Monday, 28 June 2010

Term 2 - Week 9 & 10 @ Tante Marie and Exam Results

Well I liked the idea of the last recap post that I thought I would do it again... and this one is going to be a real humdinger what with all the pictures (some good, some not so good!).  So lets get on with it!

Week 9 saw us introduced to the wonder that is a rump of lamb.  Having never eaten this cut before I was blown away by how much flavour it contained and how tender it was... truly Dyl-icious and one to try sooner rather than later if you haven't already!  The rump was followed by a fromage blanc mousse with red fruits which were quite tasty and all turned out well apart from one which had spilt in the un-moulding process.... so we had a little fun with him!

This week also saw us complete the Indonesian class hosted by Vera, Tante Maries very own Indonesian teacher.  We utilised her very own recipes and its fair to say that everyone loved the food... as it was all amazing!

My HUUUGE pan of Nasi Goreng!
Things like the satay sauce were unlike any I have ever had as it was made without peanut butter and included a whole host of lovely aromatics suck as kaffir lime leaves and lemon grass.

Crystallised ginger cake... amazing!

The oxtail soup sounded boring, but the addition of nutmeg, cloves and star anise to name but a few turned it into a soup that has relegated the canned Heinz variety to being a distant, distasteful memory.
It may not be a looker but the Oxtail soup was divine.
We were introduced into the world of savory custards this week, however it did not take the usual "quiche" form that we in teh UK would usually go for.  This time it was more of a Spanish style baked custard flavoured with caramelised shallots and bread sticks.  It split the class 50/50, I liked it but would have liked something sweet and sharp to cut through the richness. 

Something I really enjoyed was messing about with some rabbit.  We saw a technique detailing how to remove and wrap the rabbit loins in pancetta using a farce to hold it together while poaching... and serving it with a pearl barley risotto....and we were then allowed to alter the flavour however we liked.  Myself and my partener for the day decided to go for a "Lapin au vin" using a mushroom farce and very rich red wine jus.  It was nice... though maybe a bit wintry for the time of year.  We were going to add nettles to the pearl barley to add colour, but since they don't add much flavour we decided not to go for style over substance.  Cauliflower puree and roasted shallots and garlic finished it off.

Dressing a crab was also on the and quite good fun... not sure if I would say the same if I had to pick 50 of the little bastards,  but one was definitely manageable.  I never understood why people cover up the brown meat completely when adding the egg white, yolk and parsley garnish so I decided to try and show it a little.  In teh process the class believed I created a South African themed crab for the world cup.... you decide...

Two forms of chocolate fondant were also made... however I have to say that how the "cold chocolate fondant" can be named as anything but a dense chocolate mousse is beyond me.  Both tasted great... some issues with the baked ones what with one collapsing completely and the others just being a bit ghetto.  The "mousse fondants" came out well and we decided to present all six in a slightly different manner with the chocolate dentelles.... I know which is my fave!

Another desert was a poached peach with almond ice cream that had been rolled in powdered croquante and served with strawberry coulis.  Quite nice but melted very quickly as it was a SCORCHER at Tante Marie that day... however it was just what was needed on such a  day.

Oh and I nearly forgot... here is a picture of Lulu and Johnny 5 picking nettles for there pearl barley risotto... look how Johnny 5 needs no gloves to protect him from stings... thats what being a cold hearted banker does to you.  Take heed!

Before I go... there are just two day until graduation... the time seems to have flow by.  On Friday I received my marks for my project (90%) and my celebration lunch exam (80%) both of which I was happy with.  Today however I get my final exam and theory exam marks... the 1st I completely ****ed up... trust me... when I write the blog post you won't believe some of the things I did... SERIOUSLY!  The latter I did no reviosion for until the night before, and then I found out I had got a job at a 2* restaurant and opend a couple of bottle of Rioja to celebrate... hungover was an understatement.

