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Becoming a chef - week 5...

The time is literally running away, for me anyway.... Soooo quickly that I haven't even noticed that it's the end of week 5, halfway through my chef's training at JustCooking. This week we've finished the "pastry week" which was week 4, as there was so much to do in that topic that we haven't been able to fit it all in one week. This week saw us also producing some restaurant quality dishes and.. there was first bloody event in the kitchen...

Chocolate fondant (aka lava cake in the USA), yes I am a chocoholic, and even that I've never made that sweet treat myself. Well, that's about to change! I'm already thiking how to "spice it up" and use orange chocolate, salted caramel chocolate, coconut one and many more... Mmmm....

Chocolate fondant

Chocolate fondant aka Lava cake

Ok, so we haven't made our own puff pastry, but honestly now, which professional kitchen will make their own puff pastry from scratch - unless it's high end fine dining, 5* establishment or a patisserie... huh? So yes, we did have shop bought puff, but there's nothing wrong with that! Pastry cream was made from scratch (which I already made on few occasions, for example when making Polish kremowka). So... thin puff pastry sheets, with pastry cream and fresh raspberries. Delicious!

Millefeuille of raspberries and pastry cream

Crème brûlée...

The chef's training at the JustCooking is in full swing. Can't really describe how much I'm enjoying it all and what;'s more - how much I'm learning! I have to admit that even though I love crème brûlée, I've never made it myself, from scratch. Those few times I ate it was always in France, in either a bistro or some restaurant - loved it every time!
I was so happy that crème brûlée will be one of the desserts that we'll get to make during week 4, which was concentrated on pastry. As it turned out it's not so difficult as one might think! There are few crucial moments you have to be careful with, so you will end up with beautiful, creamy custard rather than sweet version of scrambled eggs ;)
If you like custard, even more - if you like crème brûlée, do try to make it yourself. You'll be surprised how straight forward the process is and how delicious the result is! As to the satisfaction which gives, first the tapping of that caramelized sugar, then cracking it and getting into the velvety inside... Well, you'll have to find out for yourself :)

creme brulee

"Crème brûlée also known as burnt cream, crema catalana, or Trinity cream is a dessert consisting of a rich custard base topped with a contrasting layer of hard caramel. It is normally served at room temperature. The custard base is traditionally flavored with vanilla, but can have a variety of other flavorings." - by

creme brulee

How to make it...

Becoming a chef - week 4...

The time is flying, already end of week 4 and almost half way through my chef's training. Things are getting serious now ;) We've finished with kind of general cooking, knife skills, making stocks and sauce bases, we're now into restaurant dishes and how to make them during busy service.

Parmesan sable biscuits with crushed chickpeas

Chef Mark showing us how it's done :)

The week started with canapes and general finger food, party food. Some were more refined - appropriate for a wedding reception, banquet; and some were perfect for a birthday party or more informal occasion. Who knew there might be so much flavour and different textures in one, single bite!

Grapefruit & coconut scones with oats...

Inspired by the Week 3 of my chef's training, which was very much so concentrated on breakfast, I decided to make some scones, but not any normal one, with a twist! I love grapefruit, but I will rarely eat it, don't ask me why?! Just a thought of slicing it in half and eating with a spoon, sometimes with a small sprinkle of sugar, don't know why that doesn't appeal to me at all... but put it in a fruit salad, fruit jelly or... scones??? Yes!

grapefruit and coconut scones

So why coconut you may ask... Well, when making scones you use milk or buttermilk or yogurt, and as I'm on a dairy free diet I had only coconut soya yogurt in my fridge. Grapefruits, coconuts, and there was me thinking tropics! So I decided to play with that mix of flavours even more and add a bit of coconut into the dough and on the top. Result - fantastic! Crumbly, slightly moist scones with zingy grapefruit and that calming, cooling coconut. Simply delicious :)

grapefruit and coconut scones

TIP How To Segment the Grapefruit: 
Slice off the bottom and top of the grapefruit and use a sharp knife to cut away the peel and white pith. Follow the line between the pith and the fruit "flesh" to have nice and clean cut, follow the natural curve of the fruit. Slice in between the white skin segments to release the wedges. There you have it - grapefruit fillets :)

How to make it...

