Sunday, November 20, 2016

Week Eight at Leiths


This week was particularly hard (well every week has been hard) because I had to adjust to new people being in my home, and I felt drained and bad about myself from the difficult cooking sessions.

Plaice with New Potatoes and a Tomato Coriander Sauce 

On Monday, we had another healthy eating demonstration by Peter Vaughan. I loved listening to him and took away a lot of lessons from the lecture. His demonstration definitely helped steer my attention away from a stressful practice exam that took place in the afternoon. What caught my attention was when he said that “it’s important to understand your ingredients” and not everything is about skill. He also said that a perfect plate is “when everything that has been taken off the plate no longer needs to be on the plate.”

We then had our practice cooking “assessment” in examination conditions, which meant no talking, no helping others and no asking questions. I could tell that many of the students were nervous, and I actually felt sick to my stomach all day even though it was just a practice. Instead of sharing ingredients, we all had to weigh up or prepare our own. We made a cauliflower truffle oil soup and pan fried plaice with boiled new potatoes and tomato caper sauce. While this may sound easy, we only had two hours to get all our ingredients weighed up and prepare soup, fish and potatoes. I had my time-plan and had gone over what I was doing at least six times. However, the teachers were walking around and looking at everything we were doing and writing it down. My heart was beating so fast and my hands were shaking as I tried to finely dice an onion, concasse a tomato and cut my cartouche. I tried to tell myself to calm down, but the more they checked and cringed as they looked at things made me feel like a basket case.

It was the fish filleting that slowed me down, and I still left a bit of the fillet on the bones. When I went to cook the fish, it broke in the pan. I also did not like that everyone had at least four pans on the stove at different points, and it made the washing up very difficult. I hated looking over at the sink and seeing them pile up. I did stop at different points to assist with the washing up, but then I lost time from my own dish.

Cauliflower Truffle Oil Soup 

At the end, my teacher said that I needed to take more care to flip it. I don’t know how I could have done that though because the second I lifted the fish up, it broke. Luckily, my sweated onions did not turn brown and I managed to complete this exhausting task in two hours. I finished two minutes late because my fish wasn’t done. When I walked away from the afternoon session, I left with this adrenaline high of being done and completing something difficult.

As I went to take a picture of my food, the tutor said for me to take one picture only and put my phone away immediately. I felt irritated by this because it was the beginning of 8th week and I never have gotten in trouble for taking pictures before. We are allowed to take a few.

 What I took away from this experience was that I need to cook a little bit faster, I need to brown my fish more, my knife cuts have to be better and I need to flip my fish with more care. However, my teacher said that I do have everything down, I just need some more tweaking here and there. My soup also was not seasoned enough.

When I got home, I went to bed at 7:00 pm like an elderly person and slept for 14 hours!

Bavette Steak (Medium Rare) with Chimchurri Sauce 

On Tuesday, we started the morning with a Spanish cooking demonstration by Jenny Chandler. I loved the fish dishes and the empanadas.

Later that afternoon, we made crème anglaise and a large short crust pastry again, the filling for our apple tarts and a bavette steak with chimchurri sauce. I don’t know why, but there was a bitter attitude in the air. I definitely felt very exhausted and cranky from the day before despite getting so much sleep, and I did not feel like going into the kitchen. We had never made a 24 cm pastry case and of course, mine cracked and broke. I still have not made a perfect case. I don’t know what to do about this as I’ve already practiced three times. My crème anglaise took forever to make too and I got behind. I did wind up getting 4/5 on my browning and bringing my steak to medium rare. The teacher that day said that mine was one of the better ones, but I did not appreciate that she said I looked “confused” like she said on Week 3.  However, I intuitively did prepare my steak right. Cooking is very intuitive as they say here, which I think I have had to rely on a lot. Often I really don’t know whether things are done or not and I just guess.

Broken Normandy Apple Tart with Chunky Glaze 

I went to school later than usual because they were having a debrief about cooking for 50 for next term. I used that time At home to cook my meals for the rest of the week.

We then had a long review session for our upcoming theory test. I took over 10 pages of notes. It was very helpful though and I’m feeling pretty good about the test. If anything, I know I can do well on this because I know how to study and have already finished making over 100 flashcards for terms and definitions that we need to know. I have already memorized the basic quantities and am working on the conversions. I also only missed one day of class so I am pretty confident in most of the processes and preparations needed for certain skills and dishes.

After, we got the chance to eat more buffet food made by our peers, White B. I thoroughly enjoyed the food. The groups so far have had a lot of colors, textures and genres of food. I was very impressed with what I saw.

Thai Mussels made with Dejelle 

In the afternoon cooking session, we finished making our apple tarts and also prepared Thai mussels with a coconut and chili sauce. We worked in pairs. The mussels went smoothly and the teacher enjoyed tasting them. But my tart made an ultimate crack in the corner as I set it down. I tried to patch it up, but I couldn’t hide it anymore. I also forgot to put the calvados alcohol in my crème anglaise, and he said it wasn’t thick enough which I found to be surprising because the teacher who checked it yesterday told me to take it off the heat. Since it wasn’t thick enough, he took it as a sign of me not being confident enough with it, which I guess is 50% true. I received 3/5s for everything today even presentation on my tart because I didn’t put enough filling in it and the apple glaze stuck to the apples. My teacher even used the phrase, “what went on here?” when he saw my tart. I felt so bad and the sad thing is that I have practiced at least three times and I still can’t do it on my own.

