Ashburton Cookery School Day 12

We had lots of mini meals today but unfortunately no dessert (excluding yesterday’s brownie which we had at lunch time). Surely it’s no good thing that after two weeks we’ve all grown to expect some sweet/ baked/ pastry-based/ chocolate-covered treat after every meal and feel a twinge of disappointment when there is nothing to be had, regardless of how full we all feel from the main course, or in today’s case, four small meals.

Today focused on vegetarian food and the first ‘light’, snack-type meal, which actually turned out pretty heavy to eat, was an interesting twist on boiled egg and soldiers. The soldiers were made from strips of set polenta, coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried and the soft boiled egg receiving a similar crumbed and fried treatment. We then served the egg nestled in the hollow of a baked mushroom. I was really impressed by how perfectly cooked the egg was and the breadcrumb ‘shell’ added a nice texture. The polenta soldiers were a quirky touch only I found them a little on the filling side.

Next up was chickpea samosas. The chickpea filling for these was delicious, the spices adding a lovely warm heat and fragrance, the chickpeas soaking up all the flavours and cooking down so they were tender.

Before you think this has become a course in deep-fried vegetarian cookery, or on how to make vegetarian food unhealthy, the next two dishes we prepared were on the healthier side.

First we attempted to make gnocchi. I say attempted, because I’m not sure ours came out quite right…a little on the mushy side. Although this now means I’m determined to have another go at making them. I also need to eat gnocchi a few more times to determine my views on it. Do I like it or don’t I? It’s a funny one gnocchi, I just can’t quite figure it out. We served the gnocchi with possibly the richest, tastiest tomato sauce I’ve ever tried, made with sun-dried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, vine tomatoes and a tin of tomatoes and simmered for four hours…I’d say it was worth it.

Our final dish of the day, and my favourite, was spinach pasta layered with wilted lettuce, goat’s cheese, toasted walnuts and balsamic roasted cherry tomatoes, served with a basil foam. This looked very impressive and had a great range of flavours and textures going on…silky pasta sheets, toasty, crunchy walnuts, creamy, tangy goats cheese and sweet tomatoes all brought together with the basil foam.

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