LEITHS INTERMEDIATE DIPLOMA: OLIVIA SPURRELL, WEEK 7

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LEITHS INTERMEDIATE DIPLOMA: OLIVIA SPURRELL, WEEK 7

Olivia tackles raised pies, flaky pastry and triumphs over hollandaise with a little help from a Magimix.

It is now terrifyingly close to our Intermediate Term Exams and the end of life at Leiths is looming, forcing us to think about what we are going to do when this incredible little bubble we are living in comes to an end!

So it was a timely intervention when some Ex Leiths students came in to see us last Wednesday to tell us all about their glittering careers, and allow us to grill them with our many questions. It was definitely reassuring to know that people who were once in our position (currently slight panic and sense of impending doom, but I am partial to a little melodramatic meltdown) are now doing so well, and there were a range of careers from restaurants chefs, to private caterers, to those writing their own book, and also from the magazine industry. We all had some very interesting conversations, picked up tips and advice, and promises of work experience. I definitely came away feeling a little more relaxed, but also determined to work hard for my dream job.

Last week was also the week of our hand raised pies - a truly exciting prospect! I had seen last years’ golden fluted pies grace the Instagram feed of Leiths and thought they were so pretty, and now it was our turn to make them in a full day cooking session on Wednesday. The hot watercrust was surprisingly simple, and a welcome change from the incessant cold-butter-pastry-making that has been drilled into us over the past few months! We carefully shaped our pastry around a soufflé dish, chilled it, filled it with delicious meaty morsels the next day and baked our pies, fluted edges and piping-nozzle held steam holes and all, to a deep golden colour, before filling them with our homemade aspic. They were all beautiful and I think they make make an appearance on my gift-cooking list; what nicer present to receive than a lovingly hand-raised pie?


Wednesday’s full day cooking was also the day we tackled flaky pastry for the first time. I had been worried about layered pastries for a while and the day had finally arrived to tackle the rolls and folds. This time ‘cold, pliable’ butter was in order, and we dutifully rolled out our detrempes 3 times as long as they were wide, spread on our little pieces of butter, folded into layers and rolled again, with plenty of resting in between. I think I may lack the patience for such a labour of love, but some of my class had the most beautiful paper thin layers to their pastry which had risen to at least twice their height! Something we will be practising, without doubt in the weeks to come…

After the previous week’s Billingsgate fish demonstration, most of us were looking forward to tackling a new method of fish preparation, and Slip Sole was on the menu on Thursday. We carefully ripped the skin from the flesh of the fish, and served it with a burnt hollandaise generously spread over the top. We got a taste of life in the real-world kitchens as we all battled over the grill, and a few of us had to resort to blowtorches when we realised we were already 10 minutes past our service time. I learnt that ‘shotgun’ doesn’t apply when you’re an adult, and you have to use your shoulders to weasel your way in to use the one grill between 8 students if you want to cook your fish in time! Lesson learnt (and a perfectly cooked fish later, I was quite proud of this one!) we were allowed to make hollandaise in the magimix for the first time. I had developed a slight dread of making hollandaise in class, beating in 1cm cubes of butter, one after another for a good 15 minutes in a pudding basin over a bain marie, so when I learnt that you could make it in 15 seconds flat by pouring warm butter over the yolks in the magimix, my whole world was turned upside down. So much simpler!


Of course, we weren’t going to get away with it that easily. If anything has defined our intermediate term so far with a year group-wide hatred of something, it is turned vegetables. Carefully removing most of the vegetable to the waste bin, to leave you with a perfect, uniform, pointy edged, barrel shaped nugget of food. Lets just say it has the capacity to go wrong, most of the time, and leave a class full of frustrated cooks gasping exasperatedly at little pieces of courgette and potato.

We finished our week with a day at sister site Leiths Portobello, completing our training and examination for Food Safety and Hygiene Level 2.  Here we learned about all the hazards in commercial kitchens that can damage the health of the consumer, and how to avoid any of those happening. It was an informative day, with the added bonus of an early finish on a Friday, and the sun was shining too. A fitting end to another brilliant week at Leiths.




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