So today will be VERY interesting and no doubt bring me back to earth with a solid thud which I am sure is a healthy thing.  Especially as when I get home this, my little rambling blog that no one in their right mind should be reading will have recieved over 15,000 hits since I started in January... even I didnt expect that!

Have a great week,


Sunday, 20 June 2010

Term 2 - Week 7 & 8 @ Tante Marie

So we have double whammy coming at you this week, a BOGOF, a 2 for 1 or however you want to put it.... it's basically a way for me to almost catch up to where I should be.  No excuses... I have been enjoying the life of a man with only one exam left, which basically means watching series 4 of the Sopranos and catching up on searching the world wide interweb for amusing videos... such as this one...

Girl Slams Face Into Her Massive Chest - Watch more Funny Videos

Onto the usual subject matter...

Week 7 at Tante Marie was a short week what with Monday and Tuesday being half-term so on our return Wednesday we had a full day of cooking to get through.  Orange and kiwi profiteroles with orange sabayon were preceeded by a delightfil mushroom risotto and a not so delightful pancetta and blue cheese risotto.  I am a huge fan of blue cheese, but not when used in a dish and completely over powers everything else, I found myself searching for a crack to spoon it onto!  We also got to eat the rabbit rillettes made the previous week on some country bread toast... deeeeelish!

 Canterbury Tart

The afternoon saw English breakfast muffins being made to accompany eggs Benedict in week 8.  A Canterbury tart and creme fraiche ice cream where also conjured up, the highlight being the tart despite me being a MASSIVE ice cream fan.

 English muffins in the making.

A total of three demonstrations took place, including one from Nathan Green a former young chef of the year and has worked in many great restaurants including Gidleigh Park in Devon... where I am going!

On Friday we cooked something I have wanted to try for a long time, namely sweetbreads.  Although not the hugely sought after and expensive veal sweetbreads the recipe (ris de veau) called for, the lamb sweetbreads were very nice and tatsted pretty much as I had expected them to.  Served with French style peas and followed by pannacotta with raspberries and muscat jelly it made for a delightful lunch.

Week 8 started with my celebration lunch exam I have previoulsy posted about and included some rather tasty bits and bobs along the way.  The highlight for me were the boudain blanc we made, and although not being very blanc at all, the flavour was very simliar to the one my mother purchases whenever she goes to France... although the schools recipe didn't call for black truffles to be utilised in the white sausages.

Caramel ice-cream was always going to be a winner, and considering it was a no-churn recipe I was quite impressed at the resultant texture and lack of ice crystals.  Rum babas, an old school donut-like-cakey thing were quite nice and are apparently coming back into fashion in posh restaurants across the capital, as were the warm chocolate fondants.

Confit duck legs were prepared from scratch, lovingly salted over night, gently cooked in duck fat, allowed to cool in the fat and then crisped in the oven the next day.... delightful.... a word I would not choose to describe the grapefruit risotto (yes thats not a typo) that was to accompany it.

  Kiwi profiteroles and rather deflated sabayon.

No I have a thing for profiteroles, wherther they are filled with cream or custard I dont care, so imagine my delight when we had to make a Gateau St. Honore.  The gateau is basically big choux pastry balls sat on a big disk of choux pastry which in is sat on a ginat sweet pastry disc.  The choux balls and ring are filled with a light and creamy, yet quite rich cream filling before being securred to each other with lots of caramel.  The hole in teh centre was then filled with strawberrys and covered with more cream filling piped using a special nozzle and then covered in chopped pistachios.  Dyl-icious.

Well that is about that.  Only one full week of the course left.  I have my final exam on Tuesday and Wednesday and we start getting results for our other exams on Friday in theory.... not looking forward to the theory mark!


p.s. here are some crazy Japanese guys making some sort of dough....

Crazy Japanese Dough Pounding - Watch more Funny Videos

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Brioche heaven for rich men (or women)

Well this morning I awoke with the usual spring in my step that occurs when I have to bake my sourdough loaves only. The problem was that after skipping into my kitchen in the manner of a 8yr old girl with pig tails in her hair, I was confronted by the sight of my loaves to be decorating the kitchen surface! So in a fit of baking depression I launched the massively over-proved dough in the bin and ran... well briskly walked, to the local shot to pick up eggs and butter... not for a fry up as you may expect but to start some Brioche.

