LEITHS INTERMEDIATE DIPLOMA: LUCY BATTERSBY, WEEK 4

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LEITHS INTERMEDIATE DIPLOMA: LUCY BATTERSBY, WEEK 4

Two term student Lucy is learning to appreciate meat, and tasting wine on a Friday afternoon...

So it's week 4. Week 4 of my new life at Leiths. I started the diploma in this, the second term, so after an intense skills week, where a dozen or so of us familiarised ourselves with the 'Leiths way', it is now nearly a month later, and I'm just about getting to know where the roasting trays are kept...

After a rare three-day weekend, Monday was a nice gentle day to ease us back in to school again. 'Meat appreciation' was the term used on the curriculum, and it turned out to be a pretty apt description. 

The day exceeded my expectations. Experienced butchers, Peter Holmes and Graham Portwine gave us a fantastic day. With their knowledge and expertise, interspersed with true butcher-style banter, they inspired us all. A cow's hindquarters on the bench in front of us was a sight to behold (who knew it would be quite so big...?) and we watched in awe as the guys masterfully disassembled the carcass. I'm just hoping we're not expected to do the same in the Leiths kitchens any day soon...

Tuesday morning was back to reality. What looked like a relatively easy morning (browning bones for stock and just one fish dish to cook - child's play!) turned out to be fairly challenging. That beautiful Dover sole did not want to be filleted and skinned, and the veloute was a little thicker than expected... Still, the dish tasted good and I tucked into it at lunchtime. 

The afternoon session saw a visit from the owners of Le Coq restaurant in Islington. I was particularly excited about this one, having eaten at the restaurant soon after it opened. It was an inspiring afternoon. Ana Morris trained at Leiths a few years ago and has worked very hard to get where she is today. Her sister and business partner, Sanya Morris, opened Salt Yard restaurant and has an equally inspiring story to tell. As well as giving us an insight into the restaurant business and how their restaurant works, Ana cooked us up some delicious morsels, including Le Coq's incredible signature potatoes - I could've eaten the whole pan! 

Wednesday was the day I'd been secretly dreading... A whole day in the kitchen. But it turned out to be a lovely (albeit exhausting) day. The morning was hectic - we had to get the bread rising, the pork belly 'rubbed' and in the oven, make hollandaise, and make Arnold Bennett's special omelette... So it turns out that Arnold Bennett was a man of great taste. His love of cream, smoked haddock and cheese led to the creation of a soufflé omelette in his name. Very indulgent and very delicious, and at its best when topped with a dousing of hollandaise sauce... 

And I wolfed down said omelette at lunchtime - all in the name of keeping my energy levels up for the afternoon session... 

This involved baking the bread - a beer bread - wonderful with cheese or just lashings of butter. We also finished off slow roasting the pork belly, making a tasty Asian-style dressing to accompany it. And after allowing the crackling a little extra time in the oven to 'crackle up', the results were pretty fantastic. Even if I do say so myself.

Thursday morning was all about prepping for our Friday feast. We made pate sucree (a very sweet buttery pastry – a little tricky to bake I discovered...) and blind baked it ready for filling on Friday. We also made an Espagnole sauce - think 70s fine dining - a labour of love but with divine results, to be made into a tasty Madeira sauce. And we attempted a sweet souffle; a vanilla one - Mine rose to the occasion (pardon the pun...) but was slightly overcooked. Next time....

And suddenly it was Friday! We were all feeling very tired first thing but the prospect of making potato rosti (to be served with veal steaks in Madeira sauce) and a heavenly chocolate tart gave us a burst of energy. As expected the rosti was magnificent - but then anything cooked in that amount of butter should be pretty good.

So with bellies full of potato, butter, veal and chocolate, we rolled into our last class of the week - wine tasting. Yes, the gods were looking down on us. 

It turned out to be an excellent session (not least because it was Friday afternoon). Nancy Gilchrist talked us through wine and food pairing - fascinating and a lot more complex than simply serving white wine with fish and red with steak. Who knew that a sweet Sauternes would be a match for Roquefort? Or that acids don't go well with full-bodied reds (so you may need to think again with the duck a l'orange...). It was truly fascinating and the perfect end to week 4 of my new life at Leiths. 

Roll on next week, which promises spiced buns, fruit tarts and a creative session. I for one can't wait!

Author: Lizzy Jones

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