Sunday, 31 January 2010

Week 4 - Ramsay, Tarts and Fish

Glazed Fruit Tart... mother will be proud.

I will start this post by saying WOW.

This WOW is in reference to a certain Mr Ramsay, but is not to do with him as a person but more as the brand. If you read my last post you will know that Gordon, or El Gordo as we, his close friends, like to call him, popped into Tante Marie last week to freak out most of the students. I would like to believe that his visit and my subsequent post on the matter had no real influence in the number of hits my blog got that evening and the next day. No, I would prefer to believe it was down to my eloquent prose and witty humour which somehow the readers could sense in the ethereal world of intertwining interwebs and were drawn to these very pages. Unfortunately the realist in me finds this hard to swallow.

So what pull does “Brand Ramsay” have... well since I began this blog at the start of this month, and up until I posted about El Gordo, my little blog had received 891 page loads from 609 unique visitors. Not bad an average of 28 unique visitors per day for 22 days. I posted the “Ramsay Post” at 17:56 on Thursday the 28th January. I had 22 page loads from 17 unique visitors if my memory serves me correctly. By midnight, 6 hours later, I received a total of 200 page loads from 134 unique visitors. The following day I received 188 page loads from 99 unique visitors! As of today my blog has received 1279 page loads from 842 visitors for the month, not bad work, not bad at all. A thank you to the people at Stat Counter for providing the data as well as those at Google Analytics.

Pasta sauces created by El Gordo for Comic Relief

Well thats enough of that, I am sure only I am interested in all these numbers.... but just for your information, looking at the map Google Analytics provides of where you, my readers, come from, if I want to take a well earned holiday far away from all you blog fans out there, its going to be a tough choice between The Democratic Republic of the Congo and North Korea, neither of which, unlike Brazil, I am big in.

Week 4 at Tante Marie saw a few challenges, the first of which was to cover our celebration cakes (made in previous weeks) with an almond paste. Now lets be honest here. I hate this kind of thing, when I found out we were going to have to decorate this horrible fruit cake (and boy do I hate fruit cakes), and not only decorate it but we would get marked and it would go towards our final mark for the course, I wept. Please note though that I wept “on the inside”, it just wouldn't do for a northerner to be seen weeping in front of all these “soft southern furries” now would it?

And it wasn't just the fact that I hate fruit cake that had me weeping (on the inside, just making sure), but the decorating. My elder brother is the artist in the family, he can draw trees by “drawing where the trees aren't”... yeah he is that good! I on the other hand am not an artist, not in the slightest. The thought of having to make figures out of icing, little pretty flowers and piping little designs fills me with dread... firstly because of my complete ineptitude in such delicate things,but mainly at the thought of what “the boys” back home will think I have become down in the soft south.

Alas, stage one was to cover the cakes with a almond paste, a task that went surprisingly smoothly. Tomorrow I have to cover the almond paste with cold fondant which will serve as the final finish... oh dear god help me!

A face only a mother could love - Monkfish Head

A highlight for me last week was the fish lecture held by a lovely man (I forget his name, sorry) who is close to 70 years of age and has been dealing with fish since the age of 12. You could say he knew his stuff. I especially enjoyed the parts where he would show us how to fillet different fishes, just before which he would say “I'll do this slowly so you can see what I am doing”.... a flurry of movement and 2.67 seconds later a lovely Plaice had been turned into 2 half fillets and one full fillet... in the words of the late and great Tommy Cooper, “Just like that”.

Classmate Debs (she's Canadian and everything) Beef and Guiness Pie... don't ask what happened to mine!

As for actual cooking, the week saw the creation of Rough puff pastry and its use in a Beef and Guiness pie, a Tarte aux fruits, Carottes vichy, Simple fruit brulée (a recipe stolen from my mother), Vegetable stock that went into our Crème jardinière soup, Crème caramels, Lemon and herb stuffed roast chicken, Pommes de terre duchesse, choux au gratin, Quiche Lorraine and finally Chocolate muffins. Thursday saw the full day taken up by the hygiene course talked about in my last post, and the interruption by El Gordo, and that as they say is that.

 Cme Caramel... with some pointless whipped cream and blueberries.

Nothing terribly challenging this week, although the rough puff pastry was something I enjoyed making and will probably feature in my Budget Lunch... something I will tell you about in my next post.
So come back soon and find out how I get on covering my cake with the fondant icing, and how one goes about cooking a 3 course meal on a very restrictive budget.


Thursday, 28 January 2010

When Dylan spanked Gordon Ramsay.......

Now who owns a car like this?

Well wasn't that an unexpected event. Today we had a full day of theory classes culminating in an exam, upon successful completion of which will give us a Level 2 Award in Food Safety. The class was taken by the husband of the lady who presented the healthy eating class I wrote about in the last post.

This was however quite a different kettle of fish, meaning it was two things, both interesting and informative.... as well as being a prerequisite to work in a catering establishment. We learnt all about bacteria and viruses that can be spread by food, cross contamination, how to chill food fast and get it through the “danger zone” within the allotted 2hr time frame before bacteria start to multiply... and much more.

Some of the more interesting parts where the lecturers little tangents about work he had done as an expert witness in court cases, his work on tv shows such as Panorama and the “Britain's Worst.....” series where he was involved in finding the worst restaurant from a hygiene point of view. All much better than being told we could make pastry with low fat margarine!

Anyway... it was whilst we were learning the differences between detergent, disinfectant and sanitiser that we were rudely interrupted by the school principle Andrew Maxwell, a co-owner of the school and joint founder of Absolute Taste, Lyndy Redding and a geezer who likes to cook a bit and apparently does a not too bad job at it.It was a brief visit, he wished us luck with our exam that was following shortly and informed us that food hygiene courses are...

“like that ugly French teacher you had at school, they seem pointless and boring but when you get to France and see all the women you wish you had paid more attention”


The food safety guy then had a light hearted pop at one of his restaurants only getting 3 out of 5 stars in a cleanliness inspection... but it has to be said that 3 stars equates to a “good” rating, 2 stars being “satisfactory” and one star being “poor”... not all bad then!

We then had to get on with our learning while students looked at each puzzled and wondered if that actually just happened. It did. I have photos priced at £10 to prove it.

A covert picture taken by myself of Gordon Ramsay interupting our class, I tell you some people have no manners these days.

