The problem with being a culinary student is that your homework is essentially getting fat.
You no longer plan days out, or evenings with friends, or even just your every-day, without considering what food and drink you might consume.
You look to every available opportunity to sample something to inspire your tastebuds.
Breakfast, Elevenses, Brunch, Lunch, Afternoon Tea, Pre-dinner snack, Dinner, Dessert, Supper and Midnight Feasts all suddenly seem acceptable, and absolutely have to be dotted with several coffee’s, Chai lattes, herbal teas and hot chocolates in between, not to mention the innumerable martinis and bellini’s, consumed at innumerable incredible cocktails bars sprawled across the capital.
Phew. Its a wonder we’re all not having to order new XXXL chef whites already!
Another problem is the student budget.
Most undergraduates , studying anything from history to business, from drama to politics, would tell you over a greasy Sunday morning (early afternoon??) brunch, furiously hash tagging #hangovercure, that most of their student loan is eaten up by the 10 or-so double vodkas they submitted to last night (and the night before, and last week too).
If you ask most of the students at Leiths, their answer would almost definitely be related to our total inability to resist seeking, eating and cooking excellent food from new Cafes, Pop-ups, Bistros, Michelin starred restaurants, food markets, and overpriced but bloody marvellous (read The Ginger Pig) Butchers, delis and Greengrocers. Or it may well be the infatuation with buying cookery books that we read cover to cover like a popular, treasured novel, that causes us to sigh at our bank balance every month.
However, there are times when being a cookery student counteracts this rule. Lemon Sole is a pretty expensive fish to buy, so when 3 of my classmates were absent from our fish filleting and goujon making practical this afternoon, leaving a surplus of whole fish in the fridge- I simply couldn’t turn one down.
The downside? I was acutely aware of the bag of fish, accompanied by enough beef stew to feed the entire carriage, weighing down my bag on the tube home. Seriously, its a bit of a weird thing to be hauling around at rush hour in London.
Anyway, week 5 has been exhasuting (yes, again!) but absolutely brilliantly inspiring. I get the feeling that every week at Leiths is going to carry on making me feel the same!
On Monday morning we made Roast beef and absolutely demolished it during lunch. I am ashamed to admit I have never made my own Yorkshire Puddings, or Horseradish sauce, but after this week OH MY GOODNESS, I will never touch another Aunt Bessies or jar of Colmans ever again. If we just, kind of, completely brush over the fact that even though I spent six months, inanely making breakfast every morning for 10 people at 1850 Altitude, I STILL managed to completely mess up my cooked breakfast halfway through the morning, then I suppose Monday wasn’t quite so bad after all. (nobody told me you weren’t supposed to baste your yolk with hot oil anyway…)
Tuesday came around and we were making shortcrust pastry for the fourth time, in readiness for Wednesdays Lemon Meringue Pie- one of my favourite puddings but one so hard to get spot on! Thankfully my Pie went down well, with a tangy, citrusy filling, sweet, crumbly pastry and a meringue topping as fluffy as a blow dried sheep.
Our assignments, thankfully began to take a healthier turn with a Smoky Black Bean Chilli served up on Wednesday, which I would have you believe I consumed exclusively from the indulgent Lemon Meringue Pie, but I didn’t. I snaffled most of both dishes down before Thursday dawned…
However, I promise I have been better since yesterday, because yesterday pretty much changed my life.
Oh good lord, never have you seen 45 people so engrossed in a buffet, especially the kind where you have to watch somebody make it for 3 hours before you can eat it. But this was something else!
We were shown, and served up a stunning array of dishes that looked like they came straight out of Yotam Ottolenghi’s stylish Notting Hill Cafe. Everything from rich and sweet Soy Marinaded Side of Salmon with Tangy Cucumber Relish, to delicious Smoked Chicken Noodles, to mouth watering Butternut Squash and Crispy Chickpea Salad with Yoghurt and Tahini dressing, to rich and earthy Red Camargue and Wild Rice salad, to sweet, spicy and herbaceous Thai Chilli Beef Salad, crisp and colourful Beetroot Slaw, and the moussiest (is that a word…?), richest, chocolatiest (?) Roulade you have ever tasted.
We now have to create, in groups, a buffet for 32 fellow classmates that rivals this incredible display! Its going to be a real challenge, but it is a pleasure working with so many creative and passionate foodies. We have skipped the asian street food, and mediterranean salad theme for something altogether more British, inspired by a growing food trend that includes much more seasonal vegetables. Lets hope it goes to plan!
On another note, it is a reminder of the beautiful, unbelievably delicious things you can do with vegetables, and how we can use wonderful, seasonal produce to try and reduce our meat consumption. I am an absolute meat lover, and a young farmer who passionately supports all farming, including that of livestock. But it is true that our current rate of meat consumption is not only totally unsustainable and damaging to the environment, but also potentially damaging to our health. Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis amongst the potential threats. I’m not asking you to stop eating meat, and heaven forbid you mistake me for a livelihood-damaging, misled, and misleading Vegan activist, but try and eat vegetarian for 2 days a week, fish, especially oily fish, for another 2 days, and reduce your meat intake throughout the week. Please remember to buy with welfare standards in mind, and always, ALWAYS try and buy British. Even better if its local! 🙂
Today we cooked from 9-5, pretty much without a break, and as a result, I am totally and utterly shattered, and indulging in a scrummy Foxdenton Gin and Tonic, on my own, on a Friday night, in London.
(I’m okay, I promise.)
But despite my moaning and panicking this morning (It would be out of character for me
to go a whole week without a minor kitchen meltdown or two…) everything went pretty well; from the tender Beef stew with Baby Caramelised Onions, to my beautiful white fil
lets of Sole, carefully deep fried until they were perfectly golden Goujons, and even my first White Loaf which proved and baked beautifully, free from any bake-off-esque dramas.
All in all its been a pretty good week, not to mention the wonderful places I have been to eat, and the fact th
at when you’re a cookery student, a perk of the job is that your best friend asks you over for a 3 course, home cooked, Halloween themed feast, which was just mind blowingly fabulous and creative.
I will update you all on reviews of some wonderful restaurants early next week, but keep your pickled eyes peeled for a spooky Halloween post tomorrow!
Love and Ghost Hugs, foodies