No, NOT Chocolate, it’s Couverture…. The Proper Stuff! A Day with Champion Chocolatier Mark Tilling at Season Cookery School.

photo-26-02-2017-16-02-24It’s been a tough couple of months with our little one taking up a lot of time through illness. The chance to ‘escape’ for a day was offered by the missus and searching for an interesting cooking course at the last minute, (my way of completely relaxing) was proving a challenge in itself.  My usual haunt was fully booked so an alternative was needed, a creature of habit, looking at the various descriptions and options available I finally remembered ‘Season’, The Exclusive Cookery School at Lainston House Hotel in Hampshire. I was in luck, a full day Chocolate Masterclass with an ‘expert’. Seconds’ later it was booked, only 4 days to go!photo-26-02-2017-11-17-28I have never worked with Chocolate before as I am more of a savoury person, there are a couple of sweet entries in the blog but my recent (last year) diagnoses of Type I Diabetes means I tend to keep away from such food, but I do like learning new skills and this was to be no exception. We started the day with drinks and pastries, the school can hold up to 24 people from memory but as there were only 5 of us it was quite intimate.

So in 2006 UK Chocolate Master, 2007, 12th in the WORLD Chocolate Master Championship in Paris, 2008, UK Chocolate Master, 2009 7TH in the WORLD Chocolate Masters Final in Paris, if there was a person to learn about the sweet stuff this guy Mark Tilling must know the odd trick and tip!! To top the lot, he and a couple of colleagues also won the 1st BBC Bake of Créme de la creme baking competition in 2016, I remember watching it on TV.photo-26-02-2017-11-19-29You would not believe what goes into producing the ‘callets’, tiny buttons of Chocolate used to make all sorts of sweet delights. Chocolate is very complex to produce and the 1st session introduced us all into where and how it grows, the pollination, harvesting, and each of the many stages it takes to produce a product you can work with.

Mark is a very friendly engaging and excellent tutor, ably assisted on the day by Sylvain, the Manager of the Cookery School, We were shown how to ‘temper’ Chocolate, this is critical and prevents ‘blooming’ where the surface goes white and ensures a really good ‘snap’! Heating, lowering the temperature, adding some magic ingredient and lowering the temperature even more and you are done. Damn, guess who forgot to add the magic ingredient. You have to start all over again !! We used the lovely little Digital Thermometer all day to check  as it has to be very precise to get the good and bad crystals ( the result of the process) sorted properly. Oh, and it takes time, you HAVE to be patient.photo-26-02-2017-13-47-09As we went about making bars of flavoured Chocolate, Champagne Ganache, filled moulds to make the shells for the Ganache, learned how to used Chocolate transfers………. we learnt LOADS, and had fun getting covered in the stuff at the same time. Stopping for a really delicious lunch we carried on debating, asking questions and generally chatting about food and …… Chocolate, it was really very good.photo-26-02-2017-12-46-54Making the Shells for the Ganache was really tricky, and messy for those of us that had not done this before,  ladling the warm, sweet, sticky delicious liquid into the Mould the right way, inverting the mould, tapping to release enough, and then laying to set before going in the fridge so as to not ‘shock’ the Chocolate, my attempt above was ok, the results came out quite well for a beginner!photo-26-02-2017-14-17-08We used quite a few piping bags during the day too, the Cookery School is VERY well equipped with everything needed, and there was no washing up required, all the clearing and cleaning was done for us as we did use quite a few bowls. Tea’s and Coffees, Water and Soft Drinks were all available as and when you needed a quick respite!photo-26-02-2017-17-08-22Mark is the UK Ambassador for Callebaut Chocolate, we used lots of it during the sessions and my order for 3Kg is just about to be placed. It’s DELICIOUS, says the wife!! We had lots of quality ingredients to play with, one of my bars of Chocolate was Sea Salt and Pistachio, they were the best Pistachio’s I have ever seen and tasted!! I would recommend shopping around if you want to have a go, I found an internet wholesale site that can provide Callebaut White, Milk and Dark a Kilo of each for just under £20, which will last for ages, they sell to non-trade and it has a great shelf life.photo-26-02-2017-17-07-26This is an AMAZING course, I did have my doubts initially as I had never been to this Cookery School before, but we learnt so much during the day it was EXCELLENT value for money. I did pay full price and the comments are my own personal reflection of the experience. The morsels above are the Champagne Ganache filled Chocolate Shells, with a Gold Dust effect on the top and one side, I was well chuffed with them considering how ‘challenging’ they are to make.

If you fancy doing something a bit different and learning from a true champion Mark Tilling at Season Cookery School is more than highly recommended, I am going to be spending some more time with Mark later in the year if diary and wallet allows, it was brilliant.

…………………………………Until next time L8er’s…………………………

Hola, buenos dias José Pizzaro – A trip to San Sebastián at Bertinets’ Cookery School

photo-04-02-2017-14-48-18San Sebastián in the Basque community of Spain has more Michelin starred restaurants per square metre than any other city in the world, in fact since 2002 Spain has been in the top 3 BEST restaurant in the world locations and had the number 1 spot SEVEN times. elBulli had held 5 of those but closed in 2011 with El Celler de Can Roca taking over the top spot in 2013 and 2015.