The test was dully administered and we had a full 60 minutes to complete it... we started at 16:00 and 25 multiple choice questions later I was out of the door by 16:10. Fate it would seem was smiling on me. As I exited with fellow classmate Lewis, we turned around to see Gordon Ramsay (if you hadn't guess it was him yet) leaving for his brand new Ferrari as a couple of the students on the year long course stood around star struck... not I though, oh no. I scampered... yes I said scampered, over to him thrust my hand out and asked in a tone which left little room for any other answer than yes, for a photo. We posed while Lewis tried to work the camera and I instructed to Gordon to “smile.... I'll make you famous” to which he had no response other than the awkward grin, but that could equally have been caused by me slapping his arse. Oh yes I did.

Gordon... meet the competition... look at the fear in his eyes...
he is trying to hide it, but its not working!

I am sure he was thinking... “who the fuck is this guy and why the fuck do I have my arm around him?” A question which he will soon know the answer to the first part at least. You see, unbeknownst to Gordon at the start of the year wheels were put in motion that could quite literally change the landscape of the British restaurant industry, and with his investment in Tante Marie he was playing a part in the rise of the next great culinary master (that's me if you were wondering) which will inevitably eclipse his own great accomplishments......

OK OK maybe not.... but you never know, maybe.... does one no good to ever count me out! ;-)

And that's that. My meeting with probably one of my only 'idols'... a word I would have been hesitant to use until actually meeting him after all the years of watching him do something I love on telly.  Today was a good day.


p.s.  Its a Ferrari California if you like those sort of things...plate reads "8 GJR"  Gordon James Ramsay!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Week 3... and a healthy eating fundalmentalist

 A whole Lamb, just thought you may like to see it

Ok I lied again, I didn't post a recap of last week on Saturday evening like I said I would, what can I say, a bottle of Vino Tinto got in the way... so here is a very very brief recap on what we covered in no particular order last week at Tante Marie.

Pâté de foie de volaille (Smooth chicken liver Pâté) with Melba Toast, Pâté demi-feuilletée (flaky pastry), York fingers, Crème de tomates with croutons, Pavlova, Rack of lamb with garlic and parlsey crust, Potato purée with leeks, Bread rolls, another go at Pâté demi-feuilletée and finally we learned to make a 'Water lily napkin' to serve our bread rolls on.

Told you it would be brief!

There was not a huge deal of cooking last week as you can see, this was mainly because we had three demonstration mornings, a theory class and all day Monday we did our RSPH Level 2 in Healthier food and special diets... and this is what I want to talk about.

I guess the clue was in the tittle “healthier food” and should have prepared myself and the rest of the class for what lay in store, although I still think it would have come as a bit of a shock. We spent the day learning about healthier cooking methods, eating a balanced diet, special dietary needs of some people such as Celiacs who are gluten intolerant and so cannot eat wheat products for example. All very good.
One of our lovely Government handouts so we can eat properly.  I dont see 
the Pie group on here though??? How curious.

It was the “healthier food” section that was the winner on the entertainment front. I mean, why didnt I ever think of making a bechmel sauce with milk and thickening it with cornflour... no need for the butter used in the the roux, oh and while we are at it we can use skimmed milk to ensure that it completely devoid of any flavour. Salt, we dont need salt. Are you mad? Have you gone insane?Whats that you say? We could use low fat margarine to make our pastry with? Are you being serious sweetheart, are you? And the day progressed on this note. At first I thought the lady teaching the course was a comedian with a uncanny flare for a dead-pan delivery of her routine.... I was wrong. Seriously wrong!

Now don't get me wrong I understand the point of the course, its hypothetical, its the “theoretically you could do this” line, which yes indeed you theoretically could. But lets be honest here, just because you could does not in any way shape or form me that you should! If you cant enjoy food, if you cant have your butter, your salt, your cream... then what is the point. Give me a intravenous drip and feed me the nutrients I need to survive.

And this was what I think most of my fellow classmates were thinking. We are on a course learning classical French cooking techniques, and yes we use lard, we use cream, we use butter, we use salt, we make pastry all the time, and no we have never used margarine to make it! And this lady, lovely as she was, was attempting to rock the very foundations of what we were learning, it was as if she was trying to tell us that indeed the world is flat.

Enough of the ranting, I want to talk about the highlight of last weeks food very quickly, and that was the rack of lamb. My butchery skills are limited to hacking apart whole chickens whilst at Uni and trimming a couple of whole fillets of beef so just the perfectly cylindrical eye of the fillet was left whilst on a yacht. Getting stuck into a rack of lamb and French trimming it, removing all the meat, fat and sinew from the bones was great fun... and it tasted bloody good too.

Unfortunately there are none of my pictures of any of this due to the thieving scumbag who stole my camera, however the recap of this weeks work will indeed be in full technicolor. You lucky lucky people you!

p.s. Please tell me any of your amazing substitutes for creating low-fat versions of things that should not be eaten in a low-fat form... I have a pen and paper ready to make notes.... promise.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Musings - The London Underground

Have you seen this man?  
Ok I lied to you, and I am not sorry. I did not post more frequently this week as it was confirmed my camera was 'thieved' by some scumbag on the course. I feel that a blog without pictures is like chips without the salt 'n'vinegar. Pointless. So my replacement camera is here now, but I wont bore you with last weeks happenings at Tante Marie until this evening. For now you will have to make do with my musings about 'the tube' in London. What has this got to do with cooking you ask? Nothing, but you are here now so shhhhhh yourself and listen....

Yesterday I travelled from Woking to White Hart Lane to watch Tottenham vs Leeds in the FA Cup, a game that was frustratingly drawn 2-2. But that is neither here nor there. I travelled by train and then by tube and noticed not for the first time how down right weird these people from “Landan Tawn” are.

A busy tube - is that the correct terminology?

So what is the deal with Londoners? Specifically those that frequent that wonder of a public transport system... the tube? Can you catch AIDs from making eye contact with a stranger on the tube? Has the government been covering this up? It seems like a silly question to ask if I am honest, but that is the only thing I could think of to explain how if someone makes the slightest hint of eye contact with someone else, theirs eyes dart away so fast their corneas must suffer some sort of whiplash in the process. It is the weirdest phenomena I have witnessed, yet makes a great game if you are as bored as I was. Just keep finding people to make eye contact with, when they glance away keep staring at them, they will look back eventually and when they do, throw them a wink... it freaks them right out! Its almost as good as getting into a lift that is full of people, and not turning round! You stand there, facing into the lift and smile and nod at everyone and watch how this blatant disregard for lift etiquette gets them completely weirded (don't think that is a word, but I like it!) out. Good times.

