- Food & Drink
It’s week 6 and that means exams. On Friday we’ll be put through our paces in the herb and salad leaf recognition round followed by a cooking techniques obstacle course. Consequently, the kitchens are chaos. Everyone is trying to fit in last minute technique practice on top of their designated recipes and daily duties.
Popular techniques to work on include omelette making, egg frying and poaching (but oddly, not scrambling), orange segmenting, chicken jointing, crab picking and piping bag manufacture. On Monday I added an omelette to my list, as they’re very strict about how omelettes should be made. It requires a smoking hot frying pan, clarified butter, 2 eggs, 1 tbsp milk, seasoning and 30 seconds. It’s also important not to stick your elbows out everywhere while you’re doing it.
I managed a credible omelette, which may’ve been helped down the deliciousness path by me adding cream rather than milk to it. My teacher did suggest I try looking a bit more focussed while I’m doing it – an omelette maker’s face is no place for dreaminess, particularly in an exam room and definitely not at breakfast.
Yet again I was on white bread duty, which gave me a chance to practice my bread rolls and the 5 strand plait. The rolls are a doddle ever since Rory (O’Connell, Darina’s brother and a God amongst students here) showed me how to squish and lift them into rounds. But the 5 strand plait involves weaving, maths and memory. My teacher had to stand next to me droning 2 over 3, 5 over 2, 1 over 3 while I plaited the entire loaf. My mind refused to grip hold of the pattern and without her instructions I’d have been left with limp strands of dough and no way to lace them together.
And after all that effort, I let the loaf over rise. If you look at the picture you’ll see it has a wrinkly, leathery pattern all over it, which is where it rose too much and collapsed in on itself, the gluten broken and shattered by too much exercise.
I could’ve knocked it back and let it rise again, hoping for the best, but instead I phlegmatically chucked it in the oven and relied on no one wanting bread with lunch anyway. They didn’t and although the bread was heavy and dense, it was edible. In other words, a triumph (given the situation).
The actual dishes I was supposed to make were seafood starter plates, mayonnaise and carrot cake. They were a stroll in a funfair compared to the trial by omelette and bread strand that preceded them. The carrot cake was especially easy: you take all the dry ingredients and all the wet ingredients, slam them together, pour into a tin and bake. No bother.
But as it cooled, I looked at the icing ingredients. Then I looked at the cake. And I thought: “That will be a very thin layer of cream