LEITHS INTERMEDIATE DIPLOMA: HANNAH BOND, WEEK 1

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LEITHS INTERMEDIATE DIPLOMA: HANNAH BOND, WEEK 1

Hannah

It feels very odd be writing ‘Intermediate Term’, and odder still to have cycled all the way back to Week 1. Returning to Leiths felt like a strange dream until I actually got there and remembered what my life at school is like. After that, it started to feel normal frighteningly fast. Sample six different wines at 10am on a Monday morning? Why not?

That was genuinely what we did on Monday, for our introductory wine lecture. Apparently all things wine-related are going to be getting a lot more serious this term. I did have a small wine breakthrough though: for the first time ever, I smelled wine and got something other than just ‘wine’ (apricots, in case you are wondering). Please may I have my WSET certificate now?

In the afternoon we cooked the feast pictured as a gentle reintroduction to the kitchen (yes, really). Pictured above, from left to right, baba ghanoush with parsley and paprika, lamb meatballs in a cinnamon tomato sauce (technically kefta maticha), cous cous, roasted green peppers in harissa and preserved lemon dressing, and spiced chickpea flatbreads. We cooked as a table of four and it was all delicious.

On Tuesday our morning dem saw a truffle expert (fungus, not chocolate) come to speak to us and let us eat and handle some terrifyingly expensive specimens. We learnt, amongst other things, that there is no actual truffle in truffle oil and that dogs are preferable to pigs for truffle hunting because a pig will just eat all your truffles and get violent if you try to take them away. Later, we were back in the kitchens. I was told my portion of wild mushroom risotto and guinea fowl was on the large side for a main course. I promptly ate it all as an afternoon snack.

By mid-week, I think Leiths had decided that they’d eased us in gently enough and it was time to up the game a bit. The morning dem was on hollandaise. Hollandaise is another tricky technical skill for us to master, and I really was trying to focus on the technique, but I was minorly distracted by the absolutely delicious food we got to sample. Eggs Benedict, a fish tart with burnt hollandaise, steak with béarnaise sauce and triple-cooked chips… I ended the morning happy and full and sleepy, which was unfortunate because it was followed by a tricky afternoon for which I could have done with having my wits about me. Firstly we made artichoke soup for an assessment. This doesn’t sound so bad, but we were under strict time constraints, and I have never actually cooked with artichokes before. I have decided that they are divas in the vegetable kingdom. Once you peel them you immediately have to stick them in cold acidulated water so that they don’t oxidise and get ruined, you have to cut them into 2mm thick pieces to assure they cook through correctly, you must simmer (never boil) them in pre-scalded milk and… it’s more fiddly than you might think.

On Thursday morning we had a lovely fish dem with Michael – I have been genetically blessed with the ability to eat fish at any time of day – followed by an oddly hectic session in which we made Eggs Benedict in order to test out our newly acquired hollandaise knowledge. It went well enough in the end, but it was a struggle getting there. Basically, the reason I only ever eat Eggs Benedict when I go out for brunch is that they are a hassle to make and create a huge amount of washing up and scrubbing hollandaise off a gas hob is no fun.I limped into the end of the week ready for another dem with Michael, this time on game. Now, I’ll eat anything and I’m not a squeamish person in the slightest, but even I struggled slightly as we watched a beautiful, sleek, fluffy rabbit get brutally beheaded with a cleaver and then skinned. It was already dead, obviously. But still. The afternoon held more trauma in store. I’m pretty used to filleting flat fish by now, so when we were asked to fillet our first round fish – mackerel – I wasn’t too worried about it. Ah, the blithe optimism of an ignorant idiot. It was really tricky. Mackerel flesh is very delicate, and it’s easy for your fillets to start looking fairly brutally hacked as you attempt to prise them from the frame. The concentration in the kitchen was such that the room was almost completely silent, which is a rarity. We filleted two whole fish, and my end result was, to put it gently, in need of some improvement.

Then we served
crème caramels which we had made the day before, which was all far more relaxed.

Five days back at Leiths and it feels like I haven’t been away. My life has been engulfed by food and studying once again and, despite the exhaustion, I feel very lucky.

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