So it was with great excitement that I was to spend a day with José Pizzaro at Bertinets’ Cookery School in Bath, and learn some new skills and better understand the cuisine of the Basque region of France, something I have been keen to do for a while now. I booked this course last year and couldn’t wait for the day to arrive, I had purchased the book Basque last year too which José had penned, and already tried a couple of recipes with great success so I was hoping a day spent with this Spanish legend would improve my capability in the kitchen.dsc_0012The course was fully booked, 12 of us with  good mix of people of all ages and nice to see some other guys on a cookery course for a change. There were some friendly faces from previous events that many of us new, it was a bit like a school or family reunion and in no time at all we were all chatting about food and looking forward to settling down and getting stuck in.img_-x045twThings started with an introduction and a couple of demonstrations. After being told about Bacalao (Salted Cod), and preparing it for cooking, the art of making ‘Béchamel’ for the ‘Croquetas’ was shown as it’s a slow methodical process to produce a smooth silky base for the many ingredients you can add, ours being Goats Cheese and Spinach which was very nice too.dsc_0005We learnt a few hints and tips but you will have to try and get on a course to find out the tricks of the trade. Trying to manipulate a ‘Boquerone’ (Anchovy) into a pitted Spanish Gordal Olive can be quite challenging when the available space in the Olive versus surface area of the Anchovy don’t quite want to agree to work with each other!img_-2u7z65San Sebastián appears to have a lot going for it, apart from the Michelin starred restaurants it is one of the most famous destinations in Spain, which looking at the annual rain chart seems rather surprising! Along with some quality restaurants the area is also famous for pintxos a local Tapas or snack. The stuffed Olives were to be one such Pintxos, along with the Croquetas, and some Padron Peppers.dsc_0006We had a couple of Boquerone left (actually loads, José had bought along a big tub!) so also prepared some marinated, sprinkled with finely chopped Garlic and given a good douse in Extra Virgin Olive Oil which were divine on some of Richards famous bread, given a quick toast and sprinkle of Olive Oil too. We had a quick taster during one of the famous coffee breaks (well, more than a taster actually as they were delicious).dsc_0015To make this Cookery School so good, apart from having an awesome range of regular and guest Chefs, Richard Bertinet has a well organised and experienced team of smiley happy people who are on hand to help, guide, advise, fetch, clean, make me Earl Grey Tea and the others coffee! and fill in where we need to get things done. photo-04-02-2017-14-25-53Dessert was to be an absolutely delicious Caramelised Vanilla Pear Dish with Hazelnut Ice Cream and as we had to keep an eye on other dishes, two of the team made sure the Ice Cream was finished and the Hazelnut praline was suitably ‘crunched’ (sorry, these two lovely ladies were new and I did not get their names!). We were split up up into 3 groups of four for the day and ours decided to sneak in some of Richards famous Rum soaked Dates to add a bit of ‘zing’ to the dessert and glad we did too, very very tasty.
dsc_0019José Pizzaro, what a absolutely lovely teacher and thoroughly decent chap. As we were preparing the dishes (7 if you include the Pintxos) he would come round and assist, guide and chat, always with a big smile and lots of encouragement. During the numerous times he showed us particular techniques he prompted us to ask whatever questions we liked, and we certainly learnt a lot about his background, coming to England over 16 years ago and the restaurant trade in general.dsc_0028So, on the menu today is;

  • Padron Peppers (They were eaten pretty much during the break, 2 plates of them!)
  • Boquerones with Garlic & Extra Virgin Olive Oil (One plate of those also got devoured in the break!)
  • Gordal Olives Stuff with White Anchovies (They didn’t last long either!)
  • Spinach and Goats Cheese Croquetas (They made it to the dinner table)
  • Swiss Chard Stew with Pimenton
  • Bacalao a la vizcaina (A Basque dish using salted Cod)
  • Caramelised pears and vanilla, and Hazelnut Ice Cream (and some Rum infused Prunes!)

We cooked LOADS, if was really good fun and everyone learnt lots too. Some of the subtle things you pick up include how to plan menus and work out what needs cooking when. The Béchamel needs to cool right down, so get that done first, the Stew needs to ‘Stew’, and the vizcaina needs time to cook so get those on after the Béchamel, Ice Cream needs to Freeze etc. etc. etc.photo-04-02-2017-13-31-42The Day at the school always finishes with a communal meal, everyone sitting down to enjoy the labours of the day, copious amounts of wine on flow (unless you are driving like me) and chatting about the food, what we had learnt, what course we were going to book next etc. This was my Sixth visit, others had been on over 10 courses, it’s very good indeed.

Thank you José for sharing your extensive knowledge and experience and Richard again for making it happen.

So there we have it, another great day cooking and making new friends, take a look at Richard Bertinets’ School HERE (I don’t get a commission, I paid the same price as everyone else for this trip, the views are my honest opinion and I WILL be going back for more later in the year).

 

………………………….Until next time, L8ers………………………..

Michelin, Monkfish and Mmmmmmm!

20170107_173251_001The last time I cooked Monkfish was in 2015, whilst in France at the French House Party Cookery School. Having checked back, Médallions de Lotte Safrantées, Arlequin du Jardin was on the menu, Medallions of Monkfish with Saffron & Seasonal Vegetables, you can see the results below. Our teacher was a Michelin starred Chef, I have the pleasure of his company again this year in May, very exciting.

FHP Day 4 028Being the start of the new year, trying to find some ‘healthier’ lighter dishes has been on the agenda which can be difficult when the weather is cold and blustery, nights draw in quickly and the tendency is to focus on Stews, Casseroles which are heartier and more fulfilling.

Inspiration came from Rick Stein and his ‘Long Weekends’ programs, Monkfish Fritters with Cumin, Garlic and Pimentón which in the book accompanying the series, looked very tasty. Ricks’ version is positioned as a starter, with a Mustard Mayonnaise, as this was to be a main course I came up with a Mushroom, Mustard and Madeira Sauce (with Parsley), and added some Potatoes Fried in Olive Oil. The ingredients are in the heading picture, Monkfish was £29Kg from my local supplier so you may wish to pick another fish such as Cod or Pollack which is cheaper. You need about 150 – 20o grams per person.

20170107_181840Whichever Fish you decide to use, it needs marinating for at least 2 hours. Smoked Paprika, Garlic, Sherry Vinegar, Oregano, Cumin, Pepper and Salt along with a bit of water make up the marinade, Spanish Flavours which add a delicious piquancy.

Whilst the Fish is soaking up the flavours you can start work on the potatoes, I used some ‘New Potatoes’ boiled in their skins and left to cool before gently peeling and slicing.

20170107_180305You can also work on the sauce beforehand, frying some thinly sliced button mushrooms in Olive Oil and a little butter before adding a small amount of Vegetable Stock Cube and a dash of water to dissolve it. The sauce was a ‘cook by andaza’ or estimation, something taught to me by Sumayya Usmani who wrote the very successful cookery book ‘Under the Tamarind Tree’. I had the great pleasure to attend a couple of her day courses, great fun and a real insight into the foods of Pakistan and the lesser known parts of ‘Middle Earth’.

