Monday, February 28, 2011

Salmon Yakatori

The Salmon of Knowledge
So this is my first proper cooking after finishing the course. I spent a good week eating mostly vegetables and drinking plenty of water. Then my wonderful friend Kate bought me a flight to Madrid for my birthday, so off I went to relax and soak up this beautiful city with it's wonderful art, architecture and tapas! The culinary highlight of the trip was a visit to The Mercado de San Miquel just off Calle Mayor. If you are ever in Madrid I urge you to check it out. It's housed in the old fish market. Under the ornate metal arches are housed vendors of every kind. You can stroll around collecting small dishes from an array of delectable treats. Everything from caviar, Spanish cheeses and ham, to churros and fantastical chocolates. There are great wines and prosecco for sale by the glass. I could have spent all day there, gently grazing. The best thing about Spain is the portions - allowing you to tailor your meals to just how hungry you're feeling - not a bad idea?

Back to the point in question. After completing my course I was hoping that all my new skills would transfer to my kitchen - with it's significantly more humble set up than the spacious Cooks Academy. This salmon yakitori was delicious when I prepared it during the course. Could I recreate at at home. The answer was a resounding yes - phew well that's money well spent so!

4 Salmon fillets - skin removed
Sunflower Oil
100 ml Soy Sauce
200 ml of sherry (Sake if you have it)
2 tbsp of caster sugar
1 tbsp Mirin (or red wine vinegar)
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 red chili finely sliced
1/2 cucumber - julienned
2 carrots - julienned
Coriander finely sliced

  • Mix together the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Pop in your salmon fillets then refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight if you're highly organised.
  • In a large bowl place your cucumber and carrots. Then combine the other ingredients for the salad dressing. Pour over and set aside for 20 minutes before serving.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large non stick pan. Remove the fillets from the marinade and pat them dry on some kitchen towel. Keep the marinade liquid.
  • Fry your fillets for around 4 minutes on each side - time is dependant on the thickness of your fish. Don't forget to cook the presentation side first as this always looks prettier!
  • While the fish is cooking - add in the marinade liquid - this reduces down pretty quickly.
  • Stir the chopped coriander through the salad before serving.
  • On your plate - put a small mound of the pickled salad. Top this with the cooked salmon and then spoon some of the reduction of the salmon fillet. Garnish with a sprig of coriander or some fried ginger.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Cooks Academy Week 4

It's the final countdown!

General School Shots - I'll miss this place

So this is the last post for this series. Can't believe it's the last week, though to tell you the truth I'm knackered and judging on today the rest of the class are pretty tired too. I won't start into my conclusions and summaries until the end of the week.

Today we made ice-cream in the manual method, even though there were a few ice cream machines on hand too. I'll see how it came out tomorrow. The rich chocolate ice-cream we made was just that - cream, sugar syrup, chocolate and some eggs! Licking the spoon was amazing, frozen it will be divine I'm sure. So any doubts about the fat content of ice-cream is long gone

We prepared a lemon tart, my pastry was a little dry and crumbly, must be brave and add more water. I'd even practised over the weekend, practice pastry! Didn't bake the case blind for long enough so it was a little soggy - all good constructive criticism.

This dish could prove to be 'very important'

Steak with Bearnaise sauce was up next, sauce Bearnaise requires plenty of whisking. The steaks meanwhile were cooked to perfection by my pattern and they were delicious - score! Though I forgot to add the chopped tarragon to the finished sauce. You can never read the recipe too many times it seems.

We got to sample the pork and chicken terrine that was made on Friday over lunch as well - now I can say I'm a fan of terrine, really nice recipe spiked with bright pistachios. 

I called the afternoon demo - Masterchef afternoon - as two of the contestants favourite desserts were up, Chocolate fondants and Tarte Tatin. Chocolate fondants should have a slightly gooey centre and be served straight away. Tarte Tatin comes with serious burns potential due to the high volume of liquid hot caramel you'll be throwing around. You have been warned! 

We were also shown how to bone, butterfly and stuff a leg of lamb, and prepare a salsa verde to serve with it.


The day of roasts. Now you know how a roast Sunday lunch with your parents is the best lunch ever. Well the second best lunch ever is 6 different roasts with your Cooks Academy class mates! We all prepared different roasts and sides today. Racks of lamb, rack of pork, lamb shanks, roast beef on the bone and we made moussaka (not too sure how that fits in?) There was also tarte tatin and thin apple tarts.
This disappeared fairly speedily
Every meat was also served with appropriate sides and a few big bowls of roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings and gravy. I was in heaven. The meat was great quality and all very well cooked - aren't we all getting very accomplished.

