After a beautiful Continental breakfast it was time for our first day in the Kitchen. Once the obligatory health and saftey talk was out the way, Jim explained how the course would be run. Each day we would learn techniques and recipes that would help elevate our home cooking to a higher level, with guidance on how to prepare things in advance to make dinner party hosting less stressful and also tips on restaurant style presentation – sounds good hey??
The first lesson was how to fillet a fish. This is something I have done a couple of times before, but never with much confidence. Generally when we buy whole fish, they get baked whole, either with a salt crust or en papillote.
Jim’s teaching method is to show you and explain and then for you to have a go, so very hands-on and I think the best way to learn.
We each had a seabass to tackle, and following Jim’s advice, we descaled, filleted, pin-boned our fish to get two lovely fillets, which we would cook for dinner that evening.
With the remainder of the fish, Jim showed us how to do a good basic fish stock to ensure maximum flavour. This was something I found very interesting as my stocks at home are always a bit lacking in the flavour department, but I’ll be giving it another go. The secret seems to be to reduce it twice as much as you think you should!
The next lesson was making some Ice Cream with Jim’s fool-proof method. He made it look so easy with his demonstration on Vanilla Ice Cream but I was sure my custard mix was going to turn out lumpy, and require lots of beating as usual!! Much to my suprise it didn’t, and within a few minutes we had got into teams of 3 and set to work on different flavours of Ice Cream. There was a Basil Ice Cream and a Mixed Berry one to be made to go with some planned desserts during the week and we opted for an unusal flavour of Black Pepper!
I loved how simple the recipe was and if it’s foolproof, well that’s just perfect for me!! (An Ice Cream Machine has now been added to my Amazon Christmas List!).
During this process, we also learnt about how to boost the natural flavours of the custard mixes with sugar and citric acid, so that once it was turned into an Ice Cream there would still be lots of flavour. Jim was always dishing out useful information, like flavours are 20% diminished in cold/frozen dishes, and we all felt we were learning so much.
With all this activity we had all worked up an appetite – fish stock and ice-cream anyone?? No, didn’t think so. Luckily for us, Jim’s assistant, the lovely Liz, had been busy preparing a fabulous lunch for us all.
|Lunch prepared by Liz, photo courtesy of David Bywater|
After a leisurely lunch, the afternoon session started with making mayonnaise; something i’ve wanted to try for ages but never plucked up the courage. Visions of Masterchef contestants failing always seem to come to my mind whenever I was struck with the urge. But with Jim’s expert tuition, we all managed to produce 4 batches of very good mayonnaise. One poor team were made to do it by hand just to prove that you don’t need all the fancy equipment (thank god it wasn’t me!!)
|Linda, Adele & David – the hard workers!|
The mayonnaise was destined for a Sauce Gribiche – a tartare style sauce with added bling! Perfect accompaniment for the Seabass fillets prepared earlier. So with the Mayonnaise ready Jim showed us a few knife skills to prepare the other ingredients for the sauce, in the obligatory cheffy 5mm dice. We prepared capers, gherkins, boiled egg, onions, lemos zest, chives, parsley and garlic paste and combined them with the mayonnaise to make our Sauce Gribiche.
We then had an afternoon break before heading back into the kitchen to be shown by Jim how to cook the Seabass fillets and plate the dish up in true bistro style. In small teams, we cooked and plated up our own main course of Pan Fried Sea Bass Fillets which had been cooked to perfection, with a crispy skin, served on bed of salad leaves and fried potatoes, with a light vinagrette dressing and the Sauce Gribiche.
It was a fresh and simple dish which tasted amazing and definitely something I would do at home. Over dinner, we all chatted about the day, and all the sous chefs were very impressed with how much we had learnt in a day and were full of enthusiasm for what was to come in the rest of the week.
We rounded off the day with a simple dessert of Strawberry Compote (just sugar and strawberries left to their own devices!) and the Basil Ice Cream we had prepared earlier. The combination was strange to some, but I loved it as it works really well together. Try it … you won’t be disappointed!
Afterwards we had the rest of the evening to chill out, and then it was off to bed at a reasonable time as we had an earlier start on Wednesday for the trip to Sarlat Market. I’ll be back soon with details on this and what fun we got up to on the afternoon!!