Lesson 7…Basic Methods of Cookery – Stewing, Sauté & Braising

I can’t believe that I have been at Culinary School for 10 weeks and have had 7 practical cooking lessons. I couldn’t be happier with my decision to enrol in Commercial Cookery at TAFE, particularly Ryde TAFE which is so well appointed. It has been a thorougly great experience and I look forward to every lesson. Today is lesson 4 of the 7 lesson subject,  ‘Preparing dishes using basic methods of cookery’, and the last class before a two week break. In today’s class we will produce three dishes; Braised Spiced Ratatouille with Mozzarella, Lamb Tagine with Cous Cous and Minted Yoghurt & Lemon Curd Crepes.

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Lesson 7 – Stewing, Braising & Sautéing

We start with the Tagine as it will take approximately 2 hours to cook. The Tagine is a classic dish from the North African region called Magherb which includes Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. The dish is named after the pottery vessel in which it is cooked and is a taste sensation – spicy aromatic and fragrant. Think of tender meats and aromatic vegetables with dried and/or preserved fruit, chick peas, herbs, honey and dried spices such as cinnamon, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cassia and cardamon (to name just a few). I was lucky to be given a Tagine a few years ago as a gift, after which I sought out a few cook books on Moroccan food, my favourite being, ‘Tagine – Spicy stews from Morocco’ by Ghille Bascan. Where as the authentic way of cooking these dishes is in a Tagine on the stove top, you can use a casserole pot on a low heat in the oven and produce an equally lovely dish, as we did in class.

If using meat, it is important to flour & sauté it before adding it to the vegetables and adding the liquid. This will ensure the meat retains it’s juices & will provide some body to the finished sauce. The perfume in Kitchen 9 was delightful and the finished dish served with cous cous and minted yoghurt was delicious. Where as it passes the test of ‘a good dish is eaten with the eyes first’, I have to say my nose was saying “yes” before it came out of the oven….

Next we turn our attention to preparing the ingredients for the Ratatouille, a vegetable stew which is typical of Provencal cookery. The dish originated in Nice and the name comes from the French word touiller, which means to ‘stir’. You can serve Ratatouille as an accompaniment/side dish to a main or as a vegetarian entree.  Today we baked it in two versions, one with mozzarella cheese on to a slice of crusty bread, and the other in a small foil dish topped with the same cheese. Being a French Mediterranean dish, I fancy it paired with a soft goats cheese and crusty bread….mmmmm 😊.

The last dish of the day was Crepes with lemon curd. Crepe batter, like most other batters, needs to be rested for at least 30 minutes before use, so we make this first, then the curd before cooking the crepes.

When making curd you need to take the lemon juice, sugar, butter and cornflour far enough that it emulsifies, continuously mixing over a moderate heat until it is almost clear. Once done it is taken it off the heat and cooled to no more than 80c before adding the eggs. If you add the eggs when the mixture is too hot the eggs will scramble and the mixture will be ruined, as one of the students discovered. If not using the curd immediately, ensure the cured is covered and the cling wrap is touching the surface of the curd – this stops a skin forming.

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Curd under wrap

I love a sharp lemon curd, I use it in between layers in layer cakes, in cup cakes, on pavlovas and on toast (yum)! I haven’t had it in crepes before and am glad to have yet another use for it. For cooking the crepes we used small crepe pans which Chef borrowed from one of the pastry classes. They were lent on the proviso that they were well oiled and water did not touch them… I am not sure everyone adhered to that requirement 😱

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My plating of Crepes with Lemon curd and lavender

Time absolutely flies when I am in class and I will miss being here for a few weeks. I will also miss these two lovely young ladies whose company I really enjoy, both of them already happily working in the industry.

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My lovely friends Bellinda and Bree 💙

Bon Appetit & Happy Cooking

Kathryn 💙

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Lesson 6….Basic Methods of Cooking – Stir fry, pan frying, sautéed, blanching & boiling and baking.

We are back in class after the extra long Easter weekend and since last weeks class I’ve had the opportunity to practice a few of the elements we’ve learnt to date in “Basic Methods of Cooking” including, Tandoori Chicken, sautéed potatoes and braised red cabbage, as well as the Crumbed Sole fillets with tartare sauce from Lesson 3. I was remiss in not taking photos along the way, but when family and friends are around it’s more about getting the food hot to the table than snapping a quick pic for the blog or Instagram!  I am pleased to report that I am learning, that is… a few mistakes along the way has made for good learning. For example, it is important to use waxy potatoes for sautéing as they hold their shape much better when pre-boiled. I also had a bonus lesson over Instagram from my talented friend & Chef Sarah, one of the fabulous pastry chefs at Ryde TAFE. If you are in Sydney and enjoy cake decorating and making pastry, her classes never disappoint. The crosses on her hot cross buns looked much better than mine, how do you think I felt when told her clever 9 year old piped them 😳. Sarah advised that for hers they used a 5mm nozzle and when I moved to that size (from 4mm) on the third and last batch, the results were much better!