I also cannot even properly crush garlic with the back of my knife and had to have my classmate  help me many times. Our teacher said, “by now you all should be cutting onions right.” What if I can’t even dice an onion right? Now I don’t even know if I can do anything anymore. Yes, I’m jumping ahead to conclusions, but I honestly don’t know how I’m going to survive the practical assessment on Tuesday, November 29.  

As my mother says all the time to me, “take it one step at a time,” and just “do the best that you can do.”

Soy Glazed Salmon 

We started the morning out with a soy-glazed salmon with cashew mangetout salad while the other half of our class prepared their buffet.  The salmon was very easy and the teacher said my knife cuts looked good. We also iced our Christmas cakes. Next week, we will be decorating though I have no idea what to decorate it with.

During the break, a few classmates and I went out to look for oil and eggs for our buffet tomorrow. After seeing the buffets so far, we all were nervous because they all killed it so well.  I also felt bad that my classmates were all bringing materials such as tablecloths, vases etc... I could not because I do not live here and cannot take what’s in my flat’s house, and I’m also clueless as to where to get things. As a shout-out to my buffet members, thank you for all you’ve done to make this buffet special! If I lived here, I would have contributed a lot more, but I don’t even have paper to make labels.

The demonstration that afternoon was based on cooking for fifty. I was so tired, but I really love watching Chef Hannah cook. I definitely think that her cheerful energy brings my mood up a bit. She served sweet potato soup, fried spring rolls, roasted duck with potatoes and blueberry sauce as well as sticky toffee pudding.

As I walked home, I found that my backpack was wide open as I was about ¾ of the was home. It was bloody scary. I also panicked when I saw guys outside smoking in the backyard of my flat, and they watched me through the glass as I unpacked my food into the fridge.  I am not a big fan of smokers and have not enjoyed being able to smell cigarette smoke throughout the house as well as finding little tiny cigarettes on the floor.

All the food that we prepared: Meringues, Croquettas, Goat Cheese Tart, Kale Salad, Potato Salad, Flatbread, Hummus and Tart de Santiago. 
Not pictured: Salmon 

My Buffet Group- Team Unctious Mouthfeel
 Ruari, Emilie, Me, Annie, Faith, Connie, Grace and Richard 

I woke up at 6:00 am with a nervous stomach ache and decided to leave to go to school extremely early. I was the first one to arrive in our buffet group. I have to admit, I wouldn’t have gone to school today if it weren’t for the buffet. I was shattered and wasn’t feeling well. I was also very nervous because I had never made that much flatbread before and the recipes that I found were very complicated so I wanted to try to dumb it down a bit. I honestly changed the whole recipe that I found because I didn’t’ agree with it.

One of my classmates, Annie Smith, helped me make the flatbread and the hummus, which was extremely helpful. I have to admit I was second guessing myself terribly and I enjoyed having someone support me.  It seems to me that the hummus in the UK or the understanding of it is a bit more watery than I am used to.  We also had a goat and fennel tart, a potato salad, a kale salad, croquettas, meringue kisses and a tart de Santiago. Everyone did a wonderful job and I think that all our worrying on Thursday was a bit too much. That being said, we are all overachievers and want to do well.

Instead of going to the demonstration I left to go home to pack up and get ready to go on my weekend retreat in the Kensington area. I needed to get out of the house just to have some time alone to study for my theory test, practice some skills, run and exercise in Hyde Park, and just get some better sleep. I haven’t slept well since September.

My Flat Kitchen 

The Weekend
I slept significantly better over the weekend. I went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them which I absolutely loved. I also walked around the neighborhood and went on four mile runs in Hyde Park on both Saturday and Sunday. I thought my legs would tire out right away but they did not. However, I did spend most of the day on Saturday reviewing for my theory test.

When I checked out of my flat on Sunday and went back to my home in Shepherds Bush, the circle line was closed. It took me one hour to go a short distance. I also was carrying two heavy textbooks from Leiths, a computer and some groceries. I tried to find fondant for my Christmas Cake, but had no luck.

When I got home, I was told within three seconds of walking in the door that I spilled coffee on the rug leading up to my room and my windows were wide open. I felt really bad about the spillage. As I took my tea upstairs, she was watching me. I also was stopped from doing laundry.  I only do laundry once a week and I really need to wash my chef whites and pants. The machine is so small that I have had to separate my clothing into different loads. Perhaps, she is getting sick of me, but I cannot help that I need to do my life too.

Swans at Hyde Park 

Overall, I am glad that we ended the week on a high note. I’m leaving soon. I have six more days at Leiths and I plan to leave London on December 4 to go to Italy. In the next week at Leiths, we have a lot of revision, a Christmas demonstration, pheasant cooking, cake decorating and a theory exam. I have to say goodbye to so many talented peers and extraordinary teachers at Leiths as well as a new friend that made my adventure considerably better at different times. My life is dramatically about to change again, and I have no idea what is going to happen with my career or where I will be living.  I do love London and people watching, and I do not want to return to a small city. 

In my six months in London, I’ve walked around every major area a few times, been to all the major museums, at least fourteen markets and I’ve traveled to a few cities outside London (Stratford Upon Avon, Brighton, Leeds, Canterbury, Bath and Salisbury and soon to be Cambridge). I’ve gotten run over on numerous occasions. If I had to drive in London, I would already be dead. I also get confused in all the different grocery stores. I also struggle when someone asks me, “all you alright?” my natural response is still “yes.” At least, I have had no problem with counting money these past few months or walking on the right side of the pavement. 

I wish everyone well and I hope that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday back in the United States. I would like to be celebrating with my mom, dad, grandfather and David.  



1 comment:

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Delicious, it looks so good, treat to have. All the chefs did really good job. Thank you for sharing such delicious post with us and keep more such posts with us