I added a ‘slurp’ of White Wine and let it reduce, then a ‘dollop’ of Grain Mustard, a ‘tad’ of Dijon Mustard followed by a ‘glug’ of Madeira, tasting as I progressed, then some seasoning. This continued until the flavour was correct, finally some Double Cream and more seasoning. Job done the sauce was covered and put to once side whilst the rest of the dish was completed. Now that would be an interesting cookery book!!20170107_200811The Potatoes had cooled and skins removed, boiling with the skins on definitely imparts a better favour and is my preferred technique for mash as well as fried. I used Olive Oil from Puglia, Organic and great value for money from Riverford Organic, and delivery is free if ordered with a Veg box!

20170107_203337Almost done, The Fish needs draining and dredging in Semolina before frying in the Olive Oil. You may have noticed I have only used one pan for this recipe, my new friend the Netherton Prospector which is doing a great job. I also have a frying pan from Netherton Foundry which will be put to use very soon!

This bit IS a bit tricky, and may need some practise. The Semolina seems to have a habit of falling off, I think the temperature of the fat was a bit too low as the second batch were much better. As there is no ‘glue’ involved such as egg and flour we are relying on moisture and pure determination!

20170107_203828Yes, I know I need to work on my presentation a lot (unlike my previous attempt at the top of the page), but the meal was very tasty indeed. I opted to serve the sauce in a ramekin as it was a bit neater, it really worked with the Monkfish (the bosses words, not mine). This dish is easy to make, very very tasty and quite light, and could be served with a salad of Red Onion and Tomatoes if you can get some decent ones with a bit of flavour this time of year.

So there we have it, the 1st healthy post of the year, I will do the review of The Woodspeen I previously mentioned next time, it was awesome value for money with a Michelin Star and the food was just fab.

……………………………Until next time……………………L8ers…

 

 

 

Please don’t cut your finger on a Bagel! Musings and Reviews from around the country.

2016-11-30-09-31-37It’s been an interesting few weeks as the year slowly draws to a close, and I have managed to eat in some really good restaurants as my work takes me from Norfolk to Cornwall and back home again to Newbury.

There have been several stand-out experiences that deserve a mention but before I dive into food I need to explain the title of this blog. After several years of ‘umming and arrring’ I decided to invest in some new knives for the kitchen recently, scouring the web and looking at numerous suppliers I finally settled on some 67 Layer Damascus beasts, they were an investment to last me forever but nowhere near as expensive as some of the more popular brands as seen on TV cookery competitions and programmes. Endorsed by Tom Aitken and others, if they were good enough for him then they might be ok!!

I ordered the set, and impressive they were too, stunning with the effect of the layers and nice and sharp… Ouch, within a day of using them I had managed to take the tip of one of my fingers!! It was being careless that did it, with a paring knife too, not even a big shiny cooks knife.

Later that evening I was a bit peckish so sliced a Cinnamon Bagel in half, popped it into the toaster and waited as the aroma’s drifted around the kitchen. As I removed them, one of the edges had become ‘paper sharp’ and next thing I had another small cut, just unbelievable, haven’t cut myself in years and within hours two cuts and one with a ‘BAGEL’!!!!

img_omadqhSo back to the food, in no particular order the 1st award goes to The Bladebone at Chapel Row nr Upper BuckleBerry which is in between Reading and Newbury. We have eaten their 3 times in the last few weeks, and only knew of its existence because of twitter, friends advertising its greatness, and yes, it is VERY good. The last visit was for Sunday lunch, traditional Roast Beef with all the trimmings cooked to perfection. We absolutely loved the way the Veg was served as above, very generous too (and the rest of the food was awesome Richie).

20161117_204700The next dish was a surprise, Satay Chicken & Crab, Vanilla Lime Custard, Spiced Peanuts and Cucumber served at the Seckford Hall Hotel, a 15th Century establishment nr Woodbridge in Norfolk. I was here on business and the Duck Two Ways with Parsnip and White Chocolate Puree and Pickled Blackberries was another standout dish.

20161129_194911Next, it was a trip to ‘Hooked‘ in Truro, Cornwall on another business trip. A taster of Crab Thermidor, Crab & Sweetcorn Chowder and Hand-picked Crab Salad it was just delicious. It’s so nice to have access to such amazing fresh ingredients which with a little care and attention can deliver such amazing results.

20161129_202351Still ‘Hooked’! I was a bit extravagant with the main. I should explain that my employer does not pay for all these meals, I get a small daily subsidy when I am travelling which would cover a typical meal, but I choose to use the opportunity to ‘invest’ my own cash in something a bit more extravagent, in this case 1/2 a Lobster!, Crevettes, Scallops, Frites, home made Tartare Sauce, and a fresh dressed salad.  It was stunning, sweet, perfectly cooked and well worth the investment.

2016-12-01-20-56-50Now for the star performer, not that the others were bad, they were all excellent and I would have no hesitation is recommending them but Isidro’s is something a bit special. Isidro’s is a ‘pop-up’ based out of 16 Bartholomew Street Newbury which used to be the home of ‘brebis’, a family run Michelin quality French Restaurant which has just started a couple of new venture’s, the guest pop-up, and a fine dining establishment that comes to you, in the form of a double decker bus called ‘Nomadic’. Isidro’s is the 1st pop-up guest with ‘Georgian’ food to follow care of Caucasian Spice Box as well as fine French care of the owner Sam more details HERE.

2016-12-01-19-13-51The menu consisted of 5 Courses (well 6 actually, the Filipino spring rolls above were an extra surprise), not rushed, beautifully presented, packed full of flavour and not ‘tuned’ to english tastes (chilli is chilli).

2016-12-01-19-41-20Never had Japanese Gyoza’s before, they were a triumph perfectly cooked, melt in the mouth and just delicious.

2016-12-01-19-20-32The Vietnamese Salad Rolls were just as tasty, one had already been eaten before I remembered to capture the moment, served with a proper Peanut sauce and Nuoc Cham, this food was not out of jars or tins and it just kept coming (but at a nice steady pace).

2016-12-01-20-06-10So, I don’t ‘get’ Sweet Potato, it just seems wrong and is something I steer clear of with a passion. Not tonight as one of the mains was a Sweet Potato Red Thai Curry, damn it was sooooo good. The other main for us meat eaters was KFC (Korean Fried Chicken). Now I have made this myself, a recipe from Judy Joo’s book with Gochujang Sauce, this put mine to shame so I will be speaking to them and gaining some clues as to how they cook theirs, it was brilliant.