Todays dishes were straight forward enough but required a lot of preparation, using some of the techniques we have learned so far. Lot’s of chopping, mincing & blanching, plus we also started using a piping bag. The dishes were Penne Puttanesca, Pork Stir Fry with boiled rice & Profiteroles with Chocolate Ganache….. some were more successful than others as you’ll see below.

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My cooking buddy Bellinda and I took the divide and concur approach to some of the chopping and a few of the other tasks. I made the ganache whilst Bellinda cut the capsicum, peeled the carrots and top and tailed the beans. Speaking of beans, Chef introduced me to a nifty little gadget to slice the beans, a French style bean slicer, readily available in kitchen shops, which made light work of the slicing of the beans…and yes I bought one on the way home.

Pork loin fillet trimmed and sliced into strips, we moved onto pre-cooking the pasta and then cracking on with the choux pastry for the profiteroles. All was going pretty well, my panada (the heated mixture of water, butter, salt and flour) looked good and was coming away from the bottom of the pan as required. I took it off the heat and allowed it to reach the right temperature (40 – 50 C) before adding the eggs one at a time, so as they didn’t scramble. It was a promising smooth and silky semi set paste and I was looking forward to nice profiteroles (ha!). My downfall was my piping ( is there a theme here?). I should have piped them with more height which would have meant more volume….they were simply too small. If that wasn’t enough I also made the silly mistake of dipping the finished profiteroles in the ganache rather than the tempered chocolate …. the finished product was all a bit of a mess 😱 My plan is to make another batch and include a photo in a later post so as to redeem myself, but rather than ganache I will fill them with pastry cream as a contrast to the chocolate coating.

With all the preparation done we turned to cooking the Penne Puttanesca and the Pork Stir fry. Penne Puttanesca is a delicious and quick dish to make with ingredients usually at hand, typically tomatoes, olive oil, anchovies, olives, capers & garlic. We added chilli, parsley and torn basil to ours, finishing it off with thin strips of parmesan. There are varying stories of the origins of this pasta sauce, which I will leave you to explore, but it was was invented in Naples in mid 20C where many other wonderful foods have come, including pizza. The Pork stir fry also was quick, colourful and tasty. We watched Chef deftly create this dish in a few minutes, masterfully tossing the ingredients in the pan until just combined. Chef’s finished plate as always looked elegant and restrained…. we quickly exchanged a laugh over the man size portion of mine….😊

We are almost half way through this semester and I find myself at home in Kitchen 9. I am impressed with the classes, the skill and generosity of Chef Troy, the quality of the produce we are provided, and the overall organisation of the classes. I know this is where I am meant to be. The class is a happy one and I have made lovely connection with students less than half my age… this mature age student throughly recommends following your dreams where ever they may lead you.

Bon Appetit and happy cooking!

Kathryn 💙

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Lesson 5…..Basic Methods of Cooking – Grilling, Braising, Sautéing and Steaming

I always look forward to my day at Ryde TAFE and this week was no exception. Today’s lesson was the second part of ‘Basic Methods of Cooking’, where we use varied cooking methods to produce a few dishes. This week it’s Grilled Field Mushroom & Pear Salad, Grilled Sirloin steak with Sautéed Potatoes, Braised Red Cabbage & Compound Butter and  Steamed Date Pudding with Caramel Sauce.

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Lesson 5 Lesson Plan

Our chef for this semester is very knowledgeable, helpful & kind but he rightly expects people to listen and follow instruction and is firm on rules, as a few in the class today became aware. It’s early days so students are still learning the ropes and as always, some pick up quickly and some take a little more time. For the most part everyone helps each other, if someone makes a mistake and needs to redo something we all share some of what we have prepped with them & if someone is late and their trays have been broken down and ingredients removed from the kitchen, again we share. I am sure as the course goes on, our teacher chefs will expect more and more of us; i.e., the honeymoon will end eventually.

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Prep of trays

Even though I was taught ‘mis en place’ in my days working at a cooking school in Sydney, and use it at home, in class it is taken to a whole new level. I really enjoy the preparation before cooking and notice that I am bringing even more of this practice into my cooking at home.

