Leiths advanced diploma: Hetty Gullifer, week 6

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Leiths advanced diploma: Hetty Gullifer, week 6

It's wine week, students are off to the vineyard & there's plenty of tasting to be done..

It's wine week and what a great week it is. Is there anything better than a casual midweek premium English sparkling wine tasting session? Or a relaxing glass of wine at the end of a stressful day of cooking, and tagging it up to revision? And since recent studies have shown that red wine is ‘the same’ as a gym session, google it, it's practically a boot camp week. More seriously it's been an intense week. Not only did we have to submit our recipe portfolios (a selection of menus and recipes for our future careers) but we also had our WSET Level 2 wine exam. Plus I decided it would be a good idea to also enter a competition for the I&P olive oil company, just in case I didn't have enough on my plate.

The first hurdle was our portfolios. I am not sure many people were completely concentrating in Monday’s lesson cooking a country terrine, as people worried about the submission of a recipe project that had been consuming our weekends since the start of the course, the coursework for chefs. A submission of 8 lists and 5 menus, meticulously honed, but ultimately satisfying when we eventually handed our projects in. No rest for the wicked though, on top of our incredibly busy week we had a whole duck to work with for Tuesday's all day cooking so wine revision was pushed to the back of our mind.

I was influenced by the classic duck a l’orange to make a dish that comprised of: pan fried duck breast, confit duck leg bonbon rolled in polenta, beetroot purée, fondant potato, sage and Rosemary jus, citrus butter basted beetroot, sage, potato and beetroot crisps, orange jelly, almond and sage crumb and buttered petit pois. But dishes varied from ravioli to consommé. It was so intriguing to see how people dealt with one ingredient to make 90 different dishes. 

Maybe they thought we needed a break after that or maybe they thought we had a lot more to learn but on Wednesday we had a school trip. We all went to Plumpton college to learn about students learning about wine and then Ridgeview vineyard. There's something so be said for learning on site, primary schools may have a point. You can be told about irrigation, the vineyard year and the processing method for sparkling wine till the cows come home, but it really stays in your head once you see it in action. We got the immersive experience. We experienced the English climate (it rained solidly), the English attitude (there were some defiant sunglasses and few umbrellas) and the English sparkling wine, definitely a strong rival to Champagne. For those who say they don't like Chardonnay, I defy you to turn down the Ridgeview estate (100% chardonnay) blanc de blancs, rich, biscuity, fruity and eminently drinkable.

Whilst everyone else had a day off on Thursday, I rolled in to school along with 8 other keen students to cook a dessert designed using I&P olive oil. There was a high bar and dishes ranged from a pistachio and olive oil tart to an olive oil baklava. My white chocolate, blueberry and lemon dessert with an olive oil shortbread could have gone more to plan (the olive oil ganache refused to work, I made it 3 times) but overall it was a fascinating day. The eventual winner (Kirsty) had found the perfect balance with a pistachio and olive oil ice cream with salted dark chocolate pistachio crumb & thyme infused lemon olive oil jelly. Luckily we got to taste each other's at the end of the day, virtually the best bit for me. 

It was a hectic week but nice to have a change of scene, get out of the kitchen, focus on the wine part of the course and get a lot of chances to design our own dishes, my favourite part. What would I do differently? Maybe don't try and add to an already jam packed workload with a competition, but then again if I don't grasp every opportunity here I'll regret it. I can't believe there are only 4 more weeks left! 

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