Leiths Advanced Diploma: Priya Christian, Week 1

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Leiths Advanced Diploma: Priya Christian, Week 1

Priya shares the highlights of her Leiths journey so far, turning to art for inspiration and insight as she starts the final term...

In The Allegory of the Five Senses, Gerard de Lairesse depicts ‘sight’ as a reclining boy with a convex mirror, ‘hearing’ as cupid with a triangle and ‘smell’ as a girl with flowers. The sense of taste is represented, but rather less prominently; a woman sits in the shadows holding a bird.

Yet while taste may be in the background in this painting, I’ve always felt that it’s the strongest sense when it comes to evoking memories. Some of my favourite books have shown me that I’m not alone in this belief.

In Marcel Proust’s novel In Search Of Lost Time, the narrator dips a madeleine into his tea and experiences a moment of exquisite pleasure when he is transported to the past.  

In Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, watery gruel creates strong memories for the famished orphan; and in Harper Lee’s masterpiece To Kill a Mocking Bird, Tom remembers taking gifts of food to thank Atticus.  

My preoccupation with the sense of taste is what led me to give up my legal career and begin a gastronomical journey at Leiths School of Food And Wine.

This decision has not disappointed me.  For one, it enabled me to work at Marcus Wareing’s “Marcus” during my Christmas holidays and at Heston Blumenthal’s “Dinner” during the Easter break.

Working in those kitchens, I began to appreciate how much I have learnt and absorbed during my last two terms at Leiths.  

Sue taught me that the egg is a genius thing. Nutritious and delicious, it is one of my desert island luxuries.  Ansobe taught me to avoid stirring the pot like Macbeth’s witches, instead creaming the butter and sugar together and incorporating the eggs slowly before adding the dry ingredients.  

This method results in a moist, crumbly sponge; her Genoise sponge would give anyone a When Harry met Sally moment!  Mark taught me how to hold a knife correctly and produce perfect petit brunoise, concasse and julienne.

“To me, cooking is like creating a perfume; a sauce needs base notes, such as bay leaves and thyme.”

Stocks make up the base for sauces and soups and Phil helped me understand how to get a light stock with no colouration, you just need to simmer the meat in water. For a darker stock, you slowly brown the bones in an oven; the darker the protein becomes, the darker the resulting stock.  

Whenever I eat a soufflé, I remember Michael’s introduction, “Soufflé means to puff up, to breathe, blow, whisper….”

Having made the perfect pastry, with Christine’s assistance; worked with gelatine, with the help of Belinda; and experienced a real Proust moment with Annie’s fish curry, I did not feel like a fish out of water in Marcus’ or Heston’s kitchen. 

Instead I was able to use what I have learnt at Leiths to develop my palate.

To me, cooking is like creating a perfume; a sauce needs base notes, such as bay leaves and thyme. Then the middle notes; coriander seeds, pepper, mace, juniper and cloves to create a jus that compliments perfectly cooked meat.  

Bring on the final term; I cannot wait to learn more and see how my gastronomic journey unfolds.

Lily Grouse

Author: Lily Grouse

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