Steaming through the penultimate edition – Life at Leiths – Week 8

It’s nearly here, the end. I am in the penultimate week of my time at Leiths and what an incredible time it has been. This is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done when you take into consideration everything from the travel, money spent to make it happen and the sheer wealth of knowledge we are absorbing, like sponges we are, or mushrooms if you would prefer. All that and of course the lack of sleep! 

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The week started like any other, a disgusting glance at my alarm clock then a short but sweet motivational speech to get myself out of bed. 

I feel like I am getting a cold this week, it seems there has been one going around since week 1 which I have managed to avoid at all costs but, alas, echinacea can only do so much, and my body is close to giving in, just need to hold on for a few more days then I can be as ill as I want, not that anyone wants to be ill right? 

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Monday morning was probably my favourite demonstration of the course so far, apart from any by Annie and Sue that is. A man called Peter Vaughan from Devizes in Wiltshire came in to teach us a few dishes from around the world, out of everyone I’ve met/encountered in this industry, it is clear to see he is one of the most passionate about what he does, he talks about food like it is his soul mate, which is great, it’s what you need to be like in this trade, if you don’t love it then it’s never going to be as good as it can be, does that make sense? 

Definitely look him up if you have the chance, the dishes he served us were some of the best I’ve had these past few months.

That afternoon was slightly less fun as it was our ‘mock practical exam’ dun dun DUUUUN. To be honest I felt alright about this up until the morning when for some reason I started to get a bit jittery and come across a bit of a nervous wreck. Maybe it was the fact a lot of other students seemed to be feeling the same, or maybe it was the fact we were making things that had a lot of different elements and needed your full attention. 

We had two hours to create ‘cauliflower and truffle soup’ and ‘pan fried lemon sole with crushed new potatoes and a tomato and caper dressing’. It doesn’t actually sound like much when you put it like that, but those two hours were the quickest I’ve ever experienced. At one point I glanced at the clock while carefully filleting my fish and genuinely believed that the staff have a remote to fast forward all the clocks – not genuinely… but I was surprised. 

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All in all I did… ok, still managed to score 4’s and 5’s on everything… except my timing, that was a 1. You see I served my food 6 minutes out of the required serving time, and anything outside of 5 minutes is a very brutal, predominant 1.

I left the kitchen with that hanging over my head but was still happy with the taste of the dish, filleting techniques and cooking etc. Things could be worse, ah well, I live and learn… must get hold of that clock remote somehow.

Work again this week seems to be at an all time high, from throughout this course anyway. Mainly working on the biggest assignment of the term, the buffet… feel like it needs an epic poster. 

Our team seems to be pretty tight on where we all are and what we will be doing on the day but a bit of miscommunication here and there does make things a bit awkward but, alas, it gets resolved quickly. 

A monstrous task in which I thought would be easy to do was for me to make 40 origami flowers, i currently have 15 flowers and 4 paper cuts after a night of meticulously creating them on the sofa, while trying to write time plans, shopping lists and finish costing… yeaaah, when putting it like that this week is quite busy. 

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So on to Tuesday! We were presented with yet another guest demonstration! This time on the wonderful flavoursome world of Spanish cuisine. Oh my god… this dem was so good!! Not only do I need to make the empanada she made us, but I seriously need to brush up my knowledge on Spanish food, everything was so tasty.

The afternoon was quite busy, actually very busy. We made shortcrust pastry… again, apple tart filling, creme anglais… again, chimichurri sauce and pan fried some bavette steak, all in 2 and a half hours. That afternoon was just a little bit of a mini victory in my head as it was the first time I have done creme anglais and managed to get no specks! NO SPECKS PEOPLE!!!! Specks appear when the egg begins to cook too much and will evidently turn to scrambled egg, you literally have a 5-10 second window in which to take it off the heat and strain the stuff, not as easy as it seems. 

The rest when relatively well, apart from seriously undercooking my steak, they wanted it medium rare and for some reason pretty much our whole class seemed to serve theirs rare or even blue, which don’t get me wrong, is exactly how I would eat mine, preferably still mooing but it’s not what they wanted. 

