I was watching Masterchef (UK) the other night after a long day at work. It’s a usual routine for me, GBBO Créme del a Créme, Rick Stein, anything but the soaps which I started to turn off over 20 years ago as they were just too depressing!
That particularly evening there were 3 guest judges, Sara Danesin, Tim Anderson and Jackie Kearney, three previous contestants. Tim was champion in 2011 and specalises in Japanese cuisine, Sara and Jackie were finalists Jackie being the first vegetarian to get to 4th place, an amazing accolade.
I was fortunate to spend a day with Jackie the previous Saturday, a last minute booking at the Season Cookery School near Winchester and 7 or so hours of watching, listening, learning practising and lots of friendly banter and conversation about food and life in general.This was a VERY popular course, over twenty of us paired up around the numerous workstations, the Season Cookery School is extremely well equipped and Jackie gave everyone time and attention as we worked our way through the various dishes.
Now, I am a meat eater, I am not a vegetarian. This week I have been having a go at making an ‘intricate’ Dome Cake, ha, yep, and one of the team I work with (my testers) is a Vegan. Unfortunately despite buying, Pectin, Agar Agar and who knows what else I struggled to come up with a Vegan version that would be ‘relatively’ simple for a 1st timer (and tastes good). The Dome Cake will be on the blog later and my Vegan friend unfortunately missed out this time round.
So back to the vegetarian subject, I DO like vegetarian food, occasionally choose it when I am dining, and I have published a few recipes on the Blog like my favourite, Apple and Celeriac Salad with Butternut Squash Stew which I have to say is AWSOME, and way way back I did a ‘Melanzane Ripiene’, an Aubergine Dish stuffed with 3 Cheeses and baked in a rich Tomato Sauce which is quite ‘meaty’ for a vegetarian dish.So, on the menu we had Beef Rendang & Green Jackfruit Rendang! Yes there were meat options too so all tastes were catered for, Pad Thai (Egg Noodles) with Prawns, Thai Green Curry with Chicken and Vegetables, Murtabak (Malaysian Stuffed Crispy Pancake), along with making Curry Pastes from scratch and a really very good Chilli Sambal which was like Sriracha on Adrenaline!!I have cooked both Malaysian and Thai food before, you will find numerous recipes on this blog but I am still glad I invested the money to attend as I learnt so much more around technique which was one of the reasons for booking in the first place.
For example, there is a particular ingredient called Keresik which is made from Coconut. I cooked a Beef Short Rib Rendang last year which you can find here: Back to August 2016! but the technique for making the Keresik was nowhere near as good as Jackie’s, you will have to attend her course to find out more I am afraid.You can see that each person has a good amount of workspace with a shared Induction Hob and Oven, Knives are VERY sharp, supplied by Flint & Flame and the various drawers contain pots, pans and all the other equipment you will need such as peelers, tongs etc.
Another important aspect of any cooking is the preparation, and I am pretty confident that most times when I have made a hash of something, it is because my ‘Mise en Place’ has not been up to scratch (normally because I am tired)! Putting in place is a french term that means lets get everything weighed out and prepared so when we start to cook, we have all our ingredients to hand.
This is crucial for the 1st dish we cooked, Pad Thai. I think it took 3 1/2 minutes to cook from the 1st ingredient hitting the pan. Prior to this, Jackie had taken us through the flavour profiles for the piquant sauce we were going to make, to cook the dish. We also learnt the importance of preparing the noodles correctly so they did not end up soggy and claggy! The Rendang was started at the beginning of the day as it had to cook for several hours, and two variants were prepared. One with Beef for the meat eaters and the other with Green Jackfruit, something I had never heard of before! It’s a big beast, with fruit capable of reaching 35Kg and between 100 – 200 fruits being produced per tree each year.We had our Jackfruit in cans, it looks a little bit like Pineapple and when we got to taste the Rendang Curry it had a very subtle fruity taste but also savoury at the same time, it was quite delicious and something I will be looking out for in the future.Jackie was great fun and very engaging, her life story is fascinating starting in the NHS and then deciding to ‘chuck it all in’ and move into the food industry via some serious trips abroad with the family. Some of the stories she told were really very funny and she was able to cook and talk at the same time which is actually quite difficult if you watch Saturday Kitchen, and see some of the presenters falter!‘Murtabak‘ sounds interesting. Another dish and some new skills to learn we prepared a Stuffed Crispy Pancake using extra large spring roll pastry wrappers. A filling of Chicken poached with slices of Ginger or Galangal, Potato with various spices and then the folding and rolling which has to be nice and ‘tight’, they were delicious served with the Chilli Sambal that was also prepared earlier.As usual, there were a number of ‘helpers’ clearing stuff away and making sure we had everything we needed, and Sylvain who runs the Season School was an active participant also getting stuck in when needed.
We started at 9:30 and finished about 4:00 – 4:30, its hard work and you come away with a sense of satisfaction and any remaining leftovers to take home and polish of later. It was a really good day, I was a bit apprehensive about the size of the class but in practise it worked well, I was paired with another veteran of cookery courses and we got on really well.I had an amazing day with Jackie, Sylvian and the rest of the ‘pupils’ it was hard work, great fun and highly recommended.
As usual I paid full price for attendance and the views are my own and not influenced in any way by anybody just in case you think I might have been persuaded to write this, I was NOT.
My next post will be the exercise in making a ‘Dome’ Cake, with Coconut, Mango, Sable Bréton, Pistachio and a whole load of other ingredients. I have already been asked for the recipe so they apparently taste pretty good, they are not too sweet though.
……………………..Until next time…………….L8ers……………………………..