Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Michelin Star Work Experience

So last week I spent every waking hour in the kitchen of The Latymer restaurant at Pennyhill Park, a 340+ room 5 star hotel in Surrey. The hotel boasts an awarding winning spa, golf course and is home for the next 3 years to the England rubgy team whenever they need a base for a home rugby game.

I arrived on my first day and was met by the sous chef who hurried... and I do mean hurried me back to the kitchen, something I felt to be quite rude as at the time I was enjoying the opulent surroundings, log fire, mahogany panelling, candle holders with actual real life candles in, paintings of old people in ornate gold frames etc etc. Quite Lovely.

The Latymer restaurant - one of 4 dining options at the hotel.

I met the head chef who briskly asked if I had whites with me, to which I reported that I did and was told to get changed so we could get started. I felt like maybe I should have turned up in my whites ready to go to save 3 minutes, but not sure what the paying punters whom were loitering in reception would have thought about back room staff being in plain sight. So distasteful don't you know. The time was 09:30 and some of the chefs had been in for 3 hours already since it was Tuesday their first day of the week after closing Sunday and Monday.... lots to be done apparently!

As one could imagine the time before and after lunch are spent with prepping the various components to dishes... and boy are their components, some of the components even have multiple components that needed to be made in order to fully assemble the completed component of components... lost? Welcome to my world!

Monday, 22 March 2010

I Need Your Family Secrets!

In late May or early June I will have an exam at Tante Marie... the “Celebration Lunch” exam to be precise. It is a similar vein to the budget lunch exam I did a few weeks ago, except this time I have a larger budget to play with.

The mission should you choose to divulge your family secrets.... is to tell me what your favourite recipes are for a cheesecake biscuit base and/or your favourite crumble topping recipe. I have my own recipes for both, but to be honest they are fairly bog standard, tasty but lack that little something. I am looking for a few little quirks that could help elevate these dishes to something a little more special. Maybe you like to put toasted oats in your crumble mix, or maybe you have a favourite biscuit that you like to use for your cheesecake base.

Whatever it is, I would like to know about it. There is absolutely no kind of reward for your family secrets other than a smile and a thank you from yours truly. At this stage I don't want to go into any detail about my plans for the desert, all I will say is that it is fruit based, so maybe that will have some impact on your recipes? Maybe not though!

So “help a bruva out” and dish up those recipes, all weird and wonderful ideas will be considered.... and who knows, I may decide to use your idea and then publish the pics of the final dish here, making you so very very nearly famous as a result!

Find the little link below this post that says 'comment' and spill thoses beans... do it now!

Thanks in advance,


p.s. Mother – don't bother posting your recipes, I have endured them on enough occasions to know they don't coupé le moutard. You will just be wasting everybody's time. ;-p

Friday, 19 March 2010

Half Way There.... but where is there???

Sorry for my lack of posts recently, I have been inundated with various exams and travelling back home for a few days over our Easter break.

Lots to do in the next 5 weeks until the the final part of my course begins at Tante Marie, The first of which is work experience at a 5* hotel in Surrey. They have a variety of restaurant options including a Michelin Star restaurants... and lucky me will get to work in them all for free! That's right, I don't have to pay them for the privilege and they don't have to pay me for it either... a truly win win situation!

So that should be something to write about and hopefully you will find as interesting as I will. I also have a post about a meat lecture we had at school I need to blog, as well as my adventures into the world of Sourdough... which has even earned me an actual paying customer for my creations, a teaser of which you can see above and below! Winner winner chicken dinner! (since I only charge cost price its nothing to write about really... I just wanted to boast a little :-D

Also I will be exploring the world of freshly made Croissants... I have tried it twice with two different recipes and both had failings... when I post it will be MY recipe... so I guess I best make them so good even my mother would approve!

Well thats it for now... busy busy as always, see you soon!


Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Celebration Cake - It's Completed!

 The Cockerel that overlooks White Hart Lane from the roof of the stadium and appears on the chest of Tottenhams shirt.

So here it is, the cake you have all been waiting for. Regular readers will know that I am no artist, all of that gene went into my older brother who is so artistic he can draw trees by drawing “where they aren't”. I kid you not!!!

We were set the task to decorate our fruit cakes with a celebratory theme... birthday, Christmas, spring... anything.

I decided to go for a Tottenham Hotspur Football Club themed cake. “The Mighty Lilly Whites” as they are sometimes referred have been my team of choice since I was about 6yrs of age. There have been many 'downs' and only a couple of intermittent 'ups' in the history of the club since I have been a fan... unlike the glory days my father reminds me of from time to time that occurred well before I was born.