2016-12-01-20-49-05Dessert was finally here and we just had enough room to eat it, light, tasty fragrant Pandan, Coconut, Pineapple, Marscapone and Mango Puree, which arrived after I took the picture above.

So a quick tour of several places to eat and they were all damn sooo good, Isidro’s pipped the post though due to the experience, The Bladebone is also standout and should you be in the area check it out, I would advise booking first to avoid disappointment as it does get very busy and you could be unfortunately turned away. It’s a favourite of Chris Tarrant, who lives nearby, he was supping a pint last time we were there!!

Next week I am having lunch with a friend at recently Michelin Star awarded ‘The Woodspeen’ so watch out for a review.

……………………….Until next time…………………L8ers……………………

Cooking Basque – Sukalki & Nethertons Foundry!

photo-24-11-2016-17-03-15It’s been a tough week, mostly due to a nasty virus and being off food which for a ‘foodie’ is somewhat challenging. Our induction hob recently gave up on us, and it has taken some time to get a new one sorted, we’ve been using a portable gas stove with those ‘hair spray like’ blue cylinders in the interim which has been interesting!

Encouraged by a new fitted hob (a NEFF Induction again) it was time to cook something and Spain seemed a great place to turn too for something that is relatively simple, but very tasty and ideal for someone who had spent a lot of the week being sick!!

Sukalki is one of many delicious recipes in José Pizaro’s book, Basque. A traditional Beef stew, but flavoured with Cognac it’s a dish that is very popular in the Basque region of Spain with competitions taking place to prove who can cook the best. It’s a great book and well worth the investment.

2016-11-24-17-13-30Another reason for picking this recipe is that I wanted to try a new pan I had just purchased from Netherton Foundry in Shropshire. It’s handmade, and built to last unlike any other pan I have seen not cast and heavy, but spun and amazingly light for an Iron pan. It’s naturally non-stick, due to the use of Flax (Linseed) Oil which is lightly coated and ‘cooked’ for an hour similar to seasoning a wok. I had ordered a ‘Prospector’ Casserole Pan with Lid, and a Frying Pan too.

2016-11-24-17-29-49Once you have browned the Beef to seal, put to one side and start work on the Onion and Carrot, I added a small leek to my dish as I had one that needed using up and thought it would add another dimension and increase our 5 a day intake.

Using the Prospector Pan, you need to make sure it’s hot first, to ensure the natural non-stick surface works. One of the big advantages of this piece of kit us that if you accidentally damage the surface, you can just go through the seasoning process and you pan is as good as new, try that with a traditional PTFE non-stick or enamel coated pan!

photo-24-11-2016-17-35-10The vegetables need a decent glug of Cognac, 150ml if you are cooking for 6 – 8 people. I did vary the recipe slightly, the leeks were not in the original, and I used one of those long sweet peppers usually stuffed which I finely chopped, and also a teaspoon of sweet pimentón to the mix.

2016-11-24-17-36-23Add the Beef to the Vegetable mixture and carefully mix, the Sukalki is going to be braising for 3 – 3 1/2 hours slowly, once you have added some Beef stock to the pan. To accompany the dish I decided to prepare some ‘rustic’ Garlic Bread. Largish ‘chunks’ of bread, rough cut Garlic, LOTS of Olive Oil and seasoned well with Maldon Sea Salt and Pepper.

2016-11-24-20-14-21The smells that were coming out of the kitchen were making both me and the boss very hungry. I hadn’t eaten much during the week due to the bug so I was really looking to eating something simple but wholesome and hopefully tasty.

2016-11-24-21-05-28Towards the end of the braising, you need to add some Potatoes, a waxy variety that does not break up. This, to me is always a bit of challenge as potatoes don’t obey the instructions in cookery books and the cooking time depends on so many variables. Mine were sliced about 5 c.m. thick and needed a good 45 – 50 minutes to get to a point of perfect, just soft. Finally some Pea’s are added at the end to finish things off.

2016-11-24-21-09-10

Excuse the messy plate! I was hungry and forgot to make things look ‘tidy’, but nonetheless the Sukalki was delicious, and I was hungry so it was soon eaten. I usually cook food that is ‘smack you in the mouth’ with herbs and spices, this is more delicate and rustic, great for a winters meal which is wholesome and filling.

José’s Book ‘Basque’ is available HERE. The Prospector Pans are available HERE. I paid full price for both and have received no incentive for this post. I am spending a day cooking with José in February at my favourite cookery school so watch out for the review next year.

………………..Until next time………………L8ers…………..

 

 

A National Treasure Teaches Nose to Tail (or Feather), a Day with Mark Hix (At Bertinets Cookery School)

2016-10-15-14-40-39If you ask anyone who has followed the TV food series ‘Great British Menu” over the years despite the 100’s of great dishes presented to the judging panel consisting of Pru Leith, Oliver Peyton and Matthew Fort, there is probably ONLY ONE dish that everyone remembers, ‘Stargazy Pie’.

This dish was presented in the 2007 series by Mark Hix and went on to win the main course and was joined by another Mark Hix recipe, ‘Perry Jelly with summer fruits and elderberry ice cream’ which won the dessert section of the competition.

These dishes were to form part of a banquet hosted by the British Ambassador to France, ably joined by Richard Corrigan and Sat Bains, both extremely competent and Michelin Star holders!photo-15-10-2016-11-43-54‘Does anyone not eat meet’? started the banter as we took advantage of the Sourdough and Brioche toast prepared by Richard Bertinets’ able team, I was back at the Bertinet Cookery School in Bath for the 5th time, it’s VERY good and the range of different guest Chef’s, convivial nature of the location, and limited number of attendees make for an excellent experience. Mark Hix was our tutor for the day and everyone was bubbling with excitement as to what we were going to cook.

photo-15-10-2016-14-23-26After a demonstration of handling Partridge, removing the legs, taking the crown off, removing the thighbone from the legs and starting a game broth we quickly prepared the ‘Far Breton’, an amazing dessert made with Prunes steeped in spiced Rum, a speciality of Normandy.