And god forgive the person that speaks on the tube, even more so if it is to a stranger. Yesterday I witnessed on multiple occasions that these tube users will not utter one word to anyone even if it is clearly in their best interest to do so. At one stage the train was packed, we were like sardines crushed together in a can. The train stops. The doors open. A few people get off, a few more get on. I watched a man try and force his way through the sardines without so much as a word. He tried to slip and slide between the bodies of strangers forced naturally close to one another with out making a sound. I assumed he must have been either an Mi5 agent covertly tracking a suspect, or a Ninja assassin slowly creeping towards his target unnoticed. Truth was not as exciting as I hoped, he was a guy trying to get off at that stop but could not bring himself to say something as ground breaking as “excuse me” or “sorry, can I squeeze past this is my stop”. I assume he must have been in fear of offending the whole of London with his bold and forward thinking, that or he didn't want to distract them from their strenuous efforts to not make eye contact with one another. I must say I did find it quite funny when the doors shut and he was still no where near the door! Next stop for you laddie boy!!

Another classic I have witnessed before occurred as I strolled towards the correct platform to take me north on the Victoria line, a gentleman comes flying past me at a near sprint to try and get to the train. He misses it by five seconds if that. Then the most amazing thing happened, he went nuts. He literally freaked out and started shouting, swearing and screaming while hurling himself about in apparent disgust at himself and the tube service. Very peculiar behaviour indeed and it got me thinking why would one get so upset of such a trivial matter... but before I could finish this thought, actually, before I could barely start my thought, I was rudely interrupted by the next train arriving! They run every god damn two minutes... TWO MINUTES... unless you are drowning two minutes is not really a long time. Have a think of what you could do in two minutes... not much, you could probably make a brew, but you couldn't drink it. Two minutes, all that fuss over two minutes... sort your life out sir!!!

White Hart Lane Stadium - Home to Tottenham Hotspur FC

So then it happened, as it always seems to happen to me... my meeting with the local nut job. I was off the tube at this point but I feel I may as well continue on with this rant for my own psychological well being. As I awaited my father to meet me outside White Hart Lane, the resident nut job decided I would like nothing more than to become his new best friend on a chilly Saturday evening. As he began telling me about how the police horses were freaking him out I could do nothing than do the the very English thing of smiling and using the occasional nod all the while wondering how the hell to best get away from this guy... but in a polite manner of course. The conversation he was having at me was at a intellectual level I am not yet ready for...

“you see mate, if they used tigers instead of horses it wouldn't be so bad, tigers will only bite you on the shoulder, but you get a horse.... mind you it has to be a clever horse, and not all horses are clever... the horse can kick the tiger and kill it. They are the same as elephants that's why elephants don't get killed by tigers, they are smarter than us. But they always use these horses and they scare the shit out of me, horses and tigers, they freak me right out.”

Seemingly this is not one of my mans "clever horses"

And this continued for a few more minutes until thankfully my phone rang and I could beat as hasty retreat to meet my father over the road. I must say he was a polite nutter and thanked me for my time and for “talking” to him. I wonder if he is on Twitter or Facebook..... might have been nice to keep in touch....


Sunday, 17 January 2010

Week 2 part 2 - Breakfast Salad, Calves Liver & Angelica... yes Angelica!?!?!

Previous part of this post can be found here.

Next up was 'Truite aux amandes' to my mother, or Trout and almonds to me and you. Our first chance to gut a fish and our second go at filleting one. We then tried our hands at turning some potatoes, to make them into pretty barrel shapes, a traditional French technique. We then had our first theory class, in which we received the dates of such delights as our 3 day wine course... yes it involves tasting, wines, spirits, champagnes, liquors.. everything. Yes spit buckets are apparently provided, no you don't have to use them if you think spitting in public is vulgar, as I most certainly do, Mother just wouldn't allow it!

Thursday – Morning was a demo, followed by making the pastry for the Latticed Apple Tart and blind baking, assembling with our previously made filling, baking and then completing with a heavy glaze. We also made Crème Asphodele, a lemon mouse set with gelatin. I found this to be very retro, what with the angelica garnish and all! Seriously.... angelica!!??! Traditionally one would use two diamond shaped pieces of angelica placed together to form a heart like shape. I was told that my two off centred strips making an 'X' shape added nothing to the dish, and we should endeavour not to add things to the dish that doesn't add anything to it. My response was simply “So why are we adding angelica to the dish? It adds nothing but a bright green, awful textured, over sweetness to the dish... which isn't good a good thing” my point was seemingly missed. I cant see Crème Asphodele being used too much nowadays unless as a component of a dish, and only if the amount of gelatin used is reduced to create a less dense texture (like the ones I made... shhh don't tell anyone or I may get in trouble for not following the recipe).

Friday – Saw us make a 'Salade de petits déjeuner avec oeuf mollets' (breakfast salad with soft boiled eggs), Glazed calves liver with sweet potato mash, stir fried brussel sprouts (yes I said sprouts, stir fried, pay attention!), Anchovy cheesecakes and finally Tart Frangipane as mentioned at the start of the earlier blog. The salad was a straight forward affair, the only bit that needed attention was the egg. Oeuff Mollets has no English translation apparently, but what it is is an egg cooked half way between the usual soft and hard boiled eggs.  (You can see an example in the pic at the start of this blog, the egg that occupies the top and central portion of the pic) I decided upon a time of 5 minutes after slyly watching some of my class mates undercooked and over cooked attempts. Remember in my earlier post when I said 'NEVER AGAIN'? Well seemingly I forgot my previous statement and I left it to my onion soup partner to make a note of the time, put the eggs into boiling water, add 5 minutes to the noted time then remove to ice water to stop the cooking, whilst I got on with some washing up. Seven minutes (not five) later the eggs came out.

Enough said.

The calves liver was a delight, with the balsamic and herb glaze, really quite splendid. The sprouts were sprouts... so long as they are not over cooked they are edible. The only thing to talk about was the 'cheesecakes'. These were not the cheesecakes you and I would recognise. They indeed contained cheese, but rather than a cream-cheese they contained a nice mature cheddar. Rather than having a buttery biscuit base, these has a cheesy pastry base. Rather than having a lovely sweet topping, these had a filling of anchovies and butter in between two of the pastry 'bases'! Alas, these are cheesecakes in the loosest sense of the term and are indeed little nibbles one may consume with some champagne whilst debating the latest exhibition at the Tate Modern. Quite tasty and very morish, despite what their name may suggest.

