Steam running low – must recharge – Week 3 – Leiths School Of Food And Wine

Well guys it’s another week and another blog. Three weeks running, feels good to have a routine and, being a student at Leiths, I now know all about routine! 

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Before I start, I just need to say how absolutely incredible all of the staff and teachers are at the school. They go above and beyond when it comes to teaching us and being so approachable. The sheer wealth of knowledge they all share reminds me every day of the impoverishment of my own; there is so much to learn but yet so much I have learnt already. 

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Monday started with a bit of a scary morning. Our group all shuffling nervously into the kitchens to create a roast dinner. Yes, I know we all know how to make a roast but, when you are being watched and marked, it is amazing just how wobbly your legs can get and how all your knowledge goes out of the window.

Fortunately, our team absolutely smashed it. We worked so well together! We found the level and were flying through the session with no sign of stopping. We created a beautiful roast pork (with incredible crackling) with roast potatoes, roast parsnips, sage and apple sauce, French beans, carrot batons and gravy mmmmm. In between all of that we were asked to make a classic French omelette… you know, as you do while casually making a roast dinner. It was amazing though, we definitely left on a high… even though I’m on kitchen cleaning duty this week. 

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Monday afternoon we swiftly found ourselves in a COSHH training seminar… I don’t really want to talk to you lovely lot about it as it is not the most interesting thing in the world. VERY useful but, let’s face it, not as interesting as the food.

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The afternoon did finish with a demonstration on menu planning which was incredibly interesting, teaching us everything from seasonal foods to what kinds of coloured foods to use for certain events. All great and all great knowledge to know.

Tuesday morning was very cold, very very cold, which is why we were itching to get into the kitchen as we were making bread, not once but twice! Just to drill it into our heads of how to properly knead, prove and bake it. We all made rosemary focaccia, I’ve never really practiced much bread before this week, a few rolls here and there, a white loaf (from a bread maker… don’t tell the teachers). Anyway it was fantastic! A bit fiddly at first but they turned out great! I stand by this as I’m writing this blog days later as I am sat on the sofa in my pants munching on said bread. 

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In the afternoon we had a demonstration on cakes! YES. If any of you follow my Instagram (@get_baked_with_rich) you will know that I love cakes, everything from different varieties to different designs. I was in my element watching Sue make us a delicate Victoria sponge sandwich, gingerbread cake, yoghurt cake, Christmas cake, and a very quick Swiss roll – with a perfect twist I might add. The ginger was my favourite by far, I need to make it ASAP to show off to everyone.

Wednesday morning was a little stressful, we found ourselves making ‘saffron chicken with herbed couscous; we jointed a whole bird in to eight pieces, rendered them down, created a very intricate sauce containing beautifully sweated onions, various spices meticulously measured out for perfect seasoning, stock, wine, saffron of course and a few other bits and bobs all infusing it into a very aromatic strong tasting sauce to accompany the chicken pieces. I slightly over reduced my stock a little too much resulting in it tasting slightly salty, not a problem for me, or the teacher saying that, just could have been taken off the heat a minute sooner. Couscous was perfect… if I don’t say so myself.

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Wednesday afternoon we all stumbled into the dem room a little flustered from such a manic cooking session and were presented a demonstration on fish by Annie (a favourite demonstrator amongst a lot of people!) Very witty all the while teaching us loads!

She presented us fish pie, INCREDIBLE fish goujons with tartare sauce, a very delicate lemon sole with beurre noisette (brown butter) sauce and mackerel recheado (stuffed). She also showed us how to gut and fillet round and flat fish. And also gave us some very interesting facts… for our test on Friday!!! AHHH 

Thursday morning I walked to school with a skip in my step feeling confident about making fish pie to a STRICT service time after seeing Annie make it in such a relaxed way the day before in practically no time at all. Several hiccups along the way involved my mashed potatoes being too sloppy by adding too much milk so, while the whole class got on with making their white sauce, I frantically had to use a bit of initiative and boil some more potatoes and ‘save’ my mash from oblivion. It’s safe to say I succeeded. No time for punching the air and celebratory dancing on tables though, I had to compile my pie and pipe my mash beautifully and get it in the oven. I’m pleased to say I made the service time DEAD ON 12:00, piping hot and seasoned ‘perfectly’ as described by Annie, so much so that she was getting others to taste it to show what it should taste like. Pan to me blushing in the corner on some kind of high after a manic kitchen sesh. 

As much as I am happy to let people taste my food, I did end up leaving with half a fish pie. I suppose it gives me an excuse to make more. My fiancée always tells me she makes the best fish pie which, granted, she does but now she has some very strong competition.

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Thursday afternoon we had our first wine lecture. I don’t really get wine, I love it, but don’t really get it. The teacher gave us a really in depth talk on different regions, flavoured types of wine and I left feeling like I had learnt a lot! Which is great! Don’t get me wrong I still don’t have the foggiest of what to pair with a Sauvignon blanc or why exactly a ‘Riesling’ wine has a distinct aroma of Gasoline, but I definitely feel more confident knowing what wines go through when being made or what to look out for when tasting a wine now in a fancy restaurant. 

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Friday morning I felt great and went in ready to get stuck in to some fish. In our kitchen session we made Mackerel reacheado which was one of the dishes presented to us on Wednesday in the demonstration, fairly straight forward if you don’t mind weighing out a million and one ingredients for the spice mix, and you know, the whole thing of gutting fish, a very hands on job… believe me when I say I don’t think any of us smelled like we were ready for a formal event by lunchtime.

I managed to score a 4 on my knife skills and a 5 out of 5 on my mackerel BOOYAH! Love ending the weeks cooking on a high, I read somewhere that you’re only as good as your last dish, so I am going into the weekend feeling like I am up there with the greats, move over Ramsay. 

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The afternoon we had the dreaded test, testing us on our theory knowledge of (everything they said) that we had learnt so far… the test wasn’t as bad as I had thought, a few questions I think I would answer differently looking back on it but all in all I think I did pretty well, kinda wish I’d looked up how many millilitres are in a pint mind instead of filling my head with different coagulation temperatures of an egg, but never mind.

Speaking of egg we were then given a demonstration on the wonderful sweet delicate world of meringues, pavlova, roulade, lemon meringue frikkin pie, which was insanely good, and just plain meringue. Pretty sure we all left on a sugar high, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing especially after a test, it’s getting pretty clear that everyday at Leiths is ‘cheat day’. 

I heard somewhere that we will have a demonstration soon on healthy eating and nutrition, it will be interesting to see how we make a dish without using cream and butter but for now, get used to it.

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Friday evening ended on an even bigger high as I went to the pub for drinks with loads of people from school, it was a really great way end to an already amazing week, really got to bond with classmates and meet people on the other half of the year who are all lovely and a few even said they read this very blog which made me feel like some kind of celebrity for a minute or so! I very much look forward to more Friday drinks chatting about how great food is. 

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Next week looks like a lot of fun including various cakes, fish and more win

e! We also have a wine exam which I am ever so slightly sh*tting myself about. Better take a tip from my teenage years and get my head down to revise for a few hours. 

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We have a 3 day weekend in front of us now to ‘give us a bit of a break’ as said by the Principal at the beginning of term because the course is hardcore, really hardcore, like, you haven’t met tiredness until you’ve done this. Anyway I’m now off to catch up on a bit of Netflix and spend the weekend or at least a full day not thinking about cooking anything. Where is that Chinese takeaway menu? 

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Peace ✌️

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