Ashburton Cookery School Day 6

Another amazing day at cookery school, another day full of amazing food, so much amazing food I figure it will be at least a good few hours before I can comfortably close the top button of jeans again! The main focus of today was beef, and after our thirty minute theory session on stewing meat and beef cuts, followed by rolling out and lining tart tins with the sweet pastry we made on Friday and blind baking them, we moved on to preparing several different beef cuts.  First we prepared a simple beef stew with braising steak, carrots, celery, leek, onion and mushrooms. With the stew left to simmer away for the next three-four hours, we started on our corned beef making process, adding beef brisket to brine. We then prepared a suet pastry to be filled with the beef stew tomorrow to make steamed beef puddings. We then prepared our lunch, using the ham hock and stock we’d  cooked on Thursday to make a pea and ham soup. The soup had a lovely creaminess, even before a spoonful of cream was added to make it extra velvety. The sweet peas and salty ham balanced each other perfectly. We finished the soup with a few shredded mint leaves (because pea and mint belong together) and a dollop of crème fraiche to lighten the flavour slightly.

Pea and ham soup…tastes great, photographs not so great

After lunch we filled the two large tart cases that had been blind baked in the morning. One was filled with a lemon curd for tonight’s dessert. The next was used to make a treacle tart which came out of the oven smelling delicious, sweet and golden syrupy. We’ll have to wait until later in the week before we can try that one though. The lemon tart, however, was beautiful, even the ‘I’m not really a pudding person’ people loved it. It was the fresh, zingy tartness of the curd with its lovely soft and creamy texture that won everyone over. I will definitely be making this one again.

For the main meal itself we prepared fillet steak with triple cooked chips (par-boiled in water, blanched in moderately hot oil, then finished off it boiling oil), tomatoes, mushrooms and a béarnaise sauce. A simple dish, nothing too ‘cheffy’, and yet I ended up with a steak dinner that looked and tasted like a real chef, not a novice such as myself, had produced it.

I was amazed at how beautifully the steak was cooked, although I suppose starting off with a top class beef fillet helped a lot. This was my first encounter with béarnaise sauce, as well as being the first time I’ve clarified butter (necessary to make the sauce), so it was really interesting to prepare, if a little nerve racking with me worrying the whole way that I was about the scramble the eggs (I may have done, slightly, up the sides of the bowl, but I’m not sure it really impacted on the finished sauce!). Even though I’ve had hollandaise sauce before, (béarnaise is pretty much just hollandaise with tarragon and chervil chopped in), testing the sauce for seasoning, I was a little dubious as to the extent to which béarnaise and I could be friends.  Tasted off a spoon, it seemed almost a little slimy textured and what can really only be described as ‘fatty’ tasting, although another generous squeeze of lemon juice and a good pinch more salt helped cut through that slightly. And eating the sauce with the steak was definitely far better than licking it off a spoon.

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