We start with the compound butter. Loving French food, compound butter is not new to me, I have been making it for many years. Last year my husband Aron & I went on a Truffle hunt outside Canberra & I purchased a few that were found on the day ; I used one to make a batch of Truffle Butter which stores brilliantly in the freezer. At work there is a wee joke about me and my Truffle obsession…. let’s just say that it also has something to do with the odd snort I at times emit when laughing 🐖. Over a few months I’ve used the Truffle butter on steak, in pasta and to finish off risotto 🤤. I am so excited that it’s almost Truffle season again, oink. oink!  Anyway… Chef made one large batch of herb compound butter to share which had us all chopping curly parsley (lesson 1). The finely chopped parsley was added to unsalted butter, which was seasoned and a dash of Worcestershire sauce added before beaten to perfection in a stand mixer. The butter was tuned out and rolled in plastic wrap in a log shape to be cut into disks later. BUTTER!!!, is there anything more delicious…well apart from Truffles?!

 

Onto entrée….marinade made (oil, chilli flakes, crushed garlic) we tossed in the pealed mushrooms and cut pear… be sure to use a firm pear as it has to stand up to being grilled. Heat a French grill on the stove and after the mushrooms and pear have spent time soaking up the marinade cook them until ready…. be gentle! Also cook your sliced and oiled Ciabatta bread until toasty & brown. When ready to plate, place the field mushroom on the base, top with a mixture of rocket and parsley salad,  balance a few slices of grilled pear, add a few more salad leaves, arrange your Ciabatta and spoon over the marinade to dress the finished dish. Chefs, as usual, was a little more ‘elegant’ than mine…sigh!

By now the potatoes are cooking in boiling water on the stove and we move on to the braised cabbage. The shredded cabbage and finely sliced onion and green apple are sweated off in a hot saucepan with a tablespoon of oil. It’s about now that Chef gives us the ‘heads-up’ that this dish will be in our revision assessment in a few weeks. (no pressure!). Once sweated down, some brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and red wine is added and a dash of water (the water is important as some of the class were soon to find out). A cartouche was made and placed on top and it was cooked this on an extremely low heat for 30 mins. Those who either did not add a dash of water or who did not have it on a low enough heat had extra scrubbing to do as theirs burned when we were at break. Coming back into the class I was relieved that mine was ok so shared with someone who had burned theirs.

Back from break and French Grills ready we start multitasking. Having sliced the potatoes we started cooking them in clarified butter whilst at the same time cooking the seasoned Sirloin. Once the sirloins were done and rested (don’t underestimate this step), the potatoes were seasoned and a few fresh thyme leaves were added. Plating was simple enough…. potatoes, cabbage, steak, butter….. yum. Here you see Chefs, in which the potatoes were flatter on the plate resulting in a much better looking dish than mine…which resembles …well …. a burger! I will be working on the plating of this dish to ensure I get it right for my assessment.

So far we have grilled, sautéed and braised….now for pudding which is steamed. Who doesn’t love Steamed Date Pudding ? This is one of the easiest puddings to make & I think I’ll cook it for Easter Sunday dinner for the family next week. Today it was plated with the easiest of caramel sauces (brown sugar, cream and a dash of vanilla) and cream…. it was a lovely end to the menu. At Easter I think I’ll serve mine with homemade French Vanilla ice cream.

As I’ve done in past weeks, I will be cooking a few of these recipes at home this week – perhaps with some elements changed. I already feel my confidence growing and I am starting to feel quite at home in my chefs whites 😊.

Bon Appetit & happy cooking!

Kathryn 💙

 

 

 

 

 

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Lesson 4…..Basic Methods of Cooking – Roasted Chicken & Chocolate Pudding

I was pleased to get back into the kitchen this week given last week was a full day of  theory and am happy to report that I have passed the first two theory units;  Food Safety Practices & Food Handling Practices (phew 😉)! This week we move into a seven lesson block which covers producing dishes using basic methods of cooking, things are ramping up. Today’s lesson we produced 3 dishes, Tandoori Chicken with a Summer Salad, Roast Chicken with Roast Vegetables & Buttered Green Beans & Chocolate Pudding with Chantilly Cream.

Lesson Four – Basic Methods of Cookery

As always we started with prepping the trays and quickly moved on to get the sliced chicken breast into the tandoori marinade, (a few thinly sliced coriander stems, squeeze of lemon juice, large tablespoon of yogurt, tandoori paste to taste & seasoning) allowing time for the meat to take on the flavours. We then prepared the chicken for roasting; removing the wishbone (easier when you start at the right end as I found out 😆), stuffing the cavity, seasoning and trussing before setting aside in the fridge for baking later in the lesson. Chef showed us how to tuck the wings under to stabilise the bird before trussing and baking…my poor little chook almost suffered a broken wing as my first attempt was more like performing origami on it rather than a simple tuck under…oh well I am here to learn. Into the cavity went a few herbs, seasoning, a piece of lemon and a good nob of butter. We loosened the skin & slid under a few more nobs of butter and herbs. We then took a long piece of twin and trussed the dressed bird….the class results varied and I am alarmed to admit that bondage did spring to mind 😱. Later after seasoning & drizzled with clarified butter, the chickens would be placed on a bed of carrot, onion & celery mirepoix (check out lesson 1) and baked at 180C (350F) for about an hour.

