Ashburton Cookery School Day 10

I can’t believe I’m half way through the course already. That means there’s only two weeks left until I fall out into the currently empty void that is the rest of my life and have to make some real decisions about what it is I actually want to do. The last two weeks have led me to the conclusion that I would love to aim for a food-related career, but that I don’t think I could cut it in a busy, commercial kitchen. But I’m not going to think about that too hard just yet (although I probably should be), it’s a bit too stressful and sends me into a panic! I’ll just concentrate on the course for now.

Today we started off butchering chickens. Fortunately the head, feet and insides had all already been removed this time and I could just about remember what to do, although my joints all ended up a little on the raggedy side around the edges. We really only needed the chicken legs for today, which we jointed and used to make a coq au vin, marinading the chicken in wine, chopped carrot, onion, celery, garlic and mushrooms until the chicken had taken on a deep purple colour. We then browned the chicken, during the course of which I managed to get spitting hot oil in my face, which was a touch on the painful side! The browned chicken and vegetables all went into a casserole pot with bacon, some of the red wine and chicken stock, and was simmered together for about half an hour. To finish the sauce we reduced it and added a little corn flour for an intensely flavoured and slightly thick finish.

On the dessert side of things, we had a go at making profiteroles. I quite like making choux pastry, although it does require a lot of beating. I think it’s the transformation of all the ingredients, the way you start off with melted butter and water and end up with such a lovely, smooth and glossy dough, with the intermediate ‘slimy’ stage when you try to incorporate the beaten egg into the dough. Followed by the way the little pipped dollops of dough puff up, crisp up and hollow out inside. And any dessert involving melted chocolate is always good to make, especially because you end up with utensils and bowls covered in chocolate that needs licking off and scraping out.

We also had some fish work to do today; filleting mackerel and preparing squid. The mackerel was filleted and placed into a sort of pickling mixture of vinegar, salt, sugar and spices to make soused mackerel. The squid we fried and used in a salad with chorizo, tomatoes, capers and herbs. I wouldn’t like to praise my own cooking too highly, but chef declared my squid to be cooked perfectly; not the rubber bands my Mum always likes to liken squid to.  Despite squid’s rather mild taste, with the chorizo, capers and a vinegary dressing, this salad packed a powerful flavour punch, the squid adding a lovely texture.

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