For those of you that don't know, brioche is an enriched French loaf. You may wonder how indeed it is enriched... well try making it with almost an equal weight of butter to flour then throw in 5 eggs and some vanilla sugar... yep that should do it.

This kind of ratio of butter/flour is usually referred to something along the lines of Rich Mans Brioche as you can imagine all that butter and good eggs ain't cheap... well in comparison to the ratios used in Poor Mans Brioche at least!

The last time I made brioche was on board this...

M/Y Slipstream
It was my very first attempt and with the left over dough I had, I made some mini brioche loaves in these tiny little moulds.  The chef though they were so good they ended up on this dish for the guests.....

Term 2 - Week 6 @ Tante Marie

Finally, Lobster time!
So the first of some catch up posts has arrived, and it concerns week 6 at Tante Marie.

The monkfish... not a fan.
One of my favourite dishes of the week was the tomato and caraway bavarois that tasted very much like Heinz Tomato soup... only set with gelatin and served cold. You gotta love a bit of Heinz tommy soup!!! In contrast the very same class we made my least favourite dish of the week, monkfish skewers with sweet vanilla chilli dressing. Not sure what it was, maybe the sweet chilli sauce, maybe the combo of mango and fish but I couldn't eat it, although I must say some classmates enjoyed it. Strange strange strange people!

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Photos - Celebration Lunch Exam

So the celebration lunch was done and dusted last Monday at Tante Marie and all in all I was fairly happy with how it went. There were a few little issues but nothing that caused too much impact on the final dishes... except for the jelly! But more on that later.
The actual menu I choose was a little more complex than I may have let on in the initial post on the subject:

Terrine of goat's cheese
served with marinated raisins, cox apple batons, toasted walnuts and a selection of lettuce leaves with a light walnut oil dressing.


Ballotine of tarragon chicken
accompanied by confit chicken leg, fresh peas, sautéed wild mushrooms, purple asparagus, leek fondue and a white wine sauce.


Lemon meringue
choux balls filled with creamy Italian meringue and served with lemon curd, raspberry jelly*, crispy meringue peaks and candied lemon peel with a dusting of raspberry powder.

So the starter was a young goats cheese blended in a food processor with some Greek yoghurt. I then added diced apple and celery before adding some hot whipping cream with a little gelatin to help hold it all together so I could turn it out of the ring mould easily. Nice and simple and absolutely Dyl-icious when combined with the white wine marinated raisins, crisp cox apples, toasted walnuts and dressing... even if I do say so myself.

Monday, 7 June 2010

The Celebration Lunch Exam

This morning I have my “Celebration Lunch Exam” at Tante Marie and as you can see I am all packed and ready to go... I feel almost like a chef on The Great British Menu with my box of goodies!

The premise is simple, a seasonal 3 course meal for 4 people costing exactly £23.50. Some of you may remember my “Budget Lunch Exam” where the premise was the same just with a total budget of just £8.... well this really does feel like a celebration with all that cash money to play with!

The menu:

Goats Cheese Salad


Chicken in White Wine Sauce with Summer Vegetables


Lemon Meringue

Those of you have endured these blog posts for a while may also remember my waffle about “under promising and over delivering”.... something which I haven't done in this case.... much.

A big thank you to Sarah @BrockhallFarm over on Twitter for sending me the beautiful goats cheese she makes for the starter... I just hope I do you, and the goat's justice!... now click on the link to follow her!

On a final note, I am 2 weeks behind with the Tante Marie updates but will have a little time this week to catch up I hope. They will come, promise.


Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Term 2 - Week 5 @ Tante Marie

So.... week 5 saw more consommé being prepared and consumed, this time an "Asian" version which was quite delicately flavoured and served with ribbons of coriander pancakes, delightful.

