce the well known smiley shape, and then it was our turn, not bad for a first go I hope?

We ventured to the Far East via India, a delicious Aloo Gobi had been prepared by one couple, delicate florets of Cauliflower and Potatoes had been combined with fragrant spices to make a ‘yummy’ addition to our travels around the world, interesting was the use of the sweet Jaggery to balance the various spices that had been used. You can see how its made both traditional and modern here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhUdfB2uzgI and you can get it in many supermarkets if you look carefully in the low cost Indian Ingredients section.

Back to the Bao and once shaped and left to rise a bit more they were steamed then left to cool a little before filling with an assortment of deliciousness including a sticky mixed mushroom mixture made with the addition of Hoisin Sauce, Mushroom Soy, Oyster Sauce, Garlic and Ginger. We added slithers of Cucumber and Spring Onion and an addictive Sweet and Crispy Chilli condiment, mmmmmmm, yes please!

I love these kind of courses as you learn so much more than from a recipe book or following say, a YouTube video. Things like technique, texture and smell really need you to be in the room with the chef so you can experience what exactly is happening.

Visits to Mexico and Peru were included in the non-stop journey that Sunday morning, Ceviché as fresh as you could get and Churros with a rich Chocolate Sauce finished things off. We were shown how to skin the fillets of Bass and advised that too long in the ‘curing’ mixture would make a lovely mush!

I was extremely fortunate to visit Mexico last year and had several Ceviché and have to say that, despite the lack of sunshine and blue seas (not available in Oxford), it was banging delish….. The addition of some roasted Sweet Potato really balanced the tart acidity of the Lime cure, something I will definitely be having a go at.

So, the menu of our world tour went something like South Asian Chicken Satays With Peanut Sauce (not that claggy stuff you usually get in take-aways), Bao Buns, Ceviché, Gyoza, Aloo Gobi and ‘Mexican’ Churros with Chocolate Sauce (They are subtly different from the Spanish ones).

It was a fantastic morning, I am already booked on another course at Jericho, with Sumayya Usmani from Pakistan and also plan on booking at least one more before Christmas (this year)!

Please take a look and see if anything takes your fancy, as usual, these are my personal views, no payment or discount for promotion just an honest appraisal of my investment in learning new cookery skills,

Many thanks to Emma and her team, and John Fernandez the guest Chef for putting on a fantastic experience and putting a skip back in my step 🙂

……………………………Till next time…………….L8ers………………….

Kitab al-Tabikh (The Book of Recipes) – Cooking with the Caliphs & Bethany Kehdy

It started around the 10th Century, a collection of recipes from the court of ninth-century Baghdad authored and put into a recipe book Kitab al-Tabikh. Interesting is that much of the ‘familiar’ food eaten in The Levant today bears no resemblance to recipes in the book.

So it was great excitement that sight of a random post on Instagram recently, by the Chef and Author Bethany Kehdy attracted my attention. The opportunity to sign up to a zoom cookery lesson and create some historically significant dishes was too much of a temptation and within a few minutes It was booked.

I know Bethany, I have her two cook books and we met in London a few years back when she ran a popup at a restaurant called Jago, in fact she was my inspiration to start this food blog several years ago and explore food in more detail, moving away from the conventional, dipping into the unfamiliar which has been a thoroughly satisfying journey so far.

So, a two hour ‘Zoom’ session was the plan, three recipes to tantalise the taste buds, and some culinary education on the way, Saturday was going to be very wet so a perfect excuse to spend some valuable time in the kitchen, with hopefully some tasty results to satisfy the appetite, and sharing the experience with global ‘foodies’.

Bread is a staple of the Levant, and so it made sense to come up with something to go with the dishes we were going to prepare. First thing Saturday the Mixer was loaded with a dough hook and a simple flat bread produced, yes, I know I could/should have done it by hand but I was simultaneously getting the ingredients ready (mise en place), so unusual for a man, multitasking!

We were going to make a Borani to start with, an appetiser made with either Spinach or Chard, soft Labneh and an assortment of aromats to add extra flavour, the dish would be topped off with halved, pickled grapes, yum.

I have never made Labneh before, the joining instructions we received several days before gave some alternatives, but I decided I wanted to make the ‘real deal’, which was a simple process. Yoghurt, Salt, Mix, Muslin cloth, hang over bowl in Fridge to drain the moisture. I started this on Thursday afternoon and it was ready for Saturday, delicious.

The Swiss chard and Grape Borani was very tasty with the Bread, fragrant, and crunchy with the addition of some chopped Walnuts. So that was the appetiser, what next?

