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Red week - Culinary School Diaries, Week 12

Week 12 was a week affectionately penned as "red week" by the cohort and tutors, or "hell week" by me. Past day 1, pretty much the entire week was composed of learning all of the exam dishes ready for week 15, as marked in red on our timetables. That said, I did actually really enjoy this week a lot and I definitely created some of the dishes I was most proud of throughout the course here.


The outlier to the week, Monday was pretty much devoted to the creation of a large box of petit fours; pear and almond tarts, macarons, rum babas, lemon and raspberry tarts, a chocolate gelee and honey madeleines. I have to say we struggled with a few of these - particularly the madeleines. We then realised that the reason they weren't cooking properly was that the oven was, in fact, not on.


Tuesday marked the start of red week, with a very interesting lunch that I can't quite decide if I enjoyed or not; a "crab parcel" of blended scallop and crab inside chinese leaf, steamed with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves and served with a sauce vierge and semi-dehydrated cherry tomatoes. The course to finish, however, which I was a big fan of, was poussin with chicken mousseline stuffed leg, baby leeks, leek mousse, spinach, wild mushrooms, puff pastry boxes and a sauternes sauce. My sauce was definitely under-reduced, but other than that, the dish was a big success! We then served a dessert of chocolate cremeux, with raspberry fluid gel and a pistachio tuile.


Wednesday was an excellent food day, with a lunch of beef carpaccio, smoked egg yolk, pickled radishes and lambs lettuce, though I went a bit overboard on the garnishes for mine, so I could have a bigger lunch. We spent a fair amount of time in the afternoon preparing a dessert of pineapple and szechuan parfait, with a pineapple jelly, pineapple crisps, griddled pineapple, and a rum and szechuan caramel. I have to say, I was very pleased with my parfait, as I went fairly off-recipe for this, adding about 8x the amount of szechuan pepper to the parfait, as well as a very significant amount of salt. This photo is actually from Thursday morning, though, because most of the parfaits were not set by the end of the day. The other dish we served this afternoon was fried John dory (an exceptionally ugly, but very tasty, fish) with linguini, a beurre blanc and shrimp.


Today was exciting, purely for our first use of a smoking gun and closh, for a lunch of beef short rib, olive oil mash, glazed baby vegetables and madeira jus. Though the photo doesn't really do it justice here, the smoke inside the closh was actually fairly substantial, and did add a lovely bit of depth to the dish. The other main dish made today was the infuriating (and also absolutely horrible to make under exam conditions, though I'll come to that in a few blogs' time) salmon poached in spiced olive oil, with a mussel, clam, pancetta and sweet potato chowder. The cooking method, which would normally be done in a sous vide, involves heating the spiced oil to a precise temperature (I think 56 off the top of my head) and leaving the salmon in it to cook through. What makes this interesting is that the salmon does not look cooked, even when fully cooked, so judging whether or not it is cooked through becomes quite a tricky task. I managed to get this right today though, and was very pleased with my chowder. We also made and turned danish pastry dough today, ready for tomorrow.


The week ended on a nice, chill, and fairly short day. The majority of the day was spent making two types of danish pastries. The swirls are filled with a creme patissiere, cinnamon and raisins, and the pinwheels have centres of pecan and maple. Alongside these, whilst waiting for the dough to rest / rise, we also made chocolate truffles, decorated with lovely little transfers of reindeer to get us into the Christmas spirit, as well as pate de fruit, rolled in dehydrated fermented yoghurt. In the interest of full honesty, the ones in the picture are not actually mine, as too much gelling agent was added to the mixture and the texture was reminiscent of a bouncy ball.

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