 We also made "Globi de volaille" which apparently very roughly translated means "chicken pear" due to its shape and not any flavouring element.  The globi were made using poussin with each bird being fashioned into two 'pears' by removing all the flesh and skin from the carcass in one piece, before removing all the leg and wing bones bar the thigh,  whilst retaining all their meat.  With the aid of some stuffing and a few cocktail sticks its a simple matter of applying a little gentle persuasion to get the desired shape.  The picture below shows one of my globi before some final touches to ensure it had a flatter base so it would stand proud and upright, and not bent or lopsided like the average Woking resident on a Friday or Saturday evening.

I know it looks like a chicken leg but its half a baby chicken stuffed with more chicken with only one bone... the one I am holding.
As promised in the previous weeks recap... here is a real life, unadulterated VOL-AU-VENT! You can't quite tell the scale of this puff pastry creation, but there is nearly a whole chicken inside it along with onion and mushroomy sauce.... so lets just say that a REAL vol-au-vent is not something you could easily eat as a canapé! It was made with two layers of puff pastry and I was very happy with the rise I got from it.
A real life actual Vol-au-vent!

And now onto the main event of the week... THE “Wedding Buffet”.  Less talk about this the better really, its a buffet, for a wedding.... though not a real one... we ate it all for our lunch.

Dressed salmon

One of my contributions - rolled and stuffed and glazed pork loin.

Pate de volaille en croute.

Duck terrine ( I think).

Salmon... something.

Dressed Crabilicious!

Smoked salmon cheesecake.

Ham hock terrine.

Foreground is another smoked salmon cheesecake, background is a terrine de ratatouille nicoise.


Soft pistachio meringue with rhubarb orange and pomegranate.

Charlotte au chocolat, marbe Grand Marnier.

There were other dishes cooked but I failed to snap snaps of them before they got tucked into.  My other two dishes were a pasta salad and a delice de cassis.

Well that is all for now... I should, again, be revising for my theory exam on Friday morning... going to do my best to do that now.... but Great British Menu is on BBC2!!!!


Sunday, 23 May 2010

Why your BBQ makes me want to burn a bus shelter down (NSFW)

Well judging by the smell wafting in through my open bedroom window... coupled with the tingly sensation that comes by over exposing flesh to the power of the suns rays, I can say with confidence that, for today at least, BBQ season is upon the UK.

Having perused my Facebook page I became somewhat unsettled and then perturbed by something that has been gnawing away at me for a number of years. You know the kind of thing that crops up, starts to piss you off and then is gone just before it built up a head of steam within you causing you to embark on a day of over-turning cars and setting fire to bus shelters?

Well.... NOT ANY MORE!!! I cant contain it, I cant get away from it, its there in my view on Facebook and irritating my nostrils this very second, there is NO getting away from it!!! (the smell at least... I could, possibly, if I realllllllly needed to log out of Facebook.... said in the same way a smoker says they can quit at any time!).

So what is it about BBQ's that get me “a little” pissed off? Well to demonstrate here is a status update from my brothers wife....

“There is nothing like the sweet, sweet taste of a bbq burger!!”

Ok, now I am usually quite well spoken... on here at least, but if swear words offend you I would suggest exiting this page and deleting your history and any memory of this blog.

You have been warned.

Still here....?

Ok then..... (Mrs A if you are still reading this please don't judge me and mark me down in my final exam)


Term 2 - Week 4 @ Tante Marie

Excuse the briskness of this post but since we have just completed week 5 you can understand I am a little behind what with all the work that is due to be handed in over the next week or so.

As expected there was more puff pastry on the go this week at Tante Marie, this time in the form of “Bouchées”. You may recognise these puff pastry tidbits from supermarket or the from the 70's where they were generally marketed to the masses as “vol-au-vent cases”. Well sit down and grab a strong drink (my preference is a 6-pack of special brew) as I have some harrowing news... you have been lied too! What was marketed to you as a vol-au-vent was in fact a ! The dirty lying bastards! You will be able to see what an actual vol-au-vent looks like in my next post so please rest easy for now and continue to read if can get over this monumental occurrence that may well have shattered your faith in society as a whole.... why would they lie to us? Why why why why???