If I said ‘Candied Beetroot’, what would you be thinking? My interpretation was slightly off the mark! I have been in the mobile telecoms industry for a long time. I can remember the ‘start’ of social media, and times before when you used a stamp or carrier pigeon to communicate. The miracle of communications, the internet and social media meant that I was ‘talking’ with Bethany (in Dubai, where she is based at the moment), within seconds and my mis-understanding clarified just as quickly!

Candied Beetroot Maqluba, or in my case Burgundy Beetroot was great fun to make. Layered Rice, with optional flaked Mackerel and beautiful earthy (not candied/sugared) Beetroot was delicious. I have seen this particular dish on YouTube, turned out in ceremony as its looks quite impressive when on the plate, the white and yellow Rice, and, rich and indulgent Beetroot, again another very tasty dish. This is one one of the recipes originating in the Kitab al-Tabikh cook book, the word Maqluba means ‘upside-down’.

Anyone think Aubergine is boring, if so this beauty will definitely change your mind, and its name is somewhat intriguing, ‘Lady Buran’s Sticky Badhinjan Fingers’! Its kind of sweet, sour, spicy, earthy, deliciousness and takes your mouth on a journey of tastes you will never forget.

Having been sent the ingredients and their alternatives I had decided I wanted to try and use the authentic ones like Argan Oil, Verjuice and Pomegranate Molasses, the latter I already had in the cupboard. For the Verjuice I went a bit ‘off piste’, and found something called Ab Ghorreh which is similar but actually Middle-Eastern. I checked with Bethany (Instant Messaging is just so useful), and was advised it was fine, but not to use so much as it was a bit more sour than Verjuice.

What fun we all had, Zoom did its job despite the audience being in two different American States, the UK and Dubai, and two hours of cooking chatting, questions the result was, well you can see for yourself, taste wise, it was delicious and now I have some more historic and unusual cuisine in the portfolio.

Bethany was very patient, frequently checking where we all were, answering queries on the various stages we had to go through to produce three, to be honest extremely impressive looking dishes, fit for any party, banquet, or in my case, cooked for a loved one.

I would highly recommend trying to get on one of these cookery lessons, they are about 2 hours long and great value for money, I enjoyed it so much I have already booked the next one!

As usual, I paid full price, was not offered anything and this Is just an honest view of my experience, great fun and more culinary experience to use in the future.

I have not updated this blog for a long time, obvious reasons with the mad world we are living in I have been distracted but apart from another session with Bethany on Saturday, I am attending Jericho Kitchen in Oxford (hopefully if rules don’t change), at the end of the month to do an Indian Street Food Course.

……………………………………..Until Next Time……Keep Safe……………………………….

The Wonder that is Mexico

The flight wasn’t too bad only 10 or eleven hours and I was on my adventures again, with 29 colleagues, all top performers, and the destination was Mexico.Photo 08-12-2019, 15 08 41The Banyan Tree at Mayakoba on the Maya Riviera is a luxury hotel, everyone gets a villa with private pool, lots of outside seating to chill and listen to the birds talking to each other, it was paradise. Each villa gets a bicycle for each occupant, or alternatively pick up the phone and an eco friendly buggy will come and pick you up!Photo 05-12-2019, 10 26 53A welcome dinner had been prepared for us, interesting were the bread rolls filled with a cream cheese, unusual but tasty. The fish was very fresh and cooked perfectly, it looked like Stone Bass but whatever it was, it was damn good,

These trips are full on, the itinerary is jam packed and on this one, I had added a couple of extra’s, a cookery course that I have already posted about, and a trip to the ancient site at Tulum, an important historical port which was on my bucket list, and now ticked off.

Breakfast at the Banyan Tree was nuts but in a positive way as the choice was endless. I opted to go local and was glad I did, a cookery station prepared various options each morning, if you wanted Sausage, Bacon and Eggs that was available on the buffet station. The fruit was delicious, fresh, nicely prepared and extremely tasty with lots of variety. Unusual, but very good was the Bacon Wrapped…………Banana with the Eggs. Nice!Photo 05-12-2019, 18 20 35The first activity was ATV’s (All Terrain Vehicles), followed by some history on the Mayan Civilisation and a dip in a Cenote. The morning flew by and it as soon time for lunch, hurray.

Lunch was at La Fondita, part of the Mayakoba complex where we were staying and was to be a real treat. We were presented with numerous ‘Tostadas’ laden with delicious toppings such as Ceviche Mixto (Mixed Seafood, Tomato, Onion, Avocado, and Black Habanero Salsa) and Atún con Chicharrón (Tuna, Habanero, Avocado, Lime, Red Onion, Crispy Pork Rinds) which was particularly good and I managed more than one! There were Meat, Chicken and Vegetarian options and they were all FAB.

