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.
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.
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 😱
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.
Bon Appetit & Happy Cooking