These are bouchées and not vol-au-vents... crazy times we are living in people.

So... we made our puff pastry, had our usual “rise competition” filled the vol-au-vents, sorry I mean bouchées, with various savoury mixtures. I was happy with the rise I got, in fact the rise was a little too great as they became unstable and toppled over, nothing that a bit of redirecting and pressure cant sort out though.

Oh yeah..... the all inportant side profile "rise shot"!

A “Frutti” was also on the cards this week, a “Frutti a la vanille” to be more detailed

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Term 2 - Week 3 @ Tante Marie

Well another week and an another belated blog post about the happenings at Tante Marie.

Last week was a short one what with it being a bank holiday on the Monday, with a few demonstration classes and a theory meant five sessions in the kitchens was all we managed. Having said that there was plenty to keep us occupied.

Puff pastry has so far this term has been, and as far as I can see will continue to be, a recurring 'basic' that will greet us again and again over the coming weeks. There were two dishes involving this beautifully buttery crisp delight that faced us, the “seafood pithiviers” and the “tranche des fruits”.

I enjoy making these pastry dishes, not because of the later consumption of the calorie laden and gratifying assembly's, but because of the challenge presented. Puff pastry is not hard to make as I am sure I said in last weeks update, however it does take a certain amount of care to make it well. It is in the baking when one will find out how well it has been made, and its becoming a bit of a obsession with some of us in group 5 as to how much “rise” we get out of each batch. All good fun.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Growing your own micro leaves - UPDATE 2


Columns from left to right: Speedy Salad Mix, Blood Veined Sorrel, Wild Rocket, Garlic Chives.

Speedy Salad Mix has consolidated its lead and started to pack on a few grams of weight in the Propagator Handicap Classic. Garlic Chives don't know whether they are coming or going with their sporadic and somewhat retarded growth pattern thus far. Wild Rocket are showing strength in numbers, but are probably to far behind Speedy Salad Mix to mount a challenge. Bringing up the rear but with Garlic Chives firmly in its sights is Blood Veined Sorel who looks to be laying a good base from which it can mount an attack on third place.

Bulls Blood (bottom left & middle), Lemon Basil (bottom right) Japanese Mizuna (top right), Swiss Chard Brightlights (top middle), Swiss Chard Yellow (top left).

Bulls Blood, Yellow Swiss Chard and Swiss Chard Bright-lights have all made great progress with Bulls Blood the more proliferate of the three with Swiss Chard Yellow very close behind. Way out in front though in the Egg Box Special are the Japanese Mizuna leaves who have made remarkable progress in the last few days. Lemon Basil has made a belated go of things, will it be able to catch Swiss Chard Brightlights is anyones guess.

The peas* are still stuck firmly in the starting pods with no sign as yet as to whether they will make a go of it at all.

Crazy scenes down here.... back to the studio.


*not pictured.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Term 2 - Week 1 & 2 @ Tante Marie

Mini coffee éclairs with boiled coffee fondant icing.

So the looong five week break is over and a return to Tante Marie for the final term of my Intensive Cordon Bleu Diploma has begun. We are in receipt of our practical exam, theory exams and wedding buffets dates as well as “The Project”.... and all I can say is that it's gonna be a busy one!

So the first week back was a mere three days long and involved gammon glazed with ginger and rum, tartelettes des desmoiselles tatin, part 1 of 3 petit fours classes and a host of theory and demonstrations. There was also the new intake of Intensive students whom are all very pleasant indeed... which also lead to a highly embarrassing moment.