I made some of these Prunes over a year ago and they are still in the sealed jar, now I have the basis for a dessert that can be made in minutes and cooked in no time at all, (It was delicious)!

photo-15-10-2016-10-58-41Dessert done, we focussed on the rest of what was going to be a very special lunch for us all. Mark explained his philosophy of using everything in his cooking method, and providing some fascinating facts as to how much produce that could be used to good effect, ends on the scrap heap.

The basis for our Partridge broth was a home made Chicken stock, as you can see above as we prepared the elements of the dish pretty much everything else went in the broth mix, including onion skins (flavour and colour), the Partridge carcass (we were going to roast the crown), the offcuts from the legs, all adding more and more flavour.

photo-15-10-2016-11-43-54Having had the demonstration earlier it was now our turn to prepare the partridge, Mark gave us a quick repeat of the process again and we all set to the task in hand, slicing and cutting within a few minutes we all proudly had our crowns prepared and more flavour in the Broth pot.

photo-15-10-2016-11-18-13Our Roasted Partridge was going to sit on ‘Yorkshire Toast’. You will have to go on the course and hope Mark shows you how to prepare it, think of Bread Sauce fried in breadcrumbs! I now have three of his books and the recipe is not in any of them so I feel kind of honoured to have learnt something that is not mainstream, and tastes seriously good.

photo-15-10-2016-11-18-03No apologies for some of the pictures, all the processes we went through ensured we wasted nothing and continually added flavour as much as possible. Remember the Partridge legs I mentioned earlier, that we removed and took out the thigh bone. They needed poaching for about 15 minutes so they also went into the Broth pot. They were then going into a mixture of Buttermilk and spices before being floured and frying to crisp up.

photo-15-10-2016-11-55-55There is always a break or two during the cookery school sessions, and the ‘Bertinet Girls’ produce some amazing delights to whet the tastebuds. As these beauties came out the oven the room filled with the smell of chocolate and fudge, and as we drank Coffee and Tea they were demolished in minutes!photo-15-10-2016-11-39-06The Partridge legs cooked and dried, then got the Buttermilk treatment with some added spices. The legs are often ignored or wasted, we were going to have them as a tasty snack, dipped in a Membrillo sauce which we made later in the session.

Throughout the day we chatted to each other and asked Mark (and Richard) questions about food, their philosophy and they also volunteered anecdotes about their life experiences, which just made the event even more fascinating. These guys have been in the industry a long time and have so much experience and knowledge to give anyone who is interested, hints and tips about pretty much anything food related.

photo-15-10-2016-11-53-30Our menu for the day was going to be;

  • Buttermilk Fried Partridge Legs, with Membrillo Sauce
  • Partridge Broth with Woodland Mushrooms
  • Roast Partridge on ‘Yorkshire Toast’ with Elderberries
  • Far Breton

Once we were happy with the seasoning of the Broth we prepared a ‘garnish’ which would add more flavour and texture to the dish, Wild Mushroom, Celery and Sea Purslane.photo-15-10-2016-13-01-51I didn’t manage to get a ‘pretty’ picture of the Partridge legs as they were gone in seconds, Richard fried them and presented them ‘chef style’ on a plate. Dipped in the Membrillo sauce they were absolutely delish, washed down with some wine which started to flow for those that wanted as we neared dinner.

photo-15-10-2016-13-33-49As we finished the various courses, the table was prepared for lunch by Richards’ team. He epitomises a ‘convivial’ lunch, long table, wine, and the result is a party like atmosphere despite the fact we had all been on our feet for several hours, listening intently to Marks wisdom as we prepared our gourmet menu.photo-15-10-2016-13-39-23The Partridge broth was completed by adding the ‘garnish’ and served by the lovely team that support Richard, Fionn and Co., who work tirelessly making coffee and tea, cakes and helping clear up and making the day go so smoothly. It was just amazing, full of flavour, texture from the Mushrooms and Celery, and supported by lots of fresh homemade Bertinet bread.

photo-15-10-2016-13-59-04Next was the Partridge on ‘Yorkshire Toast’ with Elderberries. At the start of the day we had a debate on whether Game was popular with the students, several found Game Ok, some not so keen and part of the experience was to prove that when cooked properly, it was delightful.  Guess what? It was Bl@@dy delicious both succulent and tender, lovely flavour and enhanced by the Yorkshire Toast and Elderberries, we all complemented the Chefs in the kitchen and patted ourselves on the back, the party was in full swing.

photo-15-10-2016-14-23-26The dessert, was simple but complex at the same time, the Prunes exploded with flavour, the soft brulee like batter melting in the mouth.

So another really successful trip to the Bertinet Cookery School, met and learnt from a legend, Mark Hix, learnt so much again and now looking forward to my next trip, watch the blog for the review early in 2017.

Just to be clear, I paid full price for this course and received no incentives to write this blog. It’s my own reflection of an amazing day with a great bunch of people. I left full, with a massive smile on my face, 2 more of Mark’s books which he kindly signed, and a pack of L’hirondelle live yeast which I learnt to use at the Bread making course I did a while back.

If there is one cookery school in the UK that I would give top marks, Bertinets gets 10/10 (again). Thanks Mark and Richard and the team for a fabulous day.

 

………………………………Until next time L8ers………………………………………………….

 

A quick trip to Valencia – Paella (A review of Steenbergs Smokey Paella Spice Blend)

20160821_094302-1I need to start this quick blog with an apology! Some time ago (last year), the lovely people at Steenbergs sent me a sample box which included a small jar of Smokey Paella Blend. Partly due to two separate visits to hospital I had completely forgotten about it (the jar is small at 10g of ingredients) and discovered it recently, so here is my experience of making NOT the national dish of Spain, but THE regional dish of Valencia!

So Paella might seem a simple dish to prepare, but it can be done very badly or really well. My usual trip to the internet and trawling the bookshelf revealed some interesting facts, the main one being our view that Paella is the national dish of Spain, in fact this is not true and actually the tasty mix of rice, protein and herbs and spices comes from the Eastern region of Spain, the Albufera Lagoon (not the holiday location in Portugal)!