 Team colours, white home strip, navy away strip and yellow third strip.

With 'Spurs' doing so well so far this season, a cake to celebrate the club is as fitting a testament as any... well to me at least!

To make things a little more interesting, a classmate from “the other group” on my course is a fan of our arch rivals and nemesis Ar5ena1. In case you are wondering, they are known as Ar5ena1 (rather than Arsenal) after we whipped their asses 5-1 a few seasons ago in semi-final of the Carling Cup. Just so you know! ;-)

So onto the pictures... I have also included some other cakes by my classmates (I have asked their permission to post them here), you can generally tell whether the cake was made by a male or female classmate by the themes and finesse... and a couple of them to me are truly stunning.... Let me know which is your favourite.
My tribute to Tottenham, Audere Est Facere... To dare is to do... and I did!

Cake celebrating arch rivals ar5ena1.

Steffi's tribute to Tiffanys the jewlers... talk about high maintenance!

Oscar themed.

"Under the sea" Birthday cake.

Cake by Biddi, a former sculptor, not that you can tell in the slightest!  Awesomeness!

Robs tribute to..... I'll double check and get back to you!

 Vanessa's floral beauty!

 Matts cake was about celebrating the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge... complete with piss head!

 I think this was Mihai's cake, big problems in Romania with volcanoes and dragons apparently!


Monday, 8 March 2010

Exam results are in - Budget Lunch

Well that was quick!!!

Exam results were posted today at Tante Marie for the Budget Lunch task we undertook last week, and I was able to improve on my previous score of 74% and pulled in a not too shabby 81%.  Very pleased with myself, the 28hrs it took to make my three different stocks (chicken, veal and lamb) and combine and reduce them into one for my 'shepherds shepherd pie' seems to have paid off.

It was a far from perfect performace... I f***ed up my bread again, slightly over seasoned my soup and meat base for the shepherds pie and used a few unseasonal ingredients (peas* and mango) but lesson have been learned and will be taken into next terms exams.  At least I know I have more in the tank and can hopefully tap into this next term.

So I am celebrating tonight with a take-out curry, my first in 3 months which is an achievement in itself!  I guess the result means I am going to have to work harder to try and stay were I am, its going to be tough as there a few people nibbling away at my toes who have their eyes set firmly on the 'prize'.  Should be fun!

For now at least I can feel like Maverick here...


*I originally wanted to make a seasonal soup but ran into supplier issue, I had intended to make 'celeriac veloute with curry scented crouton's instead of the 'pea and bacon cream soup'... however the two local supermarkets aren't stocking celeriacs!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Week 9 at Tante Marie

I have always felt one must be properly rested before attempting any sort of revision..

The week started with a morning off for revision as budget lunch exams were undertaken by some class members. We have a theory exam in a couple of weeks for which I want to revise for, however as always when it comes to revising... my attempt didnt last long, with me opting to bake some goodies instead. The afternoon was taken up by a Pasta demonstration and obligatory tasting... delicious!

Tuesday saw us making the pasta and then the completed dishes from Mondays demo, something I haven't done since my 2nd year at Uni. It was a fun and relaxed class and I learned a few new ways of shaping pasta which gave me some ideas for other dishes. Bonus. The afternoon saw us make Danske Weinerbrod dough, that's Danish Pastry in real money, and also 'meringue cuite' which we attempted to pipe into small baskets and also into a flower shape. I say “we attempted” when I actually meant “I attempted”. My flowers were not very flower-like, in fact they weren't like anything I can think of other than a mess. My little baskets were quite nice if a little on the little side, they were so little that I couldn't squeeze any raspberries inside them and had to make do with a whipped cream filling and perching one on top!

Wednesday morning was taken up by the budget lunch exam and the afternoon we finished our Danish pastries. The pastries were ok, I overcooked my first batch by a minute or two so they didnt have that slighty goey or chewyness I love about them. The other issue I had was with the glacé icing. Since there were no spoons in the kitchen we had to make do with our miniture palate knives to scoop up some icing and try and drizzle it over the pastries. The task was made harder as the pallete knife seemed to form two trails of icing and wouldn't hold enough icing to allow a pastry to be done in one go. I remember icing Pilsbury dough pastries from a can when I was a child being easier, but maybe thats because the icing was in a bag.... hmmm I know what I'll do next time, cheers P. Dough Boy!