A ‘nice swim at my villa’ was just what was needed after the mornings activity as I had not dipped completely in the Cenote, but just dangled my feet. Those little fish that nibble your toes in the various resorts around the Med were a natural phenomena in the pool of water so I got my feet tickled by their nibbling instead! The evenings activity was to be a ‘meal in a cave’ and ‘Chaak’ the Water God was one of the statues that were to great us as we walked up to our evening venue, Rio Secreto.Photo 06-12-2019, 01 34 39I have never eaten in a cave before, we were 50 metres below the surface in a beautiful cavern, and entertained by a Mayan ritual dance which was extremely energetic, as we were served a combination of Mexican and International Cuisine.

The main course was fine but for me the standout dishes were the starter, a Tamale, filled with Cream Cheese and served with a mild Pepper Sauce and the take on a Cheesecake which was delightful, a crisp shell with a sweet cheese filling, very tasty and a beautiful light finish. Time for bed, #Stuffed.Photo 06-12-2019, 17 28 07The following day was free time, I had booked on a cookery course, it was awesome, see the previous post for details as I learned the proper techniques to prepare Mexican cuisine and was taught by the lovely Karla, who really knew her beans 🙂 Photo 06-12-2019, 18 05 04After a welcome rest we were off to Cancun to Rosa Negra, a ‘hip’ goto restaurant with a reputation for food and entertainment.

They must have been having a very off night, there are loads of reviews saying this is the best restaurant in Cancun, oh dear! The beetroot starter was MASSIVE, way too big, ugly in fact. It was completely un-balanced and from what I saw, most plates where sent back with at least 1/2 the food uneaten. The concept was fine, but reduce the Beetroot by 2/3’s and increase the Goats Cheese Mouse by 400% and you would have a fantastic dish. The fish was style over substance, apparently there was Hoisin Sauce but the Salty Soy was so strong you could not taste it. The Carrot Cake was sweet, sweet, too sweet, much too sweet! Sorry this was my worst meal of the whole trip which was a shame as a little attention to detail and it could have been amazing, I guess the head chef had a night off!

The following morning was our last before moving on to Tulum, breakfast was a delicious Blue Corn Quesadilla stuffed with Courgette Flowers and Oaxaca cheese, yumm. After a few hours on a 44 Foot luxury Catamaran and a light lunch we were ready for dinner again! This time it was ‘CATCH’ in Playa del Carmen.

Catch was amazing, the food was amazing, the views over the town were also very good, fireworks kicking off as we ate course after course after course! Standout dishes were the ‘Hellfire Rolls’ (spicy Tuna Two ways, Green Apple and Balsamic), ‘Catch Ceviche’ (Crab, Caribbean Lobster, Shrimp, Scallop, Mango and Orange Ponzu), ‘Wagyu Short Rib Taco’s (Huitlacoche Aioli, Guacamole, Mango & Serrano Relish), in fact, it was all bloody delicious! Next Stop Tulum.Photo 08-12-2019, 22 23 41

What can I say about Tulum………traffic jams, slow traffic, building, Taboo Beach Club, Casa Malca and some historic ruins (about 30 of them just down from Mayakoba) 🙂 Its a hip place and our stop before reaching our hotel was the beach club. It was slow, lazy, relaxing and just the thing after a few busy days. Lunch was fantastic, probably the best Seabass (Branzino) I have ever eaten, it was beautiful. The Ceviche starter was delish as was the Ricotta Orange Cheesecake.

We all relaxed for a few hours, taking in the atmosphere, the DJ was amazing and the Saxophone player, walking around and amongst the guests was extremely good, it was a really delightful afternoon and it was soon time to book into our hotel, Pablo Escobars’ old hideaway, now a boutique hotel Casa Malca, about 20 mins away

Almost done, phew, I’m nearly full up. Casa Malca has a style of its own, eclectic, eccentric and hip. Previously Pablo Escobars hideaway it’s now a boutique hotel owned by an America art dealer which makes for some interesting items spread around the property. This was our last location before flying back to the UK.

