Leiths advanced diploma: Lucy Battersby, week 2

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Leiths advanced diploma: Lucy Battersby, week 2

Lucy is relishing the new challenges that advanced term brings

So we're into the advanced term now... Do I feel 'advanced'? Not really. Will I feel 'advanced' in 10 weeks' time? I'll do my damn best to!

Last week, our first back in school after the Easter break, was spent revising skills. A great way to get back into the swing of school life.

So I was excited on Monday morning of week two, when I knew we would start adding some new skills to our repertoire!

Indeed our morning in the kitchen brought some tasty morsels – an Amalfi lemon syrup ready for Tuesday's class, a succulent beetroot and orange cured salmon to serve in Thursday’s class, a sensational Japanese-style tare sauce and caramelised shallots... and then there was a less tasty addition – in the name of liver! I was really hoping that the delicious tare sauce would deceive my taste buds and my lifelong struggle with liver would be over, but no, it still tasted of liver. Disappointing. Must make it my mission to find a way to make liver taste good – ie. not of liver. I'm working on it...

The afternoon was spent the way all Mondays should be spent – wine tasting! We learnt about Syrah, Grenache and Riesling. Strong stuff to deal with at the start of the week, but we struggled through (someone’s got to do it…).

I was a little apprehensive when my alarm went off on Tuesday morning. Our timetable stated that we would be ‘clearing’ in the morning. Visions of scrubbing the kitchens from top to bottom sprung to mind but luckily ‘clearing’ turned out to be something a little different… It is the process of making a liquid totally clear. 

In fact it is a fairly laborious process so we spent the morning beating egg whites and egg shells (yup) into lemon syrup until our poor little arms nearly dropped off. It was then a case of careful straining through a lined sieve before layering up our jellies to encase a perfect strawberry. The result? That would have to wait until Wednesday’s class! 

After sunning myself in the park at lunchtime (London in the sun really is unbeatable...) we were treated to a demonstration about vegetable garnishes. Sounds dull? It was far from it. We learnt about purees, vegetable terrines, vegetable sorbets, foams, powders and crisps. Yes, this is what I'm here for – to learn how to create amazing dishes from simple, fresh ingredients. 

So all was revealed on Wednesday morning when we turned out the long-awaited lemon jellies… A lot of love had gone into these little gems, so it was with anticipation that we inverted our moulds on to the plates. Luckily for me, mine had worked! It was a clear jelly with a perfect strawberry set in the middle. A pretty impressive dessert, even if I do say so myself. And delicious served with a sweet crème anglaise.

Thursday saw a full day in the kitchens and I was excited as I changed into my whites – I knew we had some tasty food to make. But all was not simple – we had to make puff pastry for the first time. And this, as expected, requires time and attention to detail. After the sixth ‘roll and fold’ I prayed that enough layers had found their way into the buttery dough for it to rise to great heights in the oven.

We filled our pastry with a delicious artichoke, olive and cream mixture to make little pithiviers, to be served with a pretty rainbow tomato salad. Thankfully the pastry gods were on my side – my pithiviers rose well and the pastry was light and buttery. Sitting alongside the colourful heritage tomato salad it looked (and tasted) pretty good!

The other dish we prepared was a Smorgasboard. As Scandinavian food is one of my favourites, I had high expectations. The platter included a homemade rye loaf, tea-smoked mackerel, pickled cucumber, horseradish cream and slices of beetroot and orange cured salmon, which we had started curing on Monday. It was a real treat to serve the food on slates (an advanced term luxury apparently…) and it looked truly fantastic. 

By the end of the day we were all exhausted but happy, and I enjoyed an indulgent dinner of pithivier and home-smoked fish!

Friday was our recovery day, with only a morning in school, where we learnt about butchery and making jus. It was fascinating to watch a rabbit being prepared in front of us, and even more fascinating to learn that we will be doing this ourselves in just a few weeks’ time! Eeek! Poor little bunny. It did taste good though… 

So after an interesting morning, we were given the afternoon to work on our portfolios (the deadline is looming…). But I made sure to enjoy a cheeky glass of vino and lunch with some of my classmates first. It was Friday after all…

So week two has been a busy and a good one. And I’m definitely feeling my confidence improving and those ‘advanced’ skills getting underway. Roll on week three!

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