I did manage to burn my first ever bechamel sauce - very embarrassing! I've made it many is the time before.
Thin Apple Tart

The afternoon lecture was from a butcher with over 50 years experience. He brought in an entire half pig and showed us the various cuts and demonstrated some of the most effortless and impressive knife skills I've ever seen. I learned a lot about how animals are raised, slaughtered, bred and processed. I didn't know that every carcass leaving the slaughterhouse has to be inspected and approved by a veterinary surgeon.

WE learnt some very important fundamentals on how the animal is treated prior, during and after slaughter relates to the quality and tenderness of the meat. You'll be pleased to hear that a happy relaxed pig will make for more tender meat!

When the entire pig had been divided up - there was very little waste. Skin and some big bones. In all there were four and a half trays of meat to one and a half trays of 'waste'. When the cuts of meat are being made there are small bits of meat (maybe the size of a small fist) that don't get used up - these bits of meat would go into sausages along with a lot of meat from the fore shoulder, not scrapings from the floor!

He did tell us that all pork in Ireland is raised indoor (the vast majority of it) which I didn't realise, as well as most chicken too. Not sure where I thought they were hanging out..... hmmmm that's embarrassing too! 

I'd highly recommend attending a butchers demo like this as you'll really get an appreciation for the different cuts and techniques used, it's an incredible skill. I know I'm more determined to use some different cuts of meat in the future and to think about whereabouts they come from can determine how they are to be cooked. I'm loosing the power to articulate things now because I'm tired - will try to add more on the butchery section later!

All in a mornings work
Sole (flat fish) to be filleting. Now I found this easier than the round fish in week 1 - maybe because I'm more confident. The bones are found in a very definite area in the centre of the fish.

Crispy Sole was prepared by dipping in egg then breadcrumbs and lightly frying. These were beautiful served alongside some minty pea puree - a definite for the future. Though you get surprisingly little meat from a big flat fish.

Seared tuna and avocado salsa was a tasty dish, love avocados, love tuna - enough said.
Fresh and Healthy - will make this again

Also made in the class were tarte with pate sucre (very hard apparently) rhubarb meringue and more that I've forgotten but eaten!

First thing this morning we also had to make our pastry for Fridays exam - and I'm nervous! Haven't taken any exams in years - I'm likening it to stage fright, which I do get!

The afternoon saw us cover tempura batter, squid and rocket salad, calamari and finally an entire lobster - wow! It was a first for me - very tasty still not beating my Galway Crab Claws though! Now home to study for tomorrows theory test - I think if we fail this then we haven't been listening much - all common sense questions I hope.

Was feeling pretty sick and rotten today - but came in because we had our theory exam. Cooked chowder, made bread, and practised our fish filleting. Had a bit of a feeling sorry for myself break down - handled very well by my partner and tutor - who sat me down and made me tea! Sorry guys  and thanks much appreciated.

Had a food costing lecture which was invaluable to anyone starting into a food business, including formulas to calculate what to charge for your product.

Afternoon was our theory exam - a little harder than I had expected. Included theory, health and safety, ingredient recognition and menu planning.

Home to bed

Practical Exam day. We had to prepare lemon tart and sea bass with beurre blanc, roasted potatoes, carrots and spinach. I bet any professional are laughing at this now. Proved a pretty busy morning for me - though thankfully avoided any major catastrophes. I did spill some of my tart as I put it in the oven - but I got a slice out for presentation ok. Made me think a lot about working as a professional and the pressures that kitchen staff must be under. PRESSURE!! I held up fine though - thank god I didn't have to do this yesterday.
Anyone for Sea Bass and Beurre Blanc?
By lunchtime I was glad to be finished. We all ate our sea bass and swore never to make lemon tart again!
Valentine Themed Presentation

There was a presentation with glasses of prosecco. We all received our certs - of varying levels - distinction, merit and pass! I won't tell you what I got - you'll just have to guess. With that we said our good byes to our tutors and went off for a few well deserved pints.

Somehow I feel it's a bit too soon to write  conclusion to the course, I feel a little too close to it to stand back and anaylse my experiences. There is no doubt I learned a hell of a lot of skills, and picked up heaps of valuable advice on all subjects that we covered. Always rest your meat - wrap fresh herbs in kitchen towel and put in tupperware in the fridge - how to fold a meringue without breaking it - I could go on and on.