So, for 2 – 4 people I used the following Ingredients:

  • 2 Chicken Breasts (as good as you can get, chopped into 1 1/2 ” ‘chunks’)
  • 20 (approx.) Raw King Prawns (shells removed)
  • 1/2 Large Onion (finely Chopped)
  • 1 Red Pepper (pith and seeds removed and chopped roughly)
  • 6″ Chorizo (sliced about £1 coin width)
  • A good glug of Olive Oil
  • 1 Clove Garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 Glass Wine
  • Zest of 1/2 Lemon
  • 2 Tomatoes (Sliced in Half)
  • 1 Tsp Tomato Puree
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 Cups Rice ( I only had Carnaroli in the cupboard)
  • 6 Cups Chicken Stock (I used a Knorr Stock Pot which was to hand)
  •  2 Tsp Steenbergs Smokey Paella Spice Blend

I am not suggesting my version is original by the way, I used what I had to hand in the cupboard, and took guidance from 5 or 6 pages on the Internet, as well as a couple of books I had that showed different versions of Paella.

20160821_104048-1So the 1st stage (for me), was to get some Olive Oil into a pan and start to fry the Chorizo. When you do this, the spices that flavour the Chorizo leach out into the Oil which turns a delicious Red colour. This takes a few minutes, you want the Chorizo a bit crispy to add some texture to the dish.

20160820_184940-1Now add the chopped Pepper and fry for a couple of minutes then the Onion. You can see the Red Chorizo flavour doing its stuff on the Onions above. You want to soften things so allow about 5 – 8 minutes for this stage on a medium heat. The next few stages (in my humble opinion), are where you need to take a lot of care with the timing.

20160820_190401For me, the knack with this dish is to make sure each element is cooked to its best, but nothing is overcooked, we have Chicken, Prawns and Rice which all cook for different times to get right and so some thought needs to go into what we do and when.

The Rice I was using, Carnaroli is an Italian Risotto Rice so if you want to be traditional then Bomba Rice should be used, but the critical factor in my case was the 18 minutes it takes to cook which needs to be factored in with the Chicken and Prawns.

So, in goes the 2 Tsp of Paella mix and the Lemon Zest, spices need cooking out a bit 1st to extract oils and flavours. Next, take your Tomato halves and grate them into the pan, this leaves the skin behind which is not digestible, then the Tomato Puree and give it a good mix.

Turn the heat up and add the wine, you want to reduce and evaporate the alcohol. Now add the Chicken with the heat still up high and cook for a couple of minutes until the outside is browned. The bulk of the cooking will take place when we add the Rice and Stock so it’s just colour and flavour we are adding at this time.

20160820_190829Now add the Rice, stir a bit, then add the Chicken Stock and mix again. Check for seasoning at this point, mine needed some more salt, taste again and check it’s right. DON’T mix anymore from now on. We want to be as original as possible, apparently the finished dish should have ‘holes’ in the surface and a crispy base (I didn’t manage this and suspect I could have used a higher heat), stirring will prevent this from happening and you could end up with mushy Rice.

20160820_191050-1Finally, add the prawns and push them down slightly so they are as covered as much as possible, the heat needs to be reduced to a medium simmer at this point so the Rice can ‘sponge’ up the stock and other flavours, if you remember the Rice only needed 18 minutes to cook so at this point, I needed another 14 minutes for the dish to be ready.

20160820_192406-1When the 14 minutes is up turn off the heat, cover the dish with tea towels and leave for another 5 minutes and get your plates etc. ready. You can see the final results above, I forgot to take a ‘piccy’ of the plated results as it was just too tasty to leave alone!!

You can see the Rice is cooked, but not ‘claggy’, the Chicken was soft and just cooked, the Prawns were amazing, again soft and not rubbery, which happens if you take them too far in the cooking process.

From start to finish this Paella took about 45 minutes, including the chopping, cooking and resting. The results were delicious, there was two much for the two of us in reality, this amount could feed 4.

The Steenbergs Smokey Paella Spice mix did its stuff, I added some Garlic as we both like Garlic, and I though the Lemon Zest would complement the Prawns in a subtle way.

When my little jar is finished, I will certainly be adding it to the next order, it’s a great mix of 2 different Paprikas, Garlic, Onion, Rosemary, Saffron and Black Pepper and comes highly recommended.

 

…………………………….Until next time……………..L8ers…………….

 

Korma, I DIDN’T like Korma, until I found page 146!

20160816_161230-1I love food, or should I say I love food that has character, flavour and maybe a story behind it, as it makes things much more interesting. The area of Southern Asia covers a huge expanse, and includes the likes of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, and its resulting rich and diverse culture and cuisine. There is a mountain of history that defines these distinct areas and that has developed over the years and influenced some of the food that we have become familiar with, including Biryani and ‘Korma’.

20160816_162837-1Onions seem to form the basis of many dishes that come from the region of Southern Asia and the Korma is no different. Now, I really hate Korma or should I say Chicken Korma, I suspect because of the dishes I have tasted are either from a take-away (once), or one someone close to me has made (I suspect from a Jar, Shhh) again once, I did not like either of them!

I discovered on page 146 in Diana Henrys’ ‘A Bird in the Hand’ book an interesting ‘Royal Korma’ recipe, the book has recently taken a spot nestled amongst Yotam Ottolenghi, Sabrina Ghayour, Maria Elia, Sam Clarke and various other chefs who inspire me to cook.

I am not going to provide ingredient details so buy the book as i did, i am just going to describe some of the processes and my results, so you can get an idea of how the Korma might be cooked. The book is a very worthy investment and contains loads of inspirational food to cook based on Chicken.

20160816_172856_001-1Back to the Onions as there are two different ways they need to be dealt with, sliced and given a liberal salting, and chopping finely. Above you can see above a considerable amount of onions sitting in the colander, once salted and left for at least 30 minutes, the amount of water that gets extracted is quite significant in the picture below. The Onions need to be fried (use a deep fat frier on about 160 degree’s) until golden brown, then drained very well and blitzed with some water to create an Onion Puree. The salting process helps remove much of the water but be careful as there will be a lot of spitting when you put the Onions into the Oil.

20160816_183143-1Once completed the aroma is slightly sweet, pungent and just yum, you can see my effort above. I suspect many of the Korma’s in restaurants and in jars have sugar added to provide the sweetness, this recipe has no added sugar (I have just checked two well known sauce brands on the internet and yes, they both have quite a lot of added sugar)!

