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!

Selection of hot canapes: mini salmon and dill puffs, crostini topped with black pudding & apple sauce, camembert and red onion marmalade

Selection of cold canapes: goats cheese, rocket and red onion wraps, crostini with smoked salmon, Parmesan sable biscuits with crushed chickpeas, mini prawn cocktails, crisp tortilla cups with prawns and mango

My favourite piece - Parmesan sable biscuit! Simple revelation. So easy to make from scratch, flavoured with chilli and pepper, so versatile. I can already think of at least 5 different toppings for that cute, little, crumbly disc :) On this occasion it was topped with crushed chickpeas - I'm a big fan of hummus, so I had to really restrain myself from not eating the whole lot!

Crushed chickpeas

Mini prawn cocktail?!?! YES please! Marie Rose dressing, topped with a little bread stick. Simplicity sometimes is the best thing :)

Mini prawn cocktail

You know those tortilla wraps? I'm sure you do, you can get them in literally each and every shop selling food. So, imagine spreading a bit of cream cheese on it (can be flavoured with dill, parsley etc.), now add some shredded grilled chicken breast, or ham slices, sliced cucumber - whatever you fancy! - add some kind of "bite" like red onion marmalade, chutney, crushed black pepper, the likes. Roll it tightly in a cling film, place in the fridge for about an hour, take out and slice. What do you have... A perfect little canape! Again, so versatile and endless possibilities of ingredients :)

All canapes and finger food

Day two started with mastering the choux pastry. It might be only few ingredients mixed together, simple and straight forward one may say, but... Let me tell you it's NOT that easy! So many things can go wrong, that freakin thing is so temperamental, like it has a mind (and mood) of its own! But fear not, we have a good teacher here :) and we got it in the end!
I absolutely adore those little puffs of pastry - especially when filled with cream and topped with chocolate.... Just give me few profiteroles, melted dark chocolate so I can dip them into it, strong, black coffee and I'm in heaven.

Mastering the choux pastry

Profiteroles and eclairs with Baileys cream and various chocolate decorations.

Day two of our pastry training concentrated exactly on that - pastry. We've made traditional shortcrust (which we used to make quiche) and sweet shortcrust (used for baking things like apple pie). Next, it was sweet pastry and it was a revelation! Not the pastry itself (which is very simmilar in the list of ingredients as well as the method to my dad's cookie dough), but the fillings! OMG!

Shortcrust pastry and sweet shortcrust pastry

Various mini quiches 

First little tart was molten chocolate tart, with some fresh raspberries at the bottom. Those raspberries made that dessert for me! I love sweet things, cakes, desserts of each shape and form, but if not for those tangy fruit it would be too sweet, too rich (yes, I know, but there is a thing like "too sweet"...). The tart was absolutely amazing! Set, but after cutting through it, the center was still oozing, still a bit liquid - perfection! Second mini tart was traditional lemon tart. I usually find all "lemony" desserts/bakes having that "fake" lemon taste, almost like cleaning product, but not this time! I'll be making a full size version of it myself, very soon!

Tuille biscuits

See those pretty, paper thin, weirdly bend biscuits? They're tuilles, and you need nerves from steel to make those little beauties. Nerves from steel and asbestos fingers! But they do make a dessert, they're adding a bit of finesse, lightness to the plate - not to mention that "snap" and taste!

Molten chocolate and raspberry mini tart

Hi, my name is Anna, and I'm a chocoholic. I admit, I can't resist it, I simply can't! I do have a sweet tooth, I actually have a full set of them! ;)

Molten chocolate and raspberry mini tart

Mini lemon tart with berry coulis

Last day of this week's training finished with spectacular Sticky toffee pudding, a dessert which I planned on making too many times before, well - I finally did it! And so devastated about not trying it before, so many years lost without that "sticky sweetness" in my life... Oh, I should probably also mentioned that we've served it with butterscotch sauce (I need more of this in my life!) and made from scratch vanilla ice-cream. OK, I do see a point now in buying an ice-cream machine for home. Yes, home made ice-cream ARE better, no argument there. And... they're very easy to make too!
We've also conquered a French classic - creme brulee - and managed not to end up with some scrambled eggs ;)

Sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce and homemade vanilla ice-cream

     - still 10, still intact (though felt the first real heat on them, when trying to make some shapes out of hot tuilles and when playing with quite hot caramel)

Tips & Tricks learned:
     - when making choux pastry, do not evaporate the water in the first stage of making it, as that will result in very greasy dough and your profiteroles won't rise as they should be
     - it's good idea to pre-cook your apples for the apple pie, it will allow you to control the sweetness and you'll evaporate some of that liquid which may prevent the soggy bottom ;)
     - general rule when making shortcrust pastry: you need twice the amount of flour to that of butter
     - when making quiche there's really no need to pre-bake the pastry case, but make sure you "dock it" (make little wholes in the bottom, using a fork)
     - your sticky toffee pudding can be easily reheated in the microwave, so don't be afraid to make more, there's not such thing as too much of sticky toffee pudding!
     - make caramel using only sugar, with very little addition of water, non if possible. Too much water will make the caramel very sticky, hence hard to work with. Also, don't stir the sugar when making caramel! The most you can do is to "swirl" the whole pan

Creme brulee

As one can't live on desserts alone (you could have fooled me there ;) ), we did some general cooking as well, to have something for lunch (if you asked me - I was perfectly happy to stick to that chocolate tart, or even a quiche! But not everyone has such a sweet tooth like me...).
On Tuesday (Monday was the finger food day, so we were nibbling all day long...) we made lasagna from scratch. Mornay sauce, rich beef filling, layers of pasta - can't go wrong with that one! Wednesday saw us making French classic - Croque Monsieur, and on Thursday we cooked the stew and served it with some baked potatoes.

Beef, root vegetables and red wine stew

You can read about my journey of becoming a professional chef HERE.

Croque monsieur

A question to you all: 
Would you like to see some recipes of the dishes made during my training? Get the exact ingredients and see how to make them yourself at home? Let me know! :)