I have an extensive shopping list of things I need to buy for my kitchen (prob not a good thing) I will confidently tackle fish, shell fish and sauce unlike before. I have cooked far more desserts than I have in the last 3 years, I'll confidently take on any kind of sweets from now on.

I'm pretty happy with the photos that I've taken of the food we've produced, though I at no time wanted to get in any ones way and impare their enjoyment of the course, so for those reasons there's maybe a photo or two less than I would have wanted.

Over and out!!! 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Cooks Academy Week 3

Have I got your attention yet - mmm I'm yummy!
Up bright and early an continuing on with the Italian theme again mostly. Pea Risotto, Chorizo and Chickpea and Apple Tarte Normande, ok so that makes it more European Day then I guess. My lack of partner today saw me tackle the whole menu alone.

Practising my mise en place. You know on TV cookery shows when the chef says 'I'll just add some finely diced onion' and promptly tips a small glass bowl full of perfectly diced onion into his pan. I always thought this was just for TV shows. Apparently not. This is what you do if you're a super organised chef - like myself of course. Yup, even two cloves are lovingly placed in their own little tiny receptacle - cute.

Now this is super helpful - if you have a little assistant/elf/kitchen hobbit. Lacking any of these and even a human cooking partner; I set about establishing a veritable colony of little bowls filled with all my ingredients.

The words 'must try harder' were invented for this photo
Now I can cook. The morning passed in a super efficient manner, until I got to making my risotto. Glancing over my shoulder I noticed that nobody else was even cooking anymore - whoops. Oh well and I wasn't even the only one cooking solo today. Ah well nothing to do but keep going. So one I went stirring and stirring risotto, stir stir stir all alone whhhhhhy - oww my arm.

The big mistake I made with the risotto was to add stock a little too early before all the liquid had been absorbed. The end result wasn't too pretty but what risotto is. It was delicious, and there is some fresh mint in there too - a nice subtle amount with the peas and Parmesan - nice.

Chorizo Soup
The tarte Normande was amazing, anything involving pastry and apples is a winner in my book. Alan was the first to reply to my free cake tweet. So the lucky guy had some cake delivered to his place of work in Temple Bar.

Chorizo soup was nice I might leave the lid off for a little longer next time to thicken up a bit more, I was otherwise preoccupied with the other dishes to pay it too much attention - many apologies pot of soup!

I'm typing up Tuesday antics on Wednesday morning with the last slice of Apple Normande for breakfast  - it's grand it has apples in it! I also awoke to find that all my nice white chef smocks have been turned pink by a rouge sock - I'll never get work in a Michelin star restaurant in these.

Lamb Madras
Yesterday was Indian Day, which saw us produce an array of delicious and authentic (with some deviation towards the Middle East) We prepared Lamb Masala and lamb koftas. Along with these we also made naan breads spiked with onion seeds.

Yumbo dessert
For dessert we prepared cardamon cream pots.  A lovely subtle and light (ish) dessert ideal served with fruit. It was a chance to use some gelatin for the first time - very easy a good trick to have up your sleeve allowing you to turn many delicious liquids into impressive and tasty desserts.

The lamb koftas were spicy and full of flavour, and ideal starter, for the barbeque or smaller for canapes.

The afternoon demo was jam packed. Our pastry expert showed use some sugar boiling techniques and then produced an amazing and sparkling array of spun sugar cages, nests and spirals. To be tried at home with extreme caution due to very high temperatures of the sugar/caramel mix and the fact that you need to kind of throw it around the place. Utensils to be well oiled before starting!

A whole salmon was poached and prepared, with eyes and scales recreated from various other food items. It looked  bit creepy, but I can imagine on the centre of a  large buffet it would look pretty impressive.

We had a demo on how best to prepare and cook scallops - quickly and at a high heat. They were made into a tasty linguine with pancetta, spinach and rosemary butter mmmmmmm.

Finally an large bowl of hummus was prepared, illustrating my need for a food processor once again (hint hint Internet philanthropists!) One of the best recipes I've tasted, nice and spicy a good amount of lemon and lots of tahini. About to be late now for Wednesdays sushi workshop, so 'd better run off in my pink smocks.


Looking at today on the timetable made me feel a bit quesy. Sushi workshop, then cheese tasting, followed by canape making and a wine tasting evening. That's a lot of food to be putting in one stomach - oh and wine.

Sushi to start. The rice seems to be a  key part in how your sushi will work or not. Japanese sushi chefs can train for up to 16 years. The wash must be washed many times, until the water runs clear (or near to clear) Then the rice must be put in cold water before being brought to the boil, then boiled for 15 mins, then sits for 15 minutes. Then covered in rice vinegar and sugar solution, spread on a tray and fanned! la de dah miss sushi rice!