Thursday saw the creation of a avocado, melon and lettuce leaf salad with a raspberry mayonnaise dressing. It may sound a little 'out there' but believe me when I say it was delicious. So much so I had to force myself not to lick the mixing bowl clean when it was done! The main dish was 'Fillets de porc roulé dans d'épinards. The dish was made by trimming two pork loins and slicing each lengthways into quarters. Lots of large leaf spinach was blanched and laid out carefully on a cloth. The pork pieces were laid onto the spinach and individually rolled up tightly in the spinach, this was repeated for 6 of the 8 pieces of loin with the remaining two pieces going into a food processor. Lots of bacon was laid out on a board and spread with some puréed pork, the spinach wrapped strips were placed onto and the remaining purée used to fill any gaps before being rolled and baked. Lovely looking dish when sliced, would love to have spread some dolcelatte cheese in and around the spinach and pork... deelish!

Thursday afternoon saw the final day of cake decorating. You may remember me mentioning in previous posts my lack of artistic ability... well I surprised myself a little. Its not a great cake, but for me its about as good as it gets...I am happy with it! There were a few magnificent cakes produced, one by a former sculptor and graphic designer... yeah its good... it is soooo good! Pics to follow next week when they get displayed for the rest of the school to ogle at!

Friday morning saw me don my marrigolds and pot wash for the final budget lunch exam. I have to say that the food produced by that exam group was for me the best I had tasted. I also think that the top marks will be awarded to a person in this group... The afternoon was spent watching croissants, brioche and a lovely seabass dish being created. All very tasty and looking forward to recreating them.


Week 8 at Tante Marie

What with the budget lunch exam to prepare for I completely forgot to post about the previous weeks happenings at Tante Marie, here is very briefly what I missed.

Started the week with a theory class about chocolate and chocolate tempering which included a tasting session. We had 14 or so different chocolates to sample and boy did we sample! Now I'm a fan of bitter chocolate, but trying a 100% cacao product was horrific, it just kept getting worse and worse the more you chewed and sucked at it. The afternoon was spent making Cassata gelata, a ice cream filled with a variety of candied fruits, for someone who loves ice cream as much as I, making this throw back broke my heart, I like my ice cream smooth but can deal with 'bits' if they are tasty.  I have yet to find anyone who finds glacé cherries tasty. We also made a start on a Tarte aux pommes normande and Frankfurter Kranz, both of which were finished the following afternoon.

I already started slicing this bad boy up when I remembered to take a snap!
Tueday saw a game demo. No this was not a class devoted to the best tactics to employ when playing Monopoly or Connect 4. We saw a multitude of wildlife cooked and beautifully presented to us by Tim, which we dutifully tried to recreate on Thursday morning. A very informative, enjoyable and down right tasty demonstration, the star of which for me was probably the simplest.. Spatchcock quail skewers with Asian salad.

Spatchcock Quail on Asian Salad

Another quail dish, the name of which escapes me right now.

Wednesday morning saw a Hamper demonstation. None of the things we saw cooked reminded me of the picnics I have been on that consisted of stopping off at Tesco for some sandwiches, cold pork pies, some crisps and a mars bar. Seems to me there is a whole crazy world out there I am yet to experience! The afternoon theory class met us soon after where we discovered “The Project”. “The Project” is made up of five questions and basically asks us to write menus, order or services, recipes etc. for a variety of events. Question 4 for example asks us to write a five day menu for quests staying at a Cornish holiday cottage in August. They are 'foodies' and would like a formal four course meal each night with the choice of two deserts and a cheeseboard.... oh dear! Other questions include catering for a canapé party and a Henley picnic. I have a feeling these projects are going to take a lot longer than it initially seems.

Thursday afternoon was a dreaded cake decorating class. All went, once again suprisingly well. I guess when one has such low expectations of what the can artistically achieve, even the slightest thing going ok makes one smile. I smiled a fair bit.

 Sometimes I wonder why I choose to do these things to myself, I guess "Audere Est Facere" sums it up.

Friday saw Escalopes de veau viennoise, potatoes baked with blue cheese and parmasan, lemon glazed carrots and courgettes and finally profiteroles au chocolat filled with crème chantilly. Basically this was a very very tasty lunch... I ate nearly all my profiteroles... they were so good, infact they were probably better than the batch I made when I was 13 due to the chocolate suace being far superior this time. I remember my mother telling me they were very hard to make all those years back... but just like Jay-Z I bust them out in one take and they were amazing. I guess I was just born with it! ;-)

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Budget Lunch Exam... and one pic!

Just got in from Tante Marie.

Today I had my “Budget Lunch Exam”... you can read about the criteria in my last post here.