Evening dinner was very pleasant, the restaurant has a new chef and the food was exemplary if not that Mexican. After getting up early to go to the ruins and feeling somewhat hungry (I have no idea why, after the previous few days), breakfast called and a interesting cup of tea (which was very nice) and a freshly cooked Omelette, which was the tastiest I have ever eaten and beautifully presented. This was not quite the finale to this epic adventure. We had one last stop for lunch at Mina, another Beach Club, Burritos and Pizza which were nicely cooked, the kitchen very open plan.Photo 09-12-2019, 18 20 00

 

…………………………..Until next time…………….L8ers……………………

I should quickly mention that on our return journey we spent a few hours at a school for disadvantaged children, donating a load of food for breakfast, for some the only meal they get each day. We also played and watched them smile with beams of happiness, that we would spend time with them, it was a wonderful end to the trip.Photo 09-12-2019, 19 59 24

 

A Mexican Dream – El Pueblito Cookery School, learning to cook Mexican food in Mexico, from a Mexican chef!

So I am in Mexico at the moment, enjoying some sun and culture. Did you know the Mayans invented Bubblegum! Nor did I until yesterday, but as often happens synthetics and mass production take over and what was an organic by product of the Manilkara Chicle tree is now artificial,  and full of all sorts of ‘stuff’.Photo 06-12-2019, 10 27 59Having spent a few hours with the delightful Executive Chef/Tutor Karla Enciso, at the El Pueblito Cookery School at Mayakoba my senses have been kick started, I am now of the firm belief that Mexican food has been much maligned by mass production and marketing by multi-national brands, I am sure you know who I mean.

Being extremely fortunate to be awarded a ‘prize’ for hard graft again, I found myself the holder of a ‘trip of a lifetime’ to Mexico, and this included some spare time to enjoy the resort we are staying at, in between Cancun and Playa Del Carmen on the ‘Riviera Maya’.IMG_1173Mayakoba is a ‘complex’ with a number of hotels, a championship golf course, and a small ‘village’ where the cookery school resides. I had booked 3 hours of 1-2-1 cooking, just me and the lovely Karla.

On arrival a ‘station’ had been prepared for me with various ingredients, and a couple of ‘Molcajete’  which are rough stone pestle and mortar type implements. As I used them it struck me that they were much more effective than the version I had a home, and generally seen available in the U.K., the surface was much rougher due to the use of stone rather than a smoother marble like product.photo-06-12-2019-10-42-35-1.jpgKarla has a couple of assistants that do a very fine job of supporting the session, washing and cleaning and putting together the ingredients for each of the dishes, after a quick cup of coffee which they also supplied on demand, we set to start the first dish, a Green Tomatillo Salsa.

Please bear with me a second, I know we have all seen Chefs on TV ‘whack’ a load of ingredients into a food processor, set it to maximum ‘whizz’ and pour out some green ‘Kermit sludge’ a few seconds later.

NO, NO, NO, and another NO, it’s not done that way at all!

There IS a skill and element of precision to making Green Tomatillo Salsa properly, its takes time, and a great deal of precision. Yes, you DO whizz, but not after some careful attention to the process, but for that you are going to have to come to Mexico and learn for yourself. Oh, I should mention I personally paid for this course and received no discounts etc. so this is a honest view of what I experienced.IMG_E1191Being a 1-2-1 session we were able to interact a lot and I was frequently asking questions and getting to the ‘why’s’ and ‘where’s’ of each dish which was very interesting. 

One thing that really struck me was the detail around getting to the right taste which you cannot learn from a cookery book. Ingredients are different so one Tomatillo contains more or less water than the next, is riper or less ripe so the flavour can change significantly, this was the ‘magic’ of this session jointly debating more Salt, more Lime, more Chilli, lets add some Black Pepper and the result was really delicious.photo-06-12-2019-10-42-48.jpgSo next was a simple Molcajete Salsa, yeah right. You might recognise the next paragraphs context.

Please bear with me a second, I know we have all seen Chefs on TV ‘whack’ a load of ingredients into a pestle and mortar, smash them to bits and pour out some multi-coloured stuff a few seconds later.

NO, NO, NO, and another NO, it’s not done that way at all!

This time we were going to ‘roast’ the ingredients within various seconds of their individual lives on this planet, why, because we were developing some serious intense smokey pungent flavours and this was the way it should be done.photo-06-12-2019-11-08-33.jpgAt this stage we are about half way through making the Molcajete Salsa, who’s name comes from the Mexican pestle and mortar I was going to use to complete the dish. More notes, another cup of coffee, further debate etc.  As an aside, at the beginning of the session I was asked what music I liked and during our cooking we had RUSH, and Yes playing which being a couple of my favourite groups added to the atmosphere!IMG_1202This Salsa was a massive surprise, it had a deep intense flavour and was something I had never tasted before, when combined with the Guacamole we made next, on top of a thin Tortilla crisp, wow, awesome. I will be definitely making this when I get home.

