I am glad to be back in Kitchen 9 today after a two week break, I really missed being here and missed my two young friends Bree and Bellinda. It’s the first of May and also Bellinda’s 18th birthday! I remember my 18th Birthday as though it were yesterday, which it obviously wasn’t! I celebrated with my mother and brothers, one of whom is no longer with us and who I miss every day. Birthdays are for celebrating so cake there must be… one of the other students asked if I made this lovely Hazelnut and Raspberry Mocha cake (hahahah)…….thanks for the compliment I think 😊. Chef also made Bellinda the centre of attention today which is just as it should be when you turn 18.
The lesson today seemed lighter than others, but there were three elements requiring deep frying which takes time when there are 13 or so students & only 4 deep fryers. The class has definitely found a rhythm & there seems to be more concentration as we approach the looming practical assessment in a few weeks. The recipes today are Salt and Pepper Squid with Asian dressing, Hoke fillet in a crispy batter with Aioli and Poached Pear with Anglaise Sauce.
We start with the Salt and Pepper squid, first preparing the coating and dry frying the Szechuan peppercorns. As with all seeds, dry frying releases the oils and intensifies the flavour. Szechuan peppercorn (also spelled Sichuan) is very fragrant and creates a slight numbing mouth sensation. The aroma is not unlike lavender and it is one of the ingredients in Chinese five spice. It is a delicious deep flavour.
Squid is related to the cuttlefish… it has ten tentacles and takes some preparation, however the squid we worked with was already cleaned with no heads and beaks to remove or tentacles to cut off. The squid hoods were frozen rather than fresh, and where as they were perfectly fine and the end product tasted good, Chef commented he preferred fresh squid. There was a demonstration on how to score the squid (always score the outer side and ensure only to score lightly) and how to cut them into pieces. We had the option of making rings or ‘fingers’ … I chose the latter. The Asian dressing which accompanied the squid was a simple mixture of sweet chilli sauce, fish sauce, lime juice & garlic paste. Where as the recipe didn’t call for it, I also added some mirin to mine. Chef encourages us to explore and make small changes to the recipe as we choose, I think this builds confidence. We all need to work on our knowledge of flavour profiles and practising in this way is a good opportunity to build that knowledge. When something doesn’t work Chef explains why and we simply move on…no drama… one persons mistake is everyone’s lesson. When done I was happy with my finished plate.
The next dish was the Hoke fillet with ailoi. The garlic was roasted, blended and added to the mayonnaise with a dash of lemon. The Hoke, which was already filleted, was cut into portions. We then made the the marinade and the batter. The batter which was made from cornflour, self raising flour and soda water, turned out to be very light and puffed beautifully when deep fried. The fish was marinated in the lemon based marinade for around 15 minutes before coating and deep frying. The scientific action of cooking fish with heat is the same as cooking with acid (ceviche) & you can see how the texture of the fish altered from the lemon juice marinade. The trick with deep frying, as with everything in cooking, is to be gentle & take care. Once floured and battered, gently place the fish in the heated oil, moving it to and fro for a minute before gently releasing it…. in this way it won’t sink to the bottom and stick to the basket!
Chef decided to make some chips. I think the best chips are the ones cooked 3 times…which Chef did. Steam the chips, place them in the freezer for an hour to dry out, then cook them at 130C (265F) until a crust forms. Put them back in the freezer ( the chips can sit in the fridge for three days at this stage) and when ready, deep fry at 180C (355F) for around 7 minutes…..these will be the best chips you have ever tasted! True to form (his no waste in my kitchen approach), Chef also made potato skins…I was so engrossed in what I was doing & I missed trying them, but did manage to snap a photo. The fish was delicious as were the chips 😊
Thank goodness I am not on a diet as next was the poached pears with anglaise sauce. To the prepared sugar syrup we added the peeled and cored pears. I also added a cinnamon quill, a sprig of lavender and a few strips of lemon rind to my syrup. I was concerned that there were too many flavours but the end result was lovely! The pears were poached slow and low under a paper cartouche (a circle of grease proof paper) and whilst the pears were being transformed into soft delicious sweet treats, I started on the anglaise sauce. Creme Anglaise…English Cream 💙 is a light pouring custard of eggs, sugar, milk and vanilla…trust me…it’s to die for! Chef picked a variety of herb flowers from the garden, these proved to be delicate and delicious as well as pretty & added to the flavour of the finished plate.
Finally, here is a recent photo of poached pears my lovely mother made at Easter… Saffron poached pears with cream.. absolutely delicious. Just goes to show the many flavours you can play with….and yes, she also stitched the beautiful tablecloth in this photo…she is a legend 🧡
I couldn’t be happier that I am back doing what feels so so right. I hope something of my journey and learning resonate with you.
Bon Appétit and happy cooking.