Just a quick post to say that all went well, a couple of issues but most were ironed out to my satisfaction, such as forgetting to add a teaspoon of flour to my browned meat to thicken the gravy-like juices... so I had to make a buerre manie. My soup was slightly over seasoned to my taste, although other students said they liked it and a few others like the soup being too smooth.... anyway... unfortunatley my memory card is showing an error and I cant get many of my pics off at the moment, will update if I sort it out

In my previous post I gave you the menu but undersold it somewhat, so I thought I would oversell it now so you can see the additions you would have got but did not expect.

Undersold Menu -
Pea Soup
with bread rolls

Shepherds Shepherd Pie

Mango Rice Pudding
Oversold? Menu - 
Garden Pea Soup
with a smoked bacon infused cream and
pain d'epi

Shepherds Shepherds Pie
with freshly minced lambs breast, heart, sauteed kidneys,
caramelised onions and a veal and lamb jus.  
Served wth garden fresh green beans and carrots vichy.
Kaffir Lime Leaf Rice Pudding,
served with caramelised mango on puff pastry arlettes
and a mango sauce.

Fortunately I have a picture of the desert with is the only 'looker' on the menu.  Baring in mind it was supposed to be a family meal I didn't want to go crazy on the presentation front.  The soup was served in a soup terrine with a jug of the smoked bacon cream on the side, allowing for guests to make it as bacon like as they chose... or not!  The Shepherds Pie was sever in individual ramekins with the potato piped on top, the carrots and green beans were served in mini rectangular Le Creusets dishes and the desert yo can see below.  The rice pudding is in the glass, topped with a little mango sauce and a sprinkle of the arlettes that had broken up (they are sooo delicate), the caramelised mango is sat on the arlette biscuit and there is a little dribble of mango sauce on the plate... because that's what you do to make it pretty is it not?  ;-)

All in I was fairly happy with how it went, my bread was a let down again, I think I will stick to making it home rather than in exams where I can take all the time in the world to knead it!

As for Top Gun and there being no points for second place, I think I will have to make do with no points.  It was good but it was not flawless so I am expecting a good grade.... just not the spectacular one I would have liked... oh well, will just have to wait for the Celebration Lunch next term and do it all over again!!!


Monday, 1 March 2010

The Budget Lunch Exam

Your idea of a budget lunch???

Its exam time again at Tante Marie and this time we, the students, get to choose what to cook for it. The task is designed to test our budgeting skills, and how we need plenty of that skill when trying to cook a three course family meal for four people, total budget being £8 and not a penny more or a penny less. Yes you read it correctly, eight pounds sterling, and to make sure it is a test we have 2hrs 45mins in which to serve it all... sounds like a challenge more than a test to me though... and boy do I love a good challenge!

So its a 'family meal' meaning a starter of “Free-range 'Woking' Escargots à la Bourguignonne” which I collected from the car lot behind where I am staying, is off the menu as those picky kids would probably find snails a little 'out there'. A condition of the the task is that we have to pay a fair price for everything we use, so if I were to go and 'collect' a couple of Pheasants or a Pig for free, I would still have to cost it at a price I could reasonably purchase it for from a butcher or supermarket.... hmmmm that's that idea out the window then!

I had to fight every bone in my body to stick with the 'family' theme, a task made easier a few weeks ago when briefly speaking with 'Al' one of the teachers at Tante Marie. He advised me not to try and go all fancy, but to make sure it was tasty, “remember its a family meal” he said. He went on to say that if he was doing the task he would make a Cottage Pie, and that with the budget we had he could make the best version in the world... a tall claim methinks! But forget whether his claim is full of hubris or not... the important thing here is that his statement sounds very much like a challenge to me.... and boy do I love a good challenge! (déjà vu anyone...?)

Going back to a previous post on “Underselling and Over-delivering” my menu is as follows;

Pea Soup
with bread rolls

Shepherds Shepherd Pie

Mango Rice Pudding

There was a prime example on Masterchef last week of doing the opposite of what I like, and am trying to do with the above menu. This particular gent “oversold and under-delivered” by producing dishes for the judges which were visually amazing, yet failed to live up to the expectation in the flavour department... the MOST crucial department surely!.

So.... my selection is a very family friendly in my opinion, comes in at £8 exactly, all that remains is for me to execute it as well as I can. I maybe pushing myself a little as there are a few little extras not mentioned above that will be appearing on the dish... you will have to come back another time and see how I got on and what they are! One mistake will throw me off my time plan so it needs to be a faultless performance... a tall order but I know I can do it, whether the occasion gets the best of me remains to be seen, I just hope the gas ovens treat me well and that the bread comes out well!  What could possibly go wrong....

What do you think of my menu, over unsimplified? Mango in the winter? Let me know any thoughts below in the comments section.