Following the prep of the 2 chicken dishes we readied the vegetables for roasting. Nothing too much to talk about here; red onion, sweet potato, chad potato, pumpkin (butternut squash) and green capsicum (bell pepper) all cut to appropriate size, seasoned, strewn with a few crushed garlic cloves and drizzled with oil. The beans were topped & tailed, blanched in boiling water and refreshed in an ice bath, later to be quickly sautéed in butter before plating.

Roasted veg in the combo oven

Once the chickens were roasted, they were jointed (new trick – love new tricks!) & served with the roasted veg and sautéed beans, drizzled with the pan juices. It was aromatic, moist and delicious. We then placed the tandoori chicken pieces in the oven to bake for 8 mins. When ready we plated by spooning halved cherry toms in the middle of the plate, adding the julienned carrot and cucumber ( I marinated mine in a little pickling liquid), placing 3 pieces of tandoori chicken on the stack and topping off with vinaigrette dressed mesclun. I was a little heavy handed with the mesclun as you can see between what chefs plate looked like compared to mine (but it tasted gooooood)!

Finally we moved on to the chocolate pudding. This little beauty was so easy to whip up, caster sugar, plain flour, cocoa, egg, vegetable oil & milk whisked until smooth, poured into paper cups (no joke) with a 2 or 3 tiny holes pierced in the base and microwaved for 2 mins….THAT’S IT!!!!. Now, I only use the microwave to heat-up cold food & cooking in one is almost a first for me, but this one is definitely to be added to my repertoire. Chef made a simple chocolate sauce (cream & chocolate to which he added Nutella) and a mandarine sauce made of mandarine juice and sugar syrup (one could also use orange). The pudding and sauce was plated with Chantilly Cream (lesson 3) and a garnish of strawberry and mint. That took all of 8 – 10 mins.

Chocolate Pudding with Chantilly Cream

So, the cooking methods we used in lesson 4 were; baking, roasting, sautéing, blanching, microwaving & cooking on the stove top (sauces). Again it all smelled, looked and most importantly tasted great. I was particularly impressed with the consistency taste and look of the chocolate pudding… super easy and guaranteed to satisfy any chocolate lover, especially with the decadent sauces chef added. See you next week……

Bon Appetit & happy cooking!

Kathryn 💙

 

 

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Oysters & Piquepoul

My dear, creative & talented friend has been visiting from Bellingen to take in as much of the 2018 French Film Festival as possible. I love it when she comes to stay as it’s not only an opportunity to catch up, enjoy each other company and see a few movies together, but also an opportunity to cook a few dishes I have been working on as well as explore a new food experience or two. Being a great researcher, my friend always has something special in mind for her trips to Sydney and this year it was oysters and Piquepoul.

A few of the home cooked meals 

And what is ‘Piquepoul’ you may ask? It is a variety of grape grown in France, primarily in either the Rhone Valley or the Languedoc, well known for matching with oysters!. It is now commercially available in Australia from French cuttings planted in Cowra in 2013. True to the label, it was a perfect match for the oysters and the other seafood we enjoyed at “The Boathouse” on Blackwattle Bay. It is a well balanced, refreshing white wine with a hint of citrus and it’s definitely one we will have again, especially when enjoying seafood.

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The Boathouse Restaurant

The menu offered a selection of 10 oysters from South and Mid North Coast NSW…. we choose two each of the Merimbula Lake Rock, Moonlight Kisses Rock and Clair de Lune Bouton Rock oysters. My favourite were the larger  Merimbula (the middle four on the platter) which to my palate were fuller and more creamy. All tasted wonderfully of the sea and were well accompanied with the Dark Rye Bread and salted butter. Aron is not an oyster lover but thoroughly enjoyed the Grilled Spencer Gulf Southern Calamari, Eggplant, Pomegranate & Almonds.

For main I had a Lakes Entrance John Dory roasted on the bone with a Bouillabaisse sauce & Fennel which was delicious. Aron and Fenella had pan fried Mahi Mahi which was served with Zucchini Flower, Ricotta & Crustacean Oil. We noticed that a lot of people in the restaurant had ordered what must be a house specialty (unfortunately no photo), a Snapper Pie with Smoked Tomato & Potato Mash. The aroma once the golden puff pasty was lifted by the Waiting Staff was divine…….next time! 😊 

What a lovely midweek meal and discovery of not only a delightful restaurant but a great wine. 

Bon Appetit & happy cooking!

Kathryn 💙

 

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