So that's it for now, I will try and get myself back to full health this week and post a new blog every couple of days rather than a big recap like this. If I find my camera I will update these two blogs with pics, if not I guess I will have to extort some funds from someone in order to purchase a replacement. A blog without pictures... what's the point in that???

p.s. For those of you that know me personally and are disappointed at my lack of rants that have made their way into this blog... fear not! I can feel one or two slowly bubbling up from deep inside where I have kept them quite well quashed. How much longer I can keep them confined to my mind is anyone's guess. Lets just hope it doesn't rain any time soon, and I don't find myself following some ****head again with the worlds largest umbrella meandering around a crowded town centre, obliviously blinding half the population of Woking. They call them 'Golf Umbrellas' for a reason, think about it!

Week 2 part 1 - Trout, Omelette Arnold Bennet, French Onion Soup and More!


Ok I am sorry I have lapsed a little with the blogs, mainly due to coming down with some good old flu and a nice fever to boot. The number of emails I have received quite literally threatening me with imaginary physical violence if I don't post again soon, have been really quite underwhelming.

To illustrate the extent of my illness, on Friday afternoon we baked a Frangipane Tart, something to which I am quite partial, although it doesn't hold a candle to a good Bakewell Tart. My tart was excellent, great pastry (pâte sucrée), excellent filling made with triple the amount of Kirsch (what can I say I was knocked while measuring it out) and a fine drizzle of icing. So what did I do with this fine example of a almond and cherry flavored tart you ask? I gave it away! Why? Quite simply because the way I was feeling by the end of the day, I could not gather the strength or motivation to carry it home. Its a sad tale I know.

However on this glorious Surrey Sunday I feel I should make the effort to recap some of the things we did last week and take a look at what is on the menu over the next 5 days.

Monday – Was a full day in the kitchen making a number of items. I say items because it seems we are not learning complete and refined dishes at this stage, but more of a mix of components that may or may not be a suitable accompaniment to each other. I believe this is purely to introduce skills that are all of a similar level of complexity to one another to ensure the less experienced in the group do not struggle so much with the tasks at hand.

The items were as follows: Brown Stock, Omelette Arnold Bennet, Coleslaw Salad (Sauce Mayonnaise), Plum and Blackberry Cobbler, Basic White & Brown Bread, Celebration Cake (pt 1.), Mexican Choc Chip Cookies (dough)

The star of these was the Omelette Arnold Bennet, a Omelette with the inclusion of poached smoked haddock covered with a Sauce Mornay flavoured with the milk from poaching the fish, then browned under a grill. The bread making was enjoyable, something about seeing and feeling the dough change whilst kneading is quite satisfying... along with the later consumption with copious amounts of foie gras courtesy of my mother at Christmas. Ta Doris.

Tuesday – We had a demo in the morning, followed by cooking in the afternoon. Quite a straight forward day really, we finished our celebration mixture and baked the Mexican Cookies we started on Monday and made the filling for a Latticed Apple Flan.  Using a gas oven was a bit of a nightmare for the cookies as you cant bake two tray successfully at once due to the differing temps between the two levels.  We ended up with one ok tray, the other spread to much as the fat melted before the other ingredients had a chance to set meaning they spread out like a mofo.  If you would like a definition of the term 'mofo' click here.

Wednesday – After a good 3-4 inches of snow fell over night there were a few students missing from class so we baked their Celebration cakes for them. We are nice like that. We worked in pairs to cook a Soupe á l'oignons (French Onion Soup) something I made every week for 5 months on a ski season. I therefore left the crucial browning and caramelisation of the onions to my partner who had never made it before. As more students slowly dribbled in late, I moved downstairs to another kitchen leaving my partner explicit instructions to stir the now 'fudgey' onions every 60 seconds for 5 more mins or it will catch. I should note at this point that French Onion Soup is my favourite soup, there is nothing better than a perfectly executed example, and nothing worse than an insipid undercooked one. The key is in the onions, they need to be browned so very slowly over 40-60mins stirring regularly especially towards the end. Imagine my pain when I returned just 5 minutes later to add the previously made Brown Stock, to see my partner scraping the bottom of a pan, so thick with carbonised onions it probably had to be thrown away. Devastation doesn't come close to describing my emotions.  I turned and walked away in a mixture of despair, anger and self loathing that I hadn't stayed until the crucial moment.  NEVER AGAIN!

Part 2. to follow shortly....


Monday, 11 January 2010

Clarifying Stock - Ice/Gelatin Filtration Part 2

So I explained in part 1 yesterday the process of Ice/Gelatin Filtration in this post, today I will show you how I got on when I put the theory into practice.

Lightly colouring veg for the stock

I started by making brown chicken stock using some chicken wings, an onion (skin left on to aid the colour of the stock), a diced carrot, few bay leaves, garlic cloves and whole peppercorns. I roasted the chicken wings first to help with the flavour and colour of the stock, and brown the veg in a saucepan for the same reason.

Lightly roasted chicken wings, I could have gone for more colour if I wanted

I added the chicken to the veg, making sure to scrape the sticky 'juicy bits' from the tray and added water to just cover everything, then set it over a moderate until it boiled, then turned it down to a simmer for about an hour. I made the point of not skimming any impurities and fat from the stock as I wanted to really test how well this method would 'clean' my stock.

 Un-skimmed stock being brought to the boil

After an hour a drained the stock and passed it through a sieve to remove any large particles.  It is CRITICAL that the stock is well seasoned  at this point to how you want the final product to taste, any seasoning added after the stock is clarified will cloud the stock. Allow the stock to cool completely and freeze overnight.  

Sieving the stock
The following afternoon I removed the stock from the freezer and placed it on some muslin that had been folded three times and set that in a sieve. I place the sieve on a large pan and place it all in the fridge to slowly defrost for the next 24hrs. Remember that defrosting in the fridge is crucial to ensure gelatin remains solid so it can filter the melting liquid, and the fat stays solid so it doesn't re-emulsify back into the liquid and leave us with a greasy stock.
Frozen stock on muslin - the white stuff is frozen fat. Tasty

All we need now is time... time and patience. Fortunately I had a day at Tante Marie to complete allowing me to be distracted by other matters before returning home to see the results... and here they are....

The stock had nearly all melted leaving a nasty looking residue on the muslin

Spot the difference... no prizes will be awarded.

