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Henrietta tackles restaurant style cooking, and falls in love with enriched dough.

A two hour wine lecture certainly makes for a cheerful start to the week, of course when you are going to be carving up a guinea fowl with a sharp knife in the afternoon you soon realise why you just taste rather than drink all the wines. Our official WSET introduction (that’s Wine and Spirit Education trust to you) covered a diverse selection of styles of wines to give us a better idea of how different wines can range in taste. Our lecturer even showed us how to open a screw top with a flourish, a handy tip to impress your guests even after he’d dispelled the myth that wines with a cork are better than wines with a screw top. This was probably my favourite demonstration of the week.

It was straight into the kitchen after lunch and we were tasked with serving both a starter (French onion soup) and a main (Partridge with lentils and Cavolo nero) on time. Juggling caramelising onions with butchering partridge was a tricky task, especially as I was still getting to grips with the kitchens since I am doing the two term diploma. This was only my second week after all..

Tuesday firmly cemented that we wouldn’t be losing any weight on this course as we tucked into a demonstration all about enriched dough. Yeast is like a mini human, to live it needs water, warmth and food, but slows down with too much fat, sugar and alcohol; I speak from personal experience. Personally I would be eating pecan sticky buns every morning for breakfast if I could, so it’s probably a good thing they take a couple of hours to make, rise, prove and bake, thanks to the amount of butter and sugar.

That afternoon it was another exercise in providing a starter and a main, but with the added complication of producing perfect ovals of courgette and potato, or ’turned’ vegetables with skate wing and brown butter. It is oddly satisfying to serve vegetables in identical shapes but it didn’t help that much with my timings, my aubergine salad with a parmesan crisp was on time but I burnt my buerre noisette; you win some you lose some…

I am used to long days, I commute from Oxford to London on the 6.30 bus but I wasn’t quite prepared how tiring leaving at 6pm rather than 5pm would be…. Wednesday’s cooking session taught us a lot about how intricate restaurant dishes can be as we made the simple sounding seabass with clams and Pernod. I think I was juggling 5 or 6 different pans at one point, but as I was assured by my housemates later that night, the finished sauce was amazing, apparently all the different elements make a real difference. Luckily we’d started the day on a sugar high after a demonstration on meringue, caramel mousse and sugar syrup, powering me through the day alongside my 4 cups of coffee.

One of the best things about Leiths is the one to one careers coaching and contacts we get, courtesy of Leiths list. Thursday lunchtime was my chance to meet and talk to Alison who runs Leiths list and talk over my CV to set the ball rolling on job opportunities. However it didn’t give me much time for lunch between a soufflé lecture and a meringue and soufflé afternoon cooking session. Although I do have a new idol: Arnold Bennett. What a man. He loved Parmesan cheese, cream and smoked haddock so much that the Savoy hotel created the Arnold Bennett soufflé omelette for him and he took the recipe around so every restaurant he went to could recreate it for him.

Friday’s demonstration introduced me to french pastry, and I can’t wait to make them. After seeing the individual fruit tart I’ve remembered why I came to cookery school. Just look how pretty it is (above).

Luckily all my hard work in Thursday’s cooking session was worth it when on Friday I served up my cold lemon soufflé (actually more like a mousse since you ask) with a meringue garnish and blueberry compote. What a way to end the week. Bring on week 3.


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