Full Steam Ahead – Life at Leiths Week 1

Wow… what can I say, I’ve finished my first week back at school… culinary school as you all probably know by now. Leiths School Of Food And Wine to be exact.

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There is just so so SO much I’ve learnt already which I could talk about in these blogs that I’m sure could bore you all to death such as the ratio of an egg yolk to oil in a mayonnaise, the correct cooking time of various different stocks, and the name of the weird stringy gunk you find in an egg… it’s ‘chalaza’ by the way. 

I can already tell this is going to be the best thing I am ever going to do, possibly also the most stressful and tiring thing I will ever do, things will be hard, as they have already proven to be (a little bit) this week, but it’s something I care so deeply about that I know I must take it head on.

Enough of me rambling on though let’s get down to the good stuff… FOOD…. GLORIOUS FOOD (cue the Camp show tune) 

The week started on Monday but just as an introduction and a chance to meet the teachers and fellow students. Best of all we got to unwrap our beautiful set of knives (engraved and all) and stare in wonder at them. 

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Tuesday we were taken back to basics… way back… chopping onions and other vegetables, to test our knife skills essentially. I personally think my knife skills are not too bad… 

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Watching the teacher chop into an onion creating dices smaller than atoms was something of pure amazement though. So back we went and chopped the morning away. 

Tuesday afternoon we were sat down and given a talk on what the course will entail and then a nice 20 minutes on food presentation, where a member of staff beautifully (and very seamlessly) created 4 different plating presentations of a variation of fruit salad, some involved coulis, others sorbet, and one even had a ‘fruit leather’… yeah… that’s a thing.

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Wednesday we put our skills from the day before to the test. Oh yeah, we were, get ready for it, chopping more veg! 

This time to create ‘crudités’… or if you’re not posh like me… ‘vegetables for dipping’. We worked in 4’s creating an array of beautiful looking crudités, and then finished off the session by making our own hummus to dip. I must say it is interesting to see other people’s opinions on seasoning, more salt here, more lemon juice there, working as a team definitely gives you an insight of how to balance flavours for other people’s preference. I shouldn’t just assume that because I love garlic and could eat garlic every meal every day for the rest of my life, other people will love it too. Compromise, compromise is key.

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One thing I will say, I literally never thought I could concentrate SO much on creating the perfect carrot ‘baton’, it’s about right angles people, and don’t keep slicing to get them to the right size, they will get smaller and smaller to the point of no return, AND THEN THE WHOLE THING IS RUINED….. breathe.

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Wednesday afternoon we found ourselves in our first proper food demonstration (or dem if you are savvy with the Leiths insider lingo). The dem was on eggs, scrambled, boiled, omelettes, baked egg custard, creme anglais and a few other things I have written down somewhere. Dems are usually around two and a half hours, and in that time we learn a ridiculous amount of information on whatever the theme is of that day. Who knew someone could talk for over two hours about eggs! I’m even certainly sure she could have spoken for two more if we hadn’t have had to go home! 

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Still with me everyone? Just about? GOOD cause we’re on to Thursday which involved ACTUAL COOKING

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A salad… yeah I know. You may think it is easy, but when you’re in a new environment, working with new people, on a dish you have never made, things get a little stressful. I must say working together again was a joy and I think we were quite speedy, considering we were down 1 man so 3 of us had an extra bit of work load. 

Learning to light the ovens and stoves is like nothing I’ve done before, but things are expected to be different in a place like this, a professional kitchen environment… to a certain extent. 

My BLT salad, excuse the presentation. 

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Thursday afternoon we were given an AMAZING demonstration into pastry by the very charming and friendly ‘Annie’. She showed us how to make ‘Rich short crust pastry’ how to roll it, how to line a tin, and then most importantly*, what fillings to make.

*making of pastry is still very important and crucial and anything that can go wrong… probably will go wrong. Just a heads up. 

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We were able to try treacle tart, asparagus and ham tart, the best quiche Lorraine I have ever eaten (which I have never particularly liked), this quiche was like nothing I had ever had before, jealous? Obviously you are. I will master the recipe.

Friday drew the week to a close with a morning of… again… putting out skills to the test from the day before and making pastry! Not just one but two batches, to make sure it is definitely in our minds of how to make it. 

Friday (today) has been my absolute favourite day of the week, partly because yes it celebrates finishing the end of a week, but secondly because I F*CKING love baking! 

Without blowing my own trumpet too much… my pastry turned out prettyyy prettyyy good, as did everyone else’s mind from the looks of things, all down to the recipe and the demonstration the day before I guess.

One batch was used to create biscuits by simply rolling and cutting out the pastry, the other batch was used to make a treacle tart, which I am literally munching on as we speak, and guys, it’s immense. Need treacle tart? I’M YO MAN

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Throughout the year we are tested on our skills for certain things, such as making a mayonnaise, or pastry for instance and given a score out of 5, 5 being perfect, 1 being terrible. Today when being judged on my pastry I was lucky enough and pleasantly surprised to receive a 4!! A BLOODY 4. Cue the celebration and fireworks inside my head while remaining perfectly calm on the outside.

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In the afternoon we were presented a demonstration on Stocks and Soups by the very friendly, patient and understanding David. I say very patient and understanding as he has been our teacher in the kitchens all week apart from this morning. He fully understood my frustration with the carrots, and even why it took us all just over 2 hours to create a BLT salad.

We learnt how to make various stocks which I won’t go into but can assure you it is all very interesting.

The week is over and I am feeling high as a cloud (metaphorically).

This year is going to be the best thing I have done and one of the best things I ever will do I’m sure. 

We are on a rollercoaster… and we have just buckled the seat belts.

Oh before I forget, here is me in my super stylish getup.

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