Ashburton Cookery School Day 9

Another lovely and very enjoyable day. I felt completely absorbed by everything we did, possibly because we covered a lot of things I’ve never encountered before, and the day seemed to fly by. First on the list was making salmon gravalax. Once the generous side of salmon was coated in salt, plenty of dill, some pepper, juniper berries and brandy, the smell was wonderful. Next we made pasta dough. This was my first time making pasta dough, and I was impressed by how simple it was to do. Almost like making bread dough with all the kneading involved. With our pasta dough ‘smooth as a baby’s bottom’, wrapped in cling film and left to rest in the fridge we put our corned beef on to cook slowly in a large pan full of chicken stock, rinsed the marinade off our rabbit legs from yesterday, and cooked them in the same way as yesterday’s duck confit…submerged in a roasting tray of duck fat and cooked in a low oven for several hours. Then we prepared our crabs, a very time consuming process, picking out all the tiny bits of meat from inside the legs and trapped within the body, followed by painstakingly checking the meat for any fragments of shell.The brown meat was blended with breadcrumbs, lemon and Tabasco to boost the flavour and make it a little more appealing looking to eat. We then used both the brown and white meat in a saffron risotto with some poached salmon fillets and peas. The salmon skins we tossed in flour and paprika and shallow fried to make them extra crispy. I’d found myself going off risottos recently as all the ones I was making seemed to turn out too bland. Fortunately this one had a lovely flavour. The brown crab meat may not have looked all that appetizing, but it definitely tasted fantastic in the risotto.

After lunch we prepared an apple, pear and date chutney, chutney being another thing I’d never really have thought to make but which is so simple to do and would be great fun for playing around with different flavours. Next we shredded our rabbit legs to make rabbit rillettes, mixing the rabbit with plenty of parsley, sliced shallots and garlic. I was on seasoning duty for this one -my least favourite job- I still haven’t got to grips with it and tend to be over cautious with the salt. The beef for our corned beef was shredded and mixed with a little chicken stock and gelatine and placed onto moulds to set. Yesterday’s confit duck was shredded and mixed with shallots and balsamic vinegar to make a filling to stuff our pasta shells with. Rolling out the pasta and making the little tortellini was good fun, a little time consuming maybe but definitely worth it as they turned out to be absolutely gorgeous, served with some fried button mushrooms and a rich mushroom, veal stock, white wine and sage reduction.

With it being Thursday, our meal was wine matched, this week’s wine being an amazing New Zealand Pinot Noir. Whether it was the food, a little too much of the lovely wine, or quite possibly a combination of the two, we all found ourselves feeling very happy by the end of the main course. The treacle tart we had made on Monday was warmed slightly and served with clotted cream. The tart had a wonderfully mellow and moreish sweetness with an almost caramelly flavour and fudgey texture, the lemon zest cutting through and preventing it from seeming sickly. Despite a bowl of risotto at one and a bowl of pasta at half four, we all found room for a slice, even the ‘I’m not a pudding person’ people.

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