Now a careful and colourful assembly of fillings was prepared - after a quick demo on riling techniques we were a bit pushed for time. I still managed to make a few nori rolls, sashimi and sushi balls. It's a shame that the morning was a bit rushed, but that's the nature of the game. I will def be making sushi again, lots of fun and above all delicious.

Cheese Montage
The morning demo was then from Kevin Sheridan from Sheridans cheese. He explained the broad cheese making processes and main types of cheese. How various factors influence the finished cheese, such as cultures, temperature, milk type, cutting, turning, storing, heat, size, the list goes on and on!

He brought in a nice range  of cheeses for us to taste,  some Irish traditional like Gubeen, Cashel Blue and a few more recent additions to the Irish cheese circuit (agh I've forgotten their names - will look at my notes) a lovely young, soft goats cheese, and a smaller more mature goats cheese as well as an amazing cheese very like Comte. Comte is the biggest selling cheese in France! There was also the most divine French Camembert.

He made the case for artisan farmers and producers clear in a succinct statement. Artisan suppliers foremost priority is taste, supermarkets foremost priority is profit. Nothing new there but I just thought it summed it up well. The manner in which supermarkets sell and display cheese is harmful to the taste, cheese is essentially very ugly really. Supermarkets attempt to make this product more attractive and in the process homogenise the taste appearance and personality of the cheese. This is a whole other argument - so this is only a small mention of a huge overall point!

After lunch it was full steam into canape preparation for the evening. I think I might have been tasted out as I was finding it very hard to get excited about our canapes - or make some taste decisions. Maybe my palette was a little overwhelmed.
Mini Lemon Tarts

With Our Sushi Combined

The evenings wine tasting was great, everyone in the class invited along a friend. We tasted a variety of red and white wines and had our canapes to accompany various wines. Ok I know I should write more about his but I'm tired - it was fun! There were lots of different canapes but my camera ran out of batteries - damn!

Quick Chorizo Pasta
Ok so we're all a little tired after yesterdays hectic schedule and possibly also the many wines! Luckily the timetable for this morning was made up with this in mind. Nothing too taxing.

First we made up mayonnaise - add the oil slowly slowly - from the tip of a fork and you'll be alright - seems to be the major factor in success. I'm feel like I'm stuck in second gear so no chance I'll be rushing. One of the really interesting things about looking at every ones finished products is how different they are. We all followed the same recipe, used the same ingredients and equipment. The finished mayos were greatly varying in consistency. It was a point that our tutor made the day before that even the most highly trained chefs will make the same dish differently. We're like little chef snowflakes - perfectly unique (poetic!)

Also prepared was a delicious salad of Cashel blue cheese with honeyed pecans, watercress and pear - loved it. Linguine with chorizo, rocket and Parmesan - didn't sound the best on paper, but was light and fresh despite the heavy ingredients. Other dishes made included Spaghetti Carbonara (my all time favourite pasta dish) Chestnut and Carrot cannelloni (amazing) Monkfish putanesca, spicy aubergine parpadelle and a range of salads, including Ceasar, chicken  and roasted veg pesto and an spicy horseradish coleslaw. A good feed for all.
Very yummy salad

The afternoon saw our tutor making beef Wellington, moule marinere, potatoes with thyme and tallegio, creme brulle and chicken Ballentine. A delicious and impressive demonstration of multi-tasking and blowtorches, that'll stop you falling asleep!
Muelle Marinere

Afternoon Demo Foods
That's it I'm hiding away form the crazy weather in my apartment practising my wine tasting skills for the night.

There was cooking alright - look at the pretty pictures!
Romantic Themed Raspberry Creme Brullee

Salmon Yakatori - very very nice dish

Chicken Balentine Tastes better than this photo

Friday, February 4, 2011

Raspberry Creme Brullee

Irish Foodies Cookalong
Love, love, love
So long I have tried and failed to participate in an Irish Foodies cookalong. Today I have succeeded in participating, though it may be conceived as cheating, I'll submit it anyway. Our best previous attempt was me and Lola trying to enter us the Christmas cookalaong. Some mince pies were made - then stew went in the oven whilst we got pretty drunk, then turned the oven off and went to the pub - total cookalong fail.

So today I made these creme brullees - in Cooks Academy I'll admit so that's possibly where the cheating element comes in. I did however match them with nice romantic napkins and seasonally inappropriate raspberries. At least I'm not down the pub already!!