Roast Beef with Cavolo Nero, Yorkshire Pudding, Cauliflower Cheese, Horseradish Sauce and Gravy
As I reflect on my past few weeks at Leiths, I cannot believe how much I have learned. Just five weeks ago, I never even tried to make 95% of the things we have prepared. I have been disappointed with myself and have been comparing myself to others, but I came to the realization that this is about my experience. I have so many skills already outside of cooking and I have taken a major risk by doing this course in another country alone. Leiths provides information and demonstrations on so many amazing skills that I can continue to practice and use forever.
On Monday, we made a roast beef dinner with cauliflower cheese, Yorkshire puddings, cavolo nero, gravy and horseradish sauce along with famous Leiths brownies. The roast dinner is a cooking exercise among four people. I had about 15 minutes of extreme anxiety because none of my table members were present. I got behind as I weighed out my ingredients and things started to become a bit messy because I was so nervous. Luckily, one of my peers showed up, and we managed to cook the whole thing by ourselves and got out of the room by 1:15!
My roux for the cauliflower cheese mornay sauce turned out lumpy and I had to use a whisking spoon to smoothen it out. I’d never used a whisking spoon in my life and always wondered what that utensil was in my materials bag. When the teacher asked me to use it, I was confused and reached for a normal whisk. I also messed up the gravy because I poured the liquid in too fast. My teacher looked very displeased with this. I think once again I was trying to go fast. However, the food was so flavorful and succulent. I took home so much food!!!! I also overate on brownies because they were the best I’ve ever tasted.
We ended the crazy day with a nutrition demonstration and a costing lecture. I knew most of the topics that were discussed for nutrition. I have spent about five to six years of my life figuring out how to eat better and have more energy. When the nutritionist asked if there were any body builders in the room I almost laughed out loud because I did want to build muscle and lose fat a year ago. I know a lot of people who eat loads of protein and follow a Paleo, Keto or Atkins diet to better their fitness. Since I’ve been in the UK, I only run once a week as well as try to fit in HIIT session every few days. I miss working out 5-6 times a week, and I think I’ve been losing all my progress/muscle weekly.
We also were told that we need to complete a costing assignment. We have to figure out the expenses for a dinner to feed 150 people. Luckily, we can do this in pairs.
Smoky Black Bean Chili with Long Grain Rice and Sour Cream
On Tuesday, we made short crust pastry and blind baked it. We also prepared smoky black bean chili and started chicken and veal stock. My pastry seemed like it was fine until I put it in the tin and it started to break a tiny bit. I may have put a bit too much flour again on the work surface but I was so worried about it sticking onto the table. My teacher assisted me a lot even though this was our fourth time making pastry, and I left the practical session feeling extremely bad about my pastry because I had practiced TWICE at home and it did work. It seems like every week at Leiths something always goes wrong for me. I hope that next time we make it, I do better, because we only get one more chance. However, to my surprise the next day I found that I did manage to get a 4/5 on the pastry, so not all was lost. I also did not like mincing the beef and deglazing the pan constantly for the chili.
We ended the day with a choux pastry demonstration. A teacher made eclairs, profiteroles and gougers for us to taste. I did like learning a lot about choux pastry because I never really read about it before.
Lemon Meringue Pie
On Wednesday, we filled our pastry cases to make lemon meringue pie. I was dreading the cooking session in the morning because I was worried about my pastry case. I had to re-make my lemon meringue filling because I overcooked the sugar, water and cornflour as I heated it. I should have trusted my first instinct and taken it off the stove immediately. Luckily, the second time went much smoother and I didn’t get too behind. Some others had the same problem so I was not alone. We also finished reducing our chili while making long grain rice. Then we made mayonnaise, which went smoothly. I timed myself and made it in 12 minutes. The teachers want the students to be making it in 10 minutes now. I received a 5/5 on my meringue, a 5/5 on my rice, 4/5 on my chili and a 5/5 on my mayonnaise. I was very pleased with my results.
The demonstration in the afternoon was definitely one of my favorites all term. We learned how to prepare the perfect steak and got to taste over five different cuts of meat. In my family, we love steak and now I really cannot wait to go home and show my parents what I learned.
On Thursday, I was very relieved to have a day off from the kitchen. We started off the morning with a lovely buffet demonstration by two wonderful, energetic teachers. They made eight different dishes for 48 people in just two and a half hours. They made lots of light dishes including a few salads with protein and even small cheesecakes and a chocolate roulade. This buffet was a wonderful way to start the day.
We then spent the afternoon in groups of eight planning for our group cooking exercise. We will be cooking a buffet for 32 people, which requires creating a menu, going grocery shopping, figuring out prices and making a lot of lists for equipment. It is definitely going to be a committment, because we need to find time for all eight of us to meet outside of school. Right now, we haven’t finalized a menu, but it should be finished in the next week.
Goujons (Fried Plaice) with Tartar Sauce
Friday was an all-day cooking session that included some of my least favorite skills: fish filleting and meat cooking. I was actually dreading this day all-week. But it went very smoothly and we got out of the kitchens by 4:30. The instructor said that we were very quick and seemed organized. We started browning our meat and vegetables for the beef stew and got them into the ovens by 11:00 am. Afterwards, we filleted another flat fish to make goujons (fried fish). We made white bread between some of the tasks and chopped herbs, gherkins and capers for our tartar sauce. My scores at the end of the day resulted in a 5/5 on my time plan, 5/5 on my hygiene, 5/5 on frying, 4/5 on my meat cooking and a 3/5, of course, on my filleting. However, I did feel that the filleting went a lot smoother than last time. I really hope I can find a flat fish at a market in the next week and practice, practice and practice.
White Bread with Butter
At times, I’ve gotten frustrated with how much slower I am than some people. I know that I am not as fast as some of my peers, but for me, I don’t want to make it a competition. It’s more about my learning curve and experience rather than trying to please someone else or so we can get out of the room as fast as possible. This summer at a restaurant, I was taught to take the extra time to produce better quality food. I have the tendency to make a lot of mistakes with my food while trying to cook or bake quickly. I am trying to apply this to my food at Leiths because I have found that I do not do as well when I rush. Being fast is a great skill, but to take the time to produce a perfect quenelle, chop my carrots in symmetrical brunoises or fillet my fish better is worth taking the extra time.
I’m glad that I had a weekend to recover from this long week because next week involves a written test again. I once again spent the weekend practicing a bit as well as went on two long runs to keep my head clear. I made creme anglaise and choux pastry, and jointed a chicken for my protein source this week. I am very nervous about the next weeks to come because it's only going to get harder from here.