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Fish are food, not friends - Culinary School Diaries, Week 3

A new week brings new chef tutors, new techniques and new challenges. This week had a big focus on pastries, lamb and fish, particularly round ones.


Today was right up my street in theory, a lot of baking, and no big confusing cuts of meat to deal with. Shortcrust pastry, whilst one of my least favourite things in the culinary world, is in fact very easy to make, and was served today as a ham and cheese quiche along with some herby new potatoes. Today also introduced me to choux pastry, which we used to make profiteroles filled with mascarpone cream. For reasons unknown to me for now, my choux collapsed a bit more than expected in the oven, but nothing that wasn't sorted by absolutely stuffing them to bursting with cream.

The afternoon was our first theory lesson, this week looking at lamb, and encouraging discussion around managing supply chains.


Back to bread again today, making a very simple (and very delicious, if I do say so myself) spelt bread loaf. The main focus of the day, however, was lamb butchery, prepping a pretty giant breast of lamb, which is honestly a pretty arduous task - turns out there is a whole lot of sinew. We also prepped best ends of lamb ready for tomorrow, but the chef tutor says they need a bit of work. Lunch today was a selection of local cheeses, served with the spelt loaf and the ham hock ballotine and piccalilli made on Friday. We also consolidated a lot of skills we learned the day before, making another batch of shortcrust pastry for tomorrow and making a much better batch of profiteroles, and eclairs.


The morning was a whole lot of fish - filleting sea bass (mine was particularly bloody) and mackerel, which was surprisingly easy, until the very final deboning, which I think was called v-deboning? The sea bass was served over lunch with a green bean salad in a mustard dressing and a creamed leek tart. The afternoon focused on walnut crusted mackerel with a fennel coleslaw, and a rack and breast of lamb with dauphinoise potatoes and a lamb jus. I managed to burn myself on the controls for the hob today, trying to press the temperature down button. Sigh.


Thursday was a return to fish filleting, more mackerel and more sea bass. I can tell I'm learning fast though - my sea bass fillet time took under a third of the time it did yesterday, so feeling pretty pleased! Prepped some scallops and a lamb tagine as well. Lunch was sea bass steamed with some basil, served on spelt bread with scrambled egg and pancetta. To finish today we served pea and ham soup, and scallops with a vegetable tian. Chef reckoned my tian would collapse and it didn't, so. I need to work on my seasoning apparently, as I have found out that I think things are too salty when they're not salty enough, but I have another 13 weeks to sort this!


Most of the morning was spent prepping for lunch, the most complicated meal we've done yet of lamb rump with a variety of vegetables, riffing on salad nicoise, along with pommes anna, smoked garlic puree and anchovy beignets (little battered and fried anchovies). In the afternoon we finished off the tagine, and made a mackerel escabeche, which in all honesty I wasn't a massive fan of - good texture but the flavour definitely needed work.

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