Shortcrust pastry went great, I have a feeling we will be doing this in our exam at the end of term… we shall see. Anyway it was fair to say that a nice drink was deserved that night… and all other nights.

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The absolute highlight of this day was meeting the legend that is Prue Leith. Was very nervous being the first one to ask for a selfie but, SO GLAD I DID! 

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BOOM!

On Wednesday morning Claire the principal gave us a short but VERY in depth session on theory and everything we have learned in the past 10 weeks. I never really saw Claire as a teacher, as she is the principal she deals with a lot of the admin stuff so naturally the food side of things is up to the teachers, but she knew everything! It was really amazing to see her list off everything we are expected to know while never glancing at notes to jog her memory. 

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That afternoon we finished off our apple tart from the day before… Very intricate slices of apple being very carefully presented on the top then beautifully baked until golden and finished off with a decadent glaze to give it shine. Unfortunately mine did not look how I wanted the final product to end up, but it sure as hell tasted good! Pretty happy to say that I nailed the pastry too, perfectly short while still thin.

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Like I said… it ain’t pretty, but sure was tasty! 

We also made Thai mussels. Mussels are one of those things I rarely eat but when I do, I always think “wow I need to buy some mussels, these are amazing! 

And this time was no exception, it did look quite funny hearing all the students tapping mussels to check if they were still living, you know, wake them up a bit for their bath. 

The sauce was absolutely incredible, lightly spiced with Thai flavours and aromas, now this is something I WILL definitely do at home. 

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That night I headed home to go get the ingredients for our BUFFET ASSIGNMENT *insert epic movie poster here*

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I managed to stay in budget and get all the ingredients (for my part), except just a few eggs… 72!! OF THE THINGS. One thing I severely underestimated was just how heavy it was going to be carrying roughly 4kgs of flour, 2kgs sugar, 3kgs of potatoes, canned chick peas, oil and a few other bits…. its very heavy, very very heavy, and I am writing this just minutes before I set off with it all on my journey to school. Here’s hoping my bag doesn’t rip. 

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Thursday morning was a fairly easy going one as we were essentially pushed to one side while the other half of our group prepared their buffet assignment.

We made Soy glazed salmon with crunchy salad and we also glazed our cakes. The salmon salad was absolutely delicious! Wolfed it down before frantically cleaning to then try and help the buffet team get their tables laid. 

I have to say, they absolutely smashed it, really amazing food with an incredibly laid table. Well done you guys.

The afternoon we were given a demonstration on dinner party cooking, Hannah presented us with some beautiful pan fried sea bass, some of the most amazing duck I’ve ever had, and to top it off a very unctuous sticky toffee pudding. Left feeling very stuffed, aaand a little bit sick with the daunting task which will unfold on tomorrow… the BUFFET ASSIGNMENT!

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Friday eventually came, the day of the buffet assignment; everything was ready, food was bought, time plan was done, epic movie poster was done… we were ready. I have to say, that 3 and a half hours was THE QUICKEST 3 and a half hours I have ever experienced! Much like the mock exam on Monday, the teachers must have used their remote again on the clocks. 

I am very very VERY happy to say that we absolutely smashed it. Things went so well, we were organised, efficient and speedy! We managed to get everything out on time and everything tasted great! 

A bit of a panic whilst cooking my meringues in which half of them seemed to get a little too hot and ‘leak’ sugar in the oven, luckily I piped around 100 kisses so all was not lost. 

I can’t talk enough about how much I must praise my whole team, everyone was absolutely incredible. So Grace, Connie, Emilie, Jenny, Annie, Ruairi and Faith, thank you so so much for making this assignment so much fun to get through! Let’s drink to that. Well done guys. 

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We finished the week with a well deserved celebration at the pub and then onto Soho to Neil Rankin’s new restaurant ‘Temper’ for a very good meal consisting of meat, more meat, and a side of meat, with some meat. He even came and drank with us… mad Friday night antics.

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So it’s here guys, we have made it to the final week, and it’s sad… like really sad. I actually can’t put into words how much I’m going to miss these guys, these people I’ve known for just 9 weeks are not friends… they’re family. So without getting emotional right now I’ll leave that for next week. 

Have a great weekend and thanks for reading.

Peace ✌️

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