I had the foresight to save some of the original stock for comparison purposes, and as you can see the experiment was a resounding success and I am very very happy with the outcome. Even the smell of the cold stocks vary considerably, with the clarified stock smelling fresher, or maybe crisper would be a better description!
So what are your thoughts on this technique?  do you think as I do that it could be a valuable tool in the kitchen or a waste of time?  Let me know below in the comments section....


Sunday, 10 January 2010

Clarifying Stock - Ice/Gelatin Filtration

Late on friday night I stumbled across an episode of Heston Blumenthals 'In search of perfection' on Youtube. In this particular episode Heston was trying to create the perfect Peking Duck, and one of the courses he was creating involved making a stock, a clarified one at that.

The traditional method (simplified) to clarify a stock would involve blending some meat in a food processor (if its a chicken stock you would blend chicken breast, for a beef stock... beef) along with some egg whites and add this mix to the cold stock.

The next stage would be to whisk the stock continuously with the egg-meat mix and slowly heat it all up on the stove. When it boils you would stop whisking, reduce the heat to a slow simmer for 45-60mins and keep an eye on it, too heavy a simmer will destroy your work to this point. As the mixture simmers, the egg white mixture will form a soft crust on top of the stock through which the impurities will rise and be filtered. (If there is no natural break in the crust through which the stock can bubble up, gently clear a hole with a ladle.)

Next, scald a clean tea towel or muslin in boiling water and wring out to remove the moisture. Line a colander or sieve with the tea towel and set it over a bowl. Slowly ladle the stock through the strainer being careful not to disturb the crust. Do not squeeze or press down on the contents of the strainer, or the stock will become cloudy; leave it to filter through the tea towel and strainer. Remove the strainer carefully and discard the contents. You may then degrease the stock in the bowl by pulling strips of paper towel across the surface. You would then admire your crystal clear consommé that you have created.

The difference between what Heston did and what I noted above, is that Heston uses a technique called 'Ice Filtration' or 'Gelatin Filtration' which appears to achieve the same result but with a number of differences. The process involves making a stock, straining it roughly and then freezing it. Once frozen you place it onto of a few pieces of muslin that you have lined a colander with, place it over a bowl, and put the whole lot in a fridge for a day or two until melted

The way this technique works is to exploit the gelatin in the stock. If you have ever made a jelly and tried to freeze it you will know it wont set properly. This is due to the ice crystals formed during freezing effectively tearing through the bond the gelatin has created. The same thing happens with the stock. The second part the gelatin plays is to then filter the stock.

As the stock slowly melts the muslin traps the gelatin, the gelatin then forms a net like structure that will allow water to slowly pass through it, but not all the impurities in the stock such as the sediment from the meat, veg and the fat. It has to be defrosted in the fridge to keep the gelatin solid so it can act as a net, and to keep the fat solid so it doesn't end up back in the stock.

Once complete one should end up with a crystal clear stock that is full of vibrant and undiluted flavour...

Tune in tomorrow and see the step by step process I followed to inorder to try and recreate this technique at home.  Below is the stock I made yesterday and the froze over night... will it indeed become crystal clear, or will be a complete failure!?!?!?!?!

 Simple brown chicken stock ready to go in the freezer

I would love to hear your thoughts on this method or the traditional one....


Saturday, 9 January 2010

Days 1 & 2... getting started a Tante Marie

 Tante Marie - 2 days before the snow fell....

After the first day of classes did not go ahead due to the snow on Wednesday, Tante Marie was open for business on Thursday and Friday.

Here is a brief account of what happened.

Thursday morning – We had a talk from Andrew Maxwell the school principle who took us through some additional paperwork (why is there always more paperwork? Always!?!) and handed out our chefs whites, knife sets and recipe folders. We had a familiarisation tour of the school and were put into our two groups of ten students. We then had a chance to have a look through our recipe files while we waited for current students to prepare our lunch.

Tante Marie recipe folder, chef whites and Victorinox knife set

Bare in mind that both the 'Cordon Bleu Diploma' (3-terms) and the 'Intensive Cordon Bleu Dipolma' (2-terms) are the same course with the same qualification being awarded upon completion. Both courses are designed to be undertaken by a complete kitchen novice, the difference being the Intensive course moves at a faster pace and is usually attended by more senior students who already have a strong work ethic. The 3-term course is usually attend by school and college leavers.

Thursday afternoon – Our first demo. We were shown.... some basic knife skills and how to maintain the blades with a steel, how to prepare Brown stock, White stock, Warm goats cheese and honey salad, Lemon and herb roast chicken, Saumon cuit au four et sauce moutard (Baked salmon with mustard sauce), Wilted spinach and finally... Orange whole-wheat cake.

We then had to sample all of these... tough life I know, before slip sliding our various ways home on all the ice covering the roads and foot paths.

                                                                                                                     Saumon cuit au four et sauce moutard
Friday morning was our first chance to get behind the pots and pans and make the Salmon dish and the orange cake from the demo the day before. It was a little bit of a struggle trying to get used to where everything is kept as well as to how we are expected to work. The only tricky component of the items we were cooking was filleting the salmon tail we were each provided with. On reflection I think if I had no cooking experience it would have been a challenge to complete the items, but not impossible. Lots of guidance was available when needed and everyone produced a good end result that was then hastily demolished for our lunch!

Orange Whole-wheat Cake

In the afternoon we had another demo consisting of the following items: Coleslaw, Sauce mayonnaise, Basic brown and white bread, Herb omelette, 5-6 egg Omelette Arnold Bennett, Soupe a l 'oignon, Petit pots de chocolat au rhum.

Once again we were put through the agony of having to taste all of these... of which the French Onion soup was my favourite what with it being my number one choice of soup of all time!


And that was that. My first two days down and very much looking forward to next week when we get to cook all the items from the demonstration, and looking at my programme... a whole lot more.  I hope to see you back here next week, I will take more snaps (of better quality... hopefully) of what I am doing so you can see what is being learnt.  Presentation is something I really need to work on and I hope when I look back through these pictures I will be able to see my progression.

Unfortunately after much discussion with my lawyers, I have been advised not to publish any of the contents on the recipe file we have received from the school, what with it being a copy-written document. I will however be able to post recipes for my exam dishes when the time comes along with a few things I have been thinking of trying at home.


Wednesday, 6 January 2010

My Cooking Experiences - Part 2 - Chalets and SuperYachts

Val d'Isere - taken from Solaise
Part 1 can be found here

My next job requiring me to create rustic culinary delights was in the French Alpine resort of Val d'Isere, also known as Val d'Izzle* to Snoop Dog and other gangster rappers around the world. (*this is unsubstantiated conjecture).

