Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Exam Week Over - Smiles All Around!

Exam Week Done and Dusted
So exam week is over and I think everyone is a bit relieved! It wasn't half as bad as people thought it would be and everyone got on very well. We were all made line up this evening and go in, one by one, to have Rory O' Connell tell us how we got on. I am glad to say my results were good so I am a happy camper.

As a result of the exams, the schedule for last week was a little different than other weeks. Instead of us cooking Friday morning, we had a fabulous pizza demonstration before the exams. Chef Rory O'Connell demonstrated so many different creative ways of making good pizzas, calzones and various other pizza styles: Sfinciuni - a pizza pie, Piadina - a deep fried or grilled flatbread, Sgabei - delicious bread sticks, Stromboli - a Swiss roll style pizza, rolled and filled with lots of delicious ingredients. It really opened my eyes to how creative you can be when you know how to make one good pizza dough.

The Beginning of Week Seven
This week we have stepped it up a notch and have a few difficult techniques to master. Yesterday we began 'flaky pastry'. This is a more complex to make than shortcrust pastry and apparently less complex than making puff pastry. It is quite a laborious and time consuming job but I'm sure it will be worth all the effort.

How to make flaky pastry
350g bakers flour or strong flour
pinch salt
225g butter
cold water - 4 fl ozs approx (some pastry make take 6 fl oz)

There are essentially 4 different steps to making flaky pastry.
Divide the butter into 4 equal parts. Start by rubbing one part of the butter into the sieved flour and salt. Bring this together with cold water (Just enough to bring together - not too moist). Leave this to rest in the fridge for half an hour.

When the pastry has rested, you roll it into a long rectangle about 8inches wide. Make sure that the shape is perfectly even.
Place one part of the remaining butter on two thirds of the rolled out pastry. Fold the bottom third upwards and then the top third downwards making a book shape. (The bottom third of the pastry should be kept free of butter).
Turn the pastry 90degrees as if it was a book - opening from right to left. Now, roll the butter into the pastry in a north - south direction. (Never east- west!) Make sure to keep the pastry in a perfect rectangle when rolling. Use a palette knife to help you straighten the edges.
When you can see that the butter has been adequately rolled in, repeat the steps above, folding up the bottom third and folding down the top third of the pastry to make a book shape again. Leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Repeat this process of rolling the pastry into a rectangle, placing on the butter, folding it into a book shape, rolling in the butter and folding it back into a book shape and then resting it - for the 2 other parts of butter that you have set aside. By the end of this process, the pastry is then layered really well like the pages of a book and when cooked, is a light and flaky pastry.
Now you can believe me its a mission to make this pastry!

Terrines and Patés
Monday was also an interesting day of making terrines and some complicated patés. I had never made a terrine before and when I saw the list of ingredients it slightly turned my stomach: Pigs liver, minced smoked streaky bacon,unsmoked minced bacon and minced fat streaky pork. It seemed like an awful lot of fat to me!

When it came to cooking it, I just sucked it up and got my hands dirty. When the terrine was cooked, it was so moist and full of flavour. It was, in fact, one of the most flavoursome dishes that I have tried yet on the course.

French Wine Class Number Two
Monday evening after demonstration, we had another amazing French wine class. It began at 6pm and didn't finish till close to 9pm. It was a very long day for me considering I left Dublin at 5am to get there.

In saying that, it was an extremely enjoyable class led by an Irish gentleman named Pat. Pat spent much of his life in France, growing his own grapes, so he was able to share with us his personal experience. The class was predominantly focused on the Southern Rhone region of France. This was of particular interest to me as I have holidayed in this area, in a little town called L'Isle-sur-la-Sorge. I was lucky to have tasted many wines from the neighbouring villages while I was there, such as Gigondas and Ventoux.

Here is the list of the wines we tasted: The best for me was the last!

1. Terra Monte, La Perrine, vin de pays d'Oc, 2009. 85% Viognier 15% Chardonnay grape
2. Preiss Zimmer, Alsace, Pinot Gris, 2008. 
3. E. Guigal, Cótes de Rhone, 2007. 
4. Pierre Amadieu, Gigondas, Romane Machotte, 2009. 
5. Terra Monte, Languedoc, 2008. Grenache Syrah Blend
6. E. Guigal, Crozes Hermitage, 2007. 100% Syrah grape.
7. E. Guigal, Saint-Joseph, 'LIEU-DIT', 2009. 100% Syrah grape.

Tuesday - A Day of Pancake Making and Lots More
Happy Pancake Tuesday everyone. I hope you all kept up the standards and ate as many pancakes as you could until you keeled over!

Pancakes most definitely were incorporated into the days cooking here! We made some delicious pancakes with orange butter and other ones filled with nutella and toasted hazelnuts. They were scrumptious. I even brought some home to feed my sick roommate Ellie and they certainly cheered her up!

Today, for me, was a really great day in the kitchen. I had great successes making a caramelised apple tart and a new bread, using a butter and milk dough, instead of a standard white yeast dough.

Tomorrow morning the day starts bright and early at 7.45am with a gardening class and then at 9am we start our second day with Darina Allen's sister Blathnaid, teaching us about food business. This will be a very interesting and challenging day but I am really looking forward to it.

Below are some more photos from the week.

Please don't hesitate to leave a comment below or send me a mail if you have any questions.


Laura x

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