20160816_183949The other core elements that make this dish ‘sing’ include Black and Green Cardamom, Ground White Pepper, Kashmiri Chilli, Cloves, Cinnamon and Ground Coriander Seeds. To add to the this, a puree of both Almonds and Cashew Nuts are needed along with Saffron, (I used Afghanistan Saffron which comes from a village co-operative encouraged to stop growing drugs, that’s got to be good). The majority of my spices come from Steenbergs in Yorkshire, sorry for keep mentioning them but their products are just brilliant and well worth investing in.

20160816_201121-1I had a ‘debate’ with my partner of 27 of so years on the Chicken cut, and I stood my ground (typical obstinate bloke I her you say). I had a pack of Chicken Thighs which would be perfect, but I was battling against Breast Meat which my partner wanted to go with.

I needed to skin, de-bone and clean up the Thighs which I did, and the final results in both our opinions was well worth it. If you remember at the beginning there were two types of Onion, the 1st stage of cooking needs the finely chopped Onion to be sweated and browned before adding the other ingredients as per the order in the book.

20160816_203617-1I will admit to cheating a bit with the Rice, and used a couple of packets of the ‘quick cook’ variety but with some added ingredients. Golden Raisins which had been steeped in Earl Grey Tea for a least an hour, some cloves, a little broken Cinnamon stick, a few crushed Green Cardamon pods and a light sprinkling of the Saffron Water, finally some chopped Coriander and a few flaked Almonds, the whole lot goes in the Microwave for 2-3 mins (yes a Microwave)!

Before you serve TASTE TASTE TASTE, the dish needs a decent ‘whack’ of  Salt at the end, it lifts the dish so much. When I 1st tasted it, it was between ‘bland’ and ‘Ok”, tasting, adding a little salt and tasting, more Salt and it just went ‘WOWSER!!

20160816_205342-1So, the Korma hating critic was gobsmacked, this was bl@@dy amazing with deep flavours, a slight nuttiness but not too much, sweet but not sweet (the Onion puree I guess), this was just sublime. The Kashmiri and Ginger (I didn’t mention the Ginger so you do need the book to recreate this 🙂 providing some heat long with the White Pepper.

Thank-you Diana Henry for the chance to cook what is probably much more authentic than what you would get in Restaurants, as the dish takes some time and patience to prepare. You could do some of the processes the day before, such as the Onion Puree, I am not sure about the Nut Mixture.

If you want to try and cook a Korma, and you don’t (didn’t) like Korma like me, buy the book and give this one a go, you will be pleasantly surprised. This is being added to my Love it list of dishes for repeating again in the future.

……………..Until Next Time…………………L8ers…………..

 

#CoolKidsCook – Cooking with your Children at The Bertinet Cookery School

2016-08-13 10.59.12The usual disclaimer as this is a review, I paid full price for this course and received no incentives to publish this review, what you read is what you get, now onto the serious stuff!

I suspect it’s difficult being a son to a foodie, especially when you are 9 years old. I think I am a responsible parent, and try and help guide as to good and not so good when eating. I believe cooking is a serious life skill that EVERY child should be positively encouraged to understand and practise, which in the world of iPads and Pokemon and fast food chains can be quite challenging!

With a 10th birthday arriving soon, when our Son Justin said he would like to go on a cookery course with his dad I could have cried with happiness. The challenge was set, find a cookery course, suitable for a soon to be 10 year old that would be interesting and engaging, some challenge indeed.

2016-08-13 12.13.37A bit of research and I had found a likely candidate at the cooking school I use the most (in the U.K.), Richard Bertinet in Bath. It’s a great setup on 2 floors so sometimes 2 different courses can be run at the same time, I had already attended more than 3 courses previously and all had been fantastic so the risk was minimal.

Booking was done online and as this was a gift, I requested the additional card with personal message and voucher as our son’s birthday was in July and the course in August, this arrived in the post a couple of days later.

2016-08-13 12.14.03We took the train to Bath, and Taxi to the School as it’s a very steep walk and we needed our energy for cooking! On arrival we were greeted with massive smiles and a very warm welcome by Fionn who helps manage everything behind the scenes at Bertinets’ and is brilliantly organised, and our tutor for the day Jenny Chandler.

Breakfast is supplied before each class starts, toast (Richards amazing bread makes amazing toast) and jam, fruit juices, tea, coffee and water. Jenny is a ‘house chef’ and has been at the school since it opened in 2005. Her background and vast experience enables her to teach a range of courses which you can find on the Bertinet School Website HERE, the session we were attending, Cool Kids Cook is based on a children’s cookery book Jenny published in May of this year, and aimed at helping children get confident in the kitchen and experiment with different flavours.

2016-08-13 12.18.03There were 2 other children on the course, I think the parents were more nervous than the kids but we all got on really well as we started to understand what was going to happen for the next few hours, it’s a ‘proper’ cooking course but aimed at little ones.

To start Soda Bread was made, using the same basic recipe but adding some subtle changes. This really helped build confidence very quickly and dealing with ‘where can I get Buttermilk” was quickly dealt with and an alternative approach was used which was even new to me, and something I will remember for the future. The three different versions, White, Wholemeal and a Seeded version were soon in the oven cooking away and the little ones faces beaming at what they had already made.

2016-08-13 12.37.06The next item on the agenda was a Chowder, blimey that’s quite advanced for adults let alone children at 10 years of age, this is where the knife skills were introduced.  Jenny carefully explained how to use a knife to SAFELY cut Onions which were needed for the Chowder. Chop, chop, chop and soon the Onions were slowly frying in the pan as explanations about how to cook them correctly, to translucent stage!!

The Chowder continued, ‘Lardons of Bacon’, confidence in using cooking knives was obviously gaining and the 3 kids chopped, prepped, chatted and were having really good fun, Jenny was constantly eagle eyed, making sure that no one risked chopping off a finger and encouraging them to be cautious and think about what they were doing. The rest of the ingredients were completed and added to the pot, each child taking turns to add, stir and smell which was great.

2016-08-13 12.57.49Meatballs were next, three different versions were produced showing how the same basic recipe could be used to make dishes with completely different flavours, at the same time, the method of testing before cooking a whole batch enabled seasoning to be introduced to ensure the end result tasted correct.