I spent the winter of 07/08 working as a 'Chalet Bitch', or to go by the official tittle 'Chalet Host'. I was assigned the largest 'single host' chalet that had a quirky layout over 3 floors and included an underground passage to the games room, sauna and two of the bedrooms! Each week I would have 8 guests come to stay with me and it was my job to ensure they received their hot breakfasts, freshly baked cake for when they returned from a day on the slopes, a three course meal in the evening as well as cleaning all the rooms, providing them with info about events in the town, runs to do and runs to avoid and all the frivolous banter they could handle. All this for a whopping £70 per week with one day off, with a pint costing 7euros, or in the few bars that offered 'seasonairre prices' 4euros, our 'wages' did not stretch far!

A little video I made of my time in the mountains

Earnings were quickly spent in the age old chalet hosts tradition of consuming as much alcohol as one could, and in my case on doctors bills to treat a dislocated shoulder and a 'put out' back on two occasions, so as ever it fell to the 'chalet wine' to provide the merriment. Ahhh yes chalet wine, how I have missed you!

Extra earnings could be acquired in the form of tips from the guests. It was at this that I excelled despite being barely able to talk after contracting glandular fever in the first week of the season, which lasted right through until April! I did this predominantly by consistently serving the best food my guests said they had had during any of their previous ski trips. A compliment, but not as big a one as you may think judging by the 'talent' of some of my associates.

Chalet Seraphine
Upon joining the company I worked for, myself and the other 30 or so hosts embarked on 3 weeks of training in resort before the season kicked off. We would learn to cook a menu consisting of three courses each night for 6 days, and veggie options to go with it, along with how to clean our chalets and fold towels. Gripping stuff. It became apparent early on that I was one of the better, if not best cook out of the hosts. It baffled me that some of my colleagues could barely boil an egg, let alone fry or poach one! One female host, fresh from completing her A-Levels at an oh so very posh school asked when we were discussing cheese... 'is that where the cheese comes from, Arge?' We looked at each other perplexed and asked her to explain what she meant, she said 'Well you keep going on about the cheese for the cheese boards, saying they are from Arge, why are they all from the same place?' In case you are unaware, the French word for cheese is Fromage, and in no way what soever means they come from a place called Arge!


Anyway, I felt immediately at ease whipping up the same menu week in week out and had the tips to show for it each Sunday night in my local, the Morris Bar. I quickly tired of the menu and set about changing it slightly to both entertain myself and create better dishes for the guests. A classic was guests not liking the sound of the “Lamb and Apricot Stew” which was the main course on Thursdays. I could usually direct the guests with some subtle language skills and my powers of suggestion, to have them ask me if they could have something else, thereby sticking to company policy of not offering alternate dishes. Of course my answer was yes and a nice lamb curry was usually the preferred option, doing away with the salad starter and replacing with onion bharji' and Pakoras! Quite delightful if I do say so myself. My chalet manager became firstly suspicious and then annoyed as to why at half way through the season, in 7 out of 9 weeks my guests asked for curry instead of the usual dishes, to which I had no answer other than 'that's what they asked for boss'.

The following winter my next cooking job arrived, I got a job on a 44m motor yacht that was to be berthed in Imperia, Italy, for the winter, where I would cook for the 5 crew and help with some deck work in the afternoons. This job came with a job as the crew chef on the owners new 60m motor-yacht that was due to launch some months later in May. I enjoyed the time in Italy and trying new things out on the crew who were mostly appreciative of my efforts... there is however always one!

The yacht moored in Imperia

As the winter came and went it was time for me to join the new yacht in Cherbourg, France, where she had been built. My job was to cook lunch and dinner for 14 crew and a vegetarian ;-) everyday, and help the main chef, Geoff, prepare for the guests meals.

All in all it was a very interesting experience, one I will likely do again. I learned a lot from Geoff in regards to cooking techniques and increased my knowledge in certain areas a lot. Crucially I also learnt a few tips specific to catering on a yacht for demanding guests, that will come in handy if find myself back on the seas. The experience also highlighted the areas I fell short in and is a major part of why I am attending this course at Tante Marie. Geoff had such a wide variety of dishes in his head that came with many years of experience, and it amazed me on a number of occasions as too what he would come up with. My organisation and tidyness in the galley also improved substantially as would stop me routinely stop me working until I had organised my area better.

The new office in Cannes, France

So having had many jobs and always seemingly somehow ending up back in a kitchen, it seems silly to fight what my mind wants to do. It may have taken longer than most to get there, but finally I feel I am ready to get stuck into a career, and that career will be behind the pots and pans. Where those pots and pans are to be located, is however yet to be seen....

Tomorrow is the first day of class, I have packed my bag like a good boy, laid my clothes out and even chosen which watch I will wear. All that stands between me and my first day is a slippery 15min walk up a slight incline to the start of my new career...

Somewhere in the Med...

So I will see you back here soon, where you will be greeted by less of this meandering filler and more of posts on the subject matter this blog was designed to cover.


My Cooking Experiences - Part 1 - Pot Washing and Poker.

So today was the first day at Tante Marie, well it would have been if it hadn't been for all this damn snow that has fallen in Woking! Anyway, rather than ranting about how the country grinds to halt when a little snow falls, something I'm sure you don't want to hear, I thought I would run through a couple of jobs I have had in between non-cooking jobs over the years.

Having done a few weeks pot washing at a local Italian restaurant, whilst in Sixth Form studying for my A-Levels, a friend of mine Chris (aka Gringo) called me one Thursday and asked if I could cover his shift pot washing at a local cafe bar/restaurant the next day. I asked him why he couldn't do it, “I am going on a date with this really hot bird” he said, begrudgingly but being a team player I agreed to cover his shift and my 18months at the Foyer Cafe Bar & Landing Restaurant began.   Incidentally Chris recently married his “hot date” and I didn't even get a mention in his speech... how rude!

The Gringo and his beautiful wife

To cut a long story short, I spent a short while on the pots before being moved on to the heady heights of cold starters, vegetables and bread after showing an interest in how the dishes were made. I was also put in charge of teaching Chris the correct way to slice hot bread so as not to crush it and create a stodgy “dough ball” in the middle, a task he never succeeded in mastering to this very day. Sad sad times. It was fun to work there, but looking back I think we would have been a real contender for Gordon Ramsays Kitchen Nightmares show, especially with the mishmash menu consisting of Tapas, pasta dishes, wraps, steaks, pheasant... and pretty much anything else you can think of! I had just completed my first year at university when I left, and my next job involving cooking was to come on the other side of the world some 4yrs later.