Becoming a chef - week 3...

Get ready for even more photos than from Week 2... I really thought that we can't possibly do any more, than what we've done during the previous week, but it turned out that we can, and we did! It was a week of "all day breakfast", stocks and some seriously good food!

A selection of Gourmet open sandwiches

Week 3 was all about breakfast, differences between cooked breakfast, continental one and traditional Irish. I have to admit that out of the whole range that we've prepared, it would be really hard to pick my favourite one. Yes, I'm know to be partial to cooked, usually sweet (me an my sugar addiction...) breakfast, but having two little ones means that I very rarely can enjoy a cooked, still warm(!) treat in the mornings, so it was to my absolute delight and joy, to be able to sample breakfasts all day long, 3 days in a row - cooked, cold, sweet and savory! Lucky me :D

Mise en place - all set and ready for sandwich assembly

Becoming a chef - week 2...

Christmas break has finished, it's New Year and it was back to school for me. I felt like I'm a teenager again, going back to a class room, after that long Christmas break ;)
I might have felt like a teenager, but this time round I was really looking forward to going back to school and learning, learning how to become a chef! JustCooking here I come (and 5 other brave souls, who have a real passion for food).

Bruschetta of tomatoes, black olives, basil and rocket

Week 2 was all about Bistro & Gastro Pub food. Something not too complicated, definitely a comfort kind of food. Nice, big flavours - honest cooking - but still a lot to it!
If you think that your next door pub grub is plain and simple and everyone can get it right - think again. How many times did you have that "not so nice" lunch or dinner in a pub, or even in a small bistro cafe? I know it happened to me on too many occasions. Usually everything looks so good and delicious on the menu, unfortunately it's not always the case when you get that plate of food.

Gourmet beef burger with buttermilk onion rings, bacon, twice fried chips and salad

Light chocolate cake...

We had a little celebration recently - my little girl turned 4 :) and when your little girl asks you for a chocolate sparkly cake with sprinkles - you deliver!
Sparkly sprinkles were the easiest part, as I always have a lot of different sprinkles at home, and seeing as it was just after Christmas I had little, silver balls in my cupboard, which were perfect for the occasion! Now, the chocolate cake part... I've made chocolate cake good few times and I have few checked and trusted recipes, but... but I wanted to try something different and I wanted a light chocolate cake, which would still have that deep chocolaty flavour, but with less dense texture...

After some look through the Internet, BBC website in particular, I've found what I was looking for - chocolate cake by Mary Berry. Who else will I trust with that all important birthday cake, if not HER!? I've adapted her recipe slightly to my own, personal needs - I baked it as one whole cake, instead of baking it as two small round cakes, which you sandwich and then decorate with a frosting. But I still had to make it look special...

Baby E loves chocolate, and I mean she really LOVES it! So why not make it look better by decorating it with melted white chocolate instead of milk or dark one? White chocolate created a perfect background for my silver sprinkles, and made a pretty pattern on the cake, which was shaped that way by one of my bound cake tins. "Proof is in the pudding" as they say - and it turned out to be a hit with the birthday girl. Cake disappeared within 2 days! And I had literally only 3 small slices of it... ;)

How to make it...

The new beginning - becoming a chef...

Yes. You got that title right! It turned out that dreams DO come true, sometimes when we least expect it, when we've lost all our hopes and think that it's behind us, and we will never get the opportunity, the time, nor money to realize some of our dreams or plans.

Well, it turned out that I got that chance! At this stage of my life, being over 30 years old with 2 small kids, I really have never thought that I might get a chance, might get a go at becoming a professional chef. Well, you better watch out what you're asking for, as you might get exactly that! ;)