This is a really full on course, but the juniors in the room kept going and Jenny engaged with them all the time as a group, and individually giving them little hints and tips, and encouraging their excellent progress and making sure they were all happy, it was really very good.

2016-08-13 13.08.26The school is very very well laid out with lots of room, each person having their own cooking station and stool to rest their weary feet if needed, and enough knives, bowls etc to go round so no one was left out.

The course started at 10:00 and we stopped at about 12:00 for a break and a quick light nibble before continuing. The behind the scenes team led by Fionn did a fantastic of keeping the tops clean and making sure that everything we needed was to hand, as well as keeping Tea and Coffee on tap for those that needed it (me)!

2016-08-13 13.24.53I have to say that I think the adults enjoyed the cookery as much as the 3 children, it was quite hard work for all of us, concentrating on Jenny’s instruction and helping from time to time where needed.

In all, the children made Starter, Main Course and Dessert (Crumbles of various types) and learned lots of different skills and techniques along the way. They also made an impromptu ‘Pan Con Tomate’, our Justin is not keen on Tomato and this Spanish favourite was a way to subtly encourage him to try. It was delicious and went we finally got home, he made his Mum some with the Soda Bread he had also baked earlier!

At the end of the day we all sat down and tried the Soda Bread, which was very good. Then, each child went up to garnish the Chowder served for their Dad (there were no mums present and the Dad’s Chowder had smoked Fish in, which the little ones were not so keen on), followed by the Meat Balls with 2 different Tomato Sauces, Cous-Cous and finally the Crumbles.

The session started at 10:00 and we left about 15:15, the teaching was brilliant, the kids left with big smiles, lots of confidence and wanting to cook more when they got home. I would recommend this course as a fantastic way to help any child who has the slightest interested in cookery, learn new tricks by a lovely kind and patient chef Jenny, who was inspired by her own daughter to write the book in the 1st place.

If you cannot manage the course, the book is very good, easy to read, and when supervised by a parent would be a great way to help children learn cooking skills and be a bit more adventurous in the kitchen.

So, a fantastic day was had by Justin and his Dad, huge thanks to Jenny, Fionn and Richard for making it possible and producing such a fantastic experience for the younger generation, and to the other attendees for making the group work so well together.

 

……………………..Until next time……………L8ers……………………..

 

Beef Short Rib Rendang with Pandan Rice – A trip to Malayasia

2016-08-01 14.55.02I will admit from the start that whilst this dish tasted amazing it needed at least another hours cooking, so allow a good 6 hours for this beautiful dish, voted 1st in the CNN tastiest dishes in the world in 2011! The colour should be much deeper than mine, but it still tasted really good and worthy of a few words and pictures. I will have another go later in the year and make sure I have allowed more time!!

Having just got my driving back after a seizure 12 months ago, the freedom to be able to drive to my favourite oriental super market and farm shop was to much of a temptation to ignore.  The Local See Woo was my 1st stop, where I filled my basket with essentials such as fresh Lemongrass, fresh Turmeric, birds eye Chillis, Galangal and Pandan leaf and Limes.

Casey Fields farm shop was next, a couple of Beef Short Ribs seemed to be in order (along with the usual shop) and I was starting to think what to cook. My herb and Spice cupboard is well stocked with essentials from my favourite supplier Steenbergs so all was in hand to get in the kitchen and start cooking.

2016-08-01 15.30.10With the weather cooling slightly something warm and fragrant was in order, so looking at various cookery books, Beef Rendang seemed an ideal candidate. I found numerous versions on the web too, and went for the one on rasamalysia.com which is easy to find HERE. You need to make up as spice paste with Shallots, Lemongrass, Garlic, Ginger, Galangal and Chillis which I did in a food processor for speed. The other recipes also added Turmeric, so as I had some fresh that went in too!

2016-08-01 15.18.24The Beef Short Ribs are BIG! I took the time to put some colour on them first, giving them a burst of heat on each side before starting on the rest of the process. I think next time I cook this dish I will try Ox Cheek which is a great cut of meat for slow braising and has slightly less fat content, and is easier to handle 🙂

2016-08-01 15.30.19There are quite a few ingredients in this dish and the Star Anise, Cardamon, Cloves are fried in a little oil to release their flavour, before adding a single ‘bashed’ Lemongrass shoot. Then the spice mix is added and fried for a few minutes, finally add the Beef, Coconut Milk, Tamarind some water, Palm Sugar and Kerisik.
2016-08-01 15.47.27 Kerisik is ground Coconut that has been fried until golden brown and can be made using desiccated Coconut if you cannot find fresh, again there are lots of references on the web, you can see my 1st attempt below.2016-08-01 15.51.55Kaffir Lime leaves are also added, I could not find mine so used some lime zest instead. The whole lot now cooks and cooks and cooks, this is a low and slow dish.  There are several stages to the process which I had somehow missed (they are in the Rendang Wiki link above), the 1st stage is easy as you can see above. After approximately 3 1/2 hours, the mixture had reduced and I saw the Oil on the surface and this is where I went wrong, as I removed it, rather than letting the dish carry on cooking allowing for more evaporation, colourisation, and the flavours penetrating the meat.

2016-08-01 19.32.04You can still see lots of moisture above, the dish should be much dryer but I now know for next time. I also think that using the food processor was a bad idea, as pounding in a pestle and mortar would have produced a better textured spice paste, but cooking is about learning so some more things to remember and lessons learnt.

2016-08-01 18.02.44Panadan or Screwpine leaves are indigenous to the far east and I was going to use them too flavour the rice. I have done this before but felt more kick was needed, so made a ‘tea’ using the Pandan Leaves and putting them in simmering water for a good 5 minutes, before turning off the heat and letting stand for a good 30 minutes did the trick. I used Jasmine Rice and boiled for 10 minutes in the ‘tea’ before draining and adding some fresh Coriander.

2016-08-01 19.42.54So there you have it, it almost worked if only I had left the dish cooking for longer until the meat was darker and the moisture evaporated completely. My attempt would not have won the  CNN best dish award but it was still very tasty and the meat tender, the Rice with Pandan was a great addition.

 

………………………Until next time……………..L8ers………………..