There I was ratting my lunch which had been prepared by the new students, when one of the “newbies” whom I had not previously met asked if I was indeed “Dylan”. I informed her that I was indeed he, at which point she went stark raving mental, exclaiming to the world how much she loved my blog, how she had tried the baguette recipe and it works a treat, and if I could give her an autographed picture of me just wearing my apron. It was all very awkward at this point and classmates tried to remove her from my presence, she tried stealing my fork as a memento and bit poor Lulu.... it wasnt pretty*.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Growing your own micro leaves - UPDATE 1

Speed salad mix on the left hand side colum taking Woking by storm... Garlic chives on the right are drunk and sprouting upside down. The wild rocket 2nd from right making a noteworthy worthy effort, and 2nd from the left, red veined sorrel is a non starter so far!

The leaves are taking a little longer to grow than I originally anticpiated. Although we have had some lovely 
weather over the last 6 days it has been a little on the cool side which I believe will inhibit the growth rate.  I have also moved the tray onto a window sill on the staircase where I won't forget about them.

Nonetheless there are signs of life with the “speedy salad mix” seeds living upto there name having pulled off a fantastic first leg. Not a huge distance behind is the wild rocket which is growing steadily and evenly across the two jobbies of soil. The garlic chives have just sprouted, however a few seem to be growing upside down at the moment... pissheads.

Over in the egg tray the Japanese Mizuna leaves are the only ones making

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Agar Clarification - Easy as pie and brings stocks to life!

The 'before' on the right and the 'after' on the left.  Pretty impressive hey!
When I tried 'gelatin filtration' way back at the start of the year it was with the aim of producing a full-flavoured clarified stock that would act as a consommé. Although it was a success, I was left wondering what the reduced liquid would be like if used in a reduction sauce (jus). What with all the gelatin being removed in the clarification process I couldn't help but feel the jus would lack the viscosity we all have come to know and love.

The answer it would seem is to use Agar (sometimes called “Agar Agar”?!?!!), a product derived from red algae. It can be found in most Asian shops and is known as “Falooda Powder” or a lot of supermarkets who brand it as “Vegetarian Gelatin".

Friday, 23 April 2010

You can see me... but now I can see you! YES YOU!!!

I mentioned in an earlier post that I use to keep tabs on how many vistors I get to my blog. It is for no other reason than to see if its actually a worthwhile task, if no one is reading it then there is no real reason for me to continue with it.

As fate would have it there are a few strange people out there who actually seem to enjoy my musings (I'm looking at you!), and it is astonishing to look at the maps provides to see where are you strange people are from.

The website only provides info about the last 500 visitors to the site, with a subscription needed to have a greater record size... 500 however is more than enough for my ego stroking... I mean my research into this being a worthwhile endeavour.

Click map for larger version

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Growing your own micro leaves

So a new and final term at Tante Marie began today after our very long, but eventful, five week Easter break. I have decided that a number of new challenges is on the cards in the next 11 weeks, one of which I have just begun.
I have decided to venture into the murky world of “micro-greens” or “micro-leaves” or “micro-herbs” depending on what I decide to grow and who you listen to as to what classification to give them.
You may know of these miniature green things from your excursions to fancy restaurants and/or seeing them on a myriad of cooking shows where they seem to adorn almost every dish. Not being green fingered in the slightest this could be an interesting challenge, Alan Titchmarsh or Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall will most probably not approve.

Into my little green house tray jobbie thing (a propagator for all you techno-green-fingerers) have gone a variety of seeds... all planted in the same haphazard manner, there will be no cries of favouritism from these seeds thats for sure.

The planted varieties include... Japanese Mizuna, Lemon Basil, Wild Rocket, Blood Veined Sorrel, Peas, Bulls Blood, Garlic Chives, Swiss Chard (yellow), Swiss Chard (bright lights?!?!) and a free packet of Assorted Leaves.

Will they sprout?

Will they survive long enough to be eaten?

Will they taste good?

All these questions and so much more will be answered in future instalments of my green fingered adventures... I can hear you crying out for more already!

But you will have to be patient my children, but not that patient some of these varieties can apparently be harvested within 10days... another reason I am giving it a go as I do love instant gratification, and this seems about as instant as gardening can get!

See you back here soon!