My cooking experience down under on an Australian island came by after winning a couple of grand playing drunken online poker for the first time... to clarify, I was drunk and it was the first time I had played poker online, its not a niche market where one has to be drunk to play! I started with a mere £50 deposit, kept drinking beers from my fridge, and 8-9hrs later crawled to bed thinking I had won £2000. Waking up mid-afternoon with a serious hangover I proceeded to log into my poker account and see just £1200 in my account. Assuming I must have made some bad plays and been a little silly to lose £800 and not remember, I popped out to Tesco for some hangover cures and nourishment. Eventually I got around to checking my email and was, to say the least, very surprised to see an email from Emirates confirming my flight to Perth, Australia departing in 3 weeks time! After some research it appeared that a drunken me had decided to go to Australia for 6 months. Having recently returned home from working on a yacht as a deckhand for the previous year, in the Caribbean and Mediterranean seas, I was unemployed and looking for something to do. Turns out I had paid for the flight on my credit card and then then wired the £800 from my poker winnings to my card to clear it... amazing the feats one can achieve when they can barely see 2 feet in front of themselves at sill o'colock in the morning!

Cottesloe Beach.  My favourite beach in Perth

So, I spent the first month enjoying the beaches by day and the bars and clubs of Perth by night. Pretty soon I found my funds were running low and in desperation not to return home to a British winter, I ended up falling into a job selling satellite TV door to door... a whole other story and one that doesn't fit the remit of this blog. After 3 months of selling subscriptions in suburbs of Perth, enough was enough. I went to a local “backpacker job shop” and asked to see what was about job wise... nothing as it turned out. I reverted back to my pre-door-to-door selling days and partied by night and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the beach by day. Wonderful.

Unfortunately my funding soon became critically low and I was forced to return to the job shop and see what was available or go home... success. “I have a job but I don't think you will be interested, Its on a massive 80km long Island miles from anywhere, there are no shops, no bars, not even a letter box! Just a family of four, their homestead, the 12-14 guests they have stay with them, and a maid”.... Mmmmmm maids (in the style of Homer Simpson if you will).

Dylan the Explorer on DHI

Never being one to turn down an 'experience' I gleefully accepted the job on Dirk Hartog Island and two days later embarked on the 10 hour drive north to Denham, where I met Kieran and his eldest son on their boat 'The Eendracht', named after Captain Dirk Hartogs ship that discovered the island in 1616.  We cruised the one hour or so it took to get to the island, and my time on DHI began.

The view that greeted me one morning while preparing to cook bacon and eggs on the BBQ... no photoshop, no filters, no nothing.  To this day I am yet to see a more spectacular sunrise

My job on the island was to cook breakfast for the guests, make pack lunches for their fishing trips on the 'Eendract' and finally cook whatever they had caught.   Of course we would have some meat in reserve just in case the fish weren't biting that day.

Me with hair cooking up steaks on the 'barbie' in my Foxtel sales uniform!

The main catch was the tasty Pink Snapper, with massive Spanish Mackerel also on the menu along with the occasional Tuna.

Me with hair, and a my first medium sized Pink Snapper

I spent 8 weeks on the island enjoying learning to fish, kayaking, the occasional 4x4 ride to explore the deserted island, staring at the stars when I switched the generator off each night, and seeing Tiger Sharks close up... like 20 meters from shore close, while being 18 meters from shore! Good times indeed!

Guests filleting their catch at sunset.

In part two... doing a ski season as a chalet host and cooking aboard a 60meter SuperYacht,  you know you want to hear what that is about!  So click here for the second part of this post


Monday, 4 January 2010

My Culinary Influences... Part 2.

Part 1 can be found here

So Jamie Oliver gets most of the credit for getting me in the Kitchen on a regular basis and experimenting with a very wide spectrum of results. But it was a certain Gordon Ramsay who came crashing into my life in his series “Boiling Point” that changed my view on what was possible in a kitchen.

The series followed Gordon setting up his first restaurant “Gordon Ramsay” at Royal Hospital Road, after walking out of “Restaurant Aubergine” following a dispute with the owners. This was an eye opening series for me for a number of reasons. Before I saw “Boiling Point” I never knew this class of restaurant existed, and it was truly inspiring to see what went on “behind the curtain”. I also never knew you could get away with talking to your staff in such a manner without ending up in court charged with some form of abusive and threatening behaviour. What a guy, what a show!

You see Jamie was, and still is, about good tasty rustic home cooked food packed full of flavours, and that is great for home cooks. Gordon is all about perfection, the fine balance of flavours, the difference a change of texture can make to a dish, the meat and fish and veg cooked to perfection... and if it isn't all of these things and more, if even one little component isn't right, then the chefs hard work goes in the bin and has to be done all over again. Little wonder that his restaurants were so successful (things have changed during the credit crunch with Gordon having to close some of his establishments) and generated large profits. I have never eaten at a Ramsay establishment, but I yearn to... because I want to sample the food of any man (or women... no discrimination here) who is so blindly focussed on serving you the best dishes he can possibly create, no holds barred.

Follow this link to Youtube and wait for the fireworks to start 45 seconds into the clip, I have transcribed the “discussion” Gordon has with a chef below. Gordon in bold, and the chef he is “speaking with” in red italics....

What is going on here you? What is going on, one ravioli one f***ing foie gras, hey you, a**hole, you lost it again? You lost it again! What's your big deal? Why don't you f*** off home then! Go on f*** off home then! Hey a**hole... Yes Gordon... why don't you f*** off home then? Why don't you f*** off home? ...Because I don't want to Gordon.... Why have you f***ed it up? Have up lost it? ...No Gordon... Well f***ing wake up d***head!...Yes Gordon...

That should sort that out shouldn't it Gordon, you sure put him back in his place and focussed his mind on the task at hand?.... apparently not...

What's the big deal, one ravioli, one f***ing sautéed foie gras?!?! Do you want to go home and cry to mummy again?...No... Like a big f***ing wuss?...No Gordon... Guy puts himself in the s*** across the kitchen stands there blubbering like a f***ing baby!...Sorry Gordon... You got any bite back as a guy, you have any bollocks you?...Yes Gordon... Have you f***! As far as I am concerned you don't know your a**hole!