Having made various important and tasty side dishes we set to work on the Tacos Dorades, and Sopes which involved more techniques for me to learn, which was great.IMG_1177The ‘Masa’ had already been prepared, a dough made from processed corn which is a staple of Mexico and used to make a variety of dishes including ‘Tamales’ which we had last night, 50m down in an amazing ‘cave experience! I will be publishing a separate post on the overall trip with an obvious food focus when I get back to the U.K. next week.IMG_1220If you remember that multi-national comment I made earlier, well I made (pressed) the fresh Masa into Tortillas, they then got a quick fry on both sides before being stuffed with Chicken boiled in Chicken Stock (adds more flavour and keeps the meat moist), and rolled. IMG_1241These are then fried again to crisp up, and topped with whatever you fancy, they were bl@@dy good! I went with the spicy and rich Molcajete Salsa on top of Lettuce and some Cream, and a little Mexican Cheese.IMG_1229Next was ‘Sopes’ these are like shallow cups made using a similar principle, but a bit different! You know where to come to learn how to make them. It was really good fun and having nibbled and munched through Tortillas and the numerous Salsa’s and Guacamole I was ready to sit down for a light lunch, and the Sopes do need eating as soon as possible after they are cooked so that was what we did.

You can see in the pictures above the process of layering re-fried Beans, Chicken, Lettuce etc. into the Masa cup and finishing with a Mexican Cheese called ‘Cotija’.

I have to say that the few hours with Karla went too quickly but I learnt absolutely loads and for the money it was well worth it.

If ever you find yourself anywhere near Mayakoba and fancy a go a authentic Mexican cooking the El Pueblito Cookery School comes highly recommended, the session is long enough to learn loads but to too long that your start to get distracted. Before joining you have a choice of a number of ‘menus’ to pick so there are lots of different techniques available to learn.

 

…………………………………Until next time………………………..L8ers……………………

 

The Last Supper! Well Worth The Effort.

It was time to prepare ‘The Last Supper’ at The French House Party and after a morning creating chocolate sensations (in our own minds at least), we were back in our favourite kitchen with Jean-Marc, pen at the ready he showed us on paper what we were going to prepare.

How about Crab Crumble, Avocado, Papaya, Whipped Mustard Cream and Sorrel Shoots for starters, another lesson in flavours, cooking and food construction techniques.

So we made a Mayonnaise, and referred to the plans as we prepared the dish. As usual, nothing went to waste. Once we had prepared each item we then went about the construction, layers of Crab, Mustard Cream and the other items were carefully layered into an oblong ring. Photo 04-06-2019, 18 37 48You will notice a red item on the top of the finished dish in the picture below, this is a ‘tomato crisp’. The Tomatoes we used to dress the side of the crumble were de-skinned in boiling water and the skins placed in a low oven to dry out completely, and they were really delicious, as was the finished dish, the Mustard Cream was unreal, the fruit balancing the taste.Photo 04-06-2019, 18 38 56So on the main event Lightly Salted Cod in Aioli à La Languedocienne! For this we learnt (loose phrase) to turn vegetables, and very fiddly it was too. The Aiolli was problematic as we were running low on Eggs, we had one! A quick search in the fridge and a couple of yolks from the day before were discovered and we were on our way.Photo 04-06-2019, 19 12 15It was an extremely tasty dish, despite all the effort to make the various elements, but the dessert was the ‘piece de resistance’, a Gateaux St. Honoré. I made some Choux Pastry with Gill whilst the others knocked up a Crème Patissière (Creme Pat, as we came to call it by this time)! Then there was the Puff Pastry Base, and the piping, oh, the piping.Photo 04-06-2019, 17 33 33This was very testing indeed, home made Choux Buns dunked into Hot Caramel,  filled with the Creme Pat, constructing Swans using a piping bag, it was baking and construction and everyone contributed to the elegant dessert, which was very very good.

And that was it!

The end of 5 days intensive cooking and baking with Laurent, Remi, Jean-Marc and Chocolates with Marion, interspersed with fine dining in the most amazing restaurants, and the odd tasting of the origins of Champagne at Limoux,  the marathon was unfortunately over too soon.

So, that was my third trip to The French House Party, it won’t be my last, great fun, great people and always lots to learn it’s a home away from home, thank-you Moira and the team for putting on such a fantastic vacation.

 

…………………………..Until Next Time………………L8ers……………..

 

Ah, just one more thing!

Cronuts!

When I was in New York Last year I had great intentions to hunt out the inventor of the Cronut, a mixup of of Croissant and Donut. I ran out of time and did not make it! I was on Instagram the other day and found Dominique Ansel has an outlet in London, so I will be visiting this fine establishment and testing said ‘Cronut’ as soon as I can!!

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