You could be be forgiven... once again for thinking that the chef has definitely been dealt with now and we can carry on with service, once again we are wrong....

What's he doing, Mark? One f***ing bass, one sautéed foie gras, one ravioli and you haven't even got the f***ing endive on! What's going on in your mind you? What's going on in your mind?...Not sure Gordon... What is it then, can't keep up? Tell me then!...Not sure Gordon... Your minds back at the f***ing beach again is it?...No Gordon... Unbelievable! Wake up ...Oui Gordon... or next time don't even set your f***ing alarm clock stay in your f***ing piss...Oui Gordon... then directed at another chef for brushing against him ever so slightly, so slightly I cant see it on the footage.... Do you mind not knocking me like a f***ing punching bag because I'm gonna lash out, do you understand?

Gordons 3 Michelin Star food may have made him famous, but it is without doubt its his “management technique” that made him infamous! I have heard many people who's first experience of Mr Ramsay was in “Hells Kitchen” or “Kitchen Nightmares” and they thought he was putting a persona on for the show. I for one don't believe this. As the “Boiling Point” series showed it isn't an act, it is him down to the bone and I for one loved it! Find me another character in any profession whom can get away with the kind of things he has said and done to many of his employees? And the best bit, they always came back for more because they knew how good he was and how much they could learn from him.

I find it understandable that he loses the plot a lot, he doesn't want much from his chefs, he just wants it doing right. Right to you and me would undoubtedly fall far short of his definition of the term, as his is most likely linked steadfastly to the term already mentioned in this post, perfection. If Gordon had chosen to be a builder I am sure he would have built some of the finest, well detailed buildings in country that were thoroughly thought out, sat exquisitely in their surroundings and prompted a yearning for one from those that saw it. Perfection just seems to be what he is about and if it isn't forthcoming I for one wouldn't like to be standing in his way!

So Jamie Oliver may have got me into the kitchen to cook, but it was Gordon Ramsay who made me strive for a final product that was good if not excellent, if not perfect! He also added an expletive or two to my vocabulary (which my mother isn't happy about, sorry mum) and showed me a world I never knew existed... and now, in a little over 24hrs, I am to attend the culinary school he is a part owner of!

What have I done? What have I let myself in for.....

Come back soon and find out!


Sunday, 3 January 2010

My Culinary Influences... Part 1.

Well after a fairly uneventful trip from Manchester down to Woking today, I have moved into my diggs, met my new house-mates; Venus, Mark, Liam and Mark and pretty much unpacked. Only two days until my course starts at Tante Marie on the 6th January when I can get down to business with this blog and working towards "its" goal as well as "my" goal. Until then I thought I would share with you some of the chefs and programs that have influenced me over the years in one way or another.

As I said in my first post, I grew up watching the usual cooking shows that were on TV about 15 years ago you probably watched. The one that probably got most viewing time would have been “Ready Steady Cook” because it was on shortly after returning from school. Of course my favourite chef on that show was Ainsley Harriott, and why wouldn't he be! He is an imposing figure, full of flamboyance and flair, especially when it comes to his usage of good old “Percy Pepper” and “Suzie Salt”... good times indeed. However I cannot give credit to “Ready Steady Cook” for furthering my interest in food massively, I found it entertaining but never had the urge to rush off to the kitchen and cook after a show finished, it did indeed keep the spark of culinary intrigue alive within me, so deserves some credit for doing that.

Most credit would instead have to go to that fresh faced, scruffy haired Essex boy that burst onto our screens all those years ago when I was 16 or 17 years of age. With his enthusiastic and liberal use of a language I, and it would seem a large portion of the UK's population had not heard before, it was a challenge just to decipher what he was on about let alone keep up with what seemed like a revolutionary cooking style. You see around that time the culinary stalwart for the home cook was a certain Delia Smith, some of you may remember her for teaching us all how to boil an egg, first by boiling water! Genius! and others may remember her as Norwich City Football Clubs chairman and this famous half-time rant at her own fans when she thought they weren't cheering the team enough!

I was never a fan of Delia Smith, not because of her food, from what I could tell it looked great, it was more to do with her (no offence D). Being in my mid-teens it was clearly evident that this show was for my mothers viewing, and as with all my mothers TV viewing it was not to my taste. It didn't help that she looked like one of my school teachers, and watching one of her shows felt like it was “class time” again. Another reason I found to dislike Delia was that at the time of her becoming really big, I was 16 working in the local Sainsburys supermarket whilst doing my A-Levels. The amount of irate customers I personally had to deal with venting their fury that we were sold out of Sea-bass or Jerusalem Artichokes or whatever she had been cooking the night before, within ten minutes of the store opening, was quite unbelievable... not least because I worked on the pet food isle well away from anything Delia would have been promoting in her show! Alas, her shows were a phenomenal success and I got to see proof of this first hand in the buying habits of the public after her latest show had aired, and see just what a force she was in the home cooks culinary world. In full disclosure I have to admit that I have visited her website on a number of occasions when I have wanted a recipe that I could rely on, and one recipe I keep going back for is her Ultimate Carrot Cake with Mascarpone, Fromage Frais and Cinnamon Icing just don't try and make me watch one of her shows! Try it out you wont be disappointed!

Hmmm... I seem to have digressed somewhat, where was I? Oh yes, Jamie Oliver of course. That somewhat dishevelled, seemingly whimsical bag of lispiness who burst onto our screens by “chucking” a load of “clobber” into a pan, chatted to some posh sounding women off screen, dipped his fingers in the sauce and then served up something that apparently tasted “pukka”! This certainly wasn't the dulcet tones of Delia coming from my TV that's for sure, and that was part of the appeal to me. Jamie seemed to be just a few years older than I was and so I felt I could relate to him more than I could with any other TV chef. More so it was his cooking style rather than his use of the English language that I found to my liking. No longer were we shackled to a recipe in order to cook our dinner, now we shall put as much or as little of what we like into our food. You like it spicy? Bang some more chilli in. Not a fan of rosemary? You can use Thyme instead. Don't like fish? Will go well with chicken too! For the first time it felt like we were in control of our own dinner and there was hardly a measuring spoon or set of scales to be seen anywhere, it was amazing! It seemed like we were given permission to tinker and take ownership of our kitchens, and I, like so many others never looked back!

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2. when I will discuss the effect of Gordon Ramsay and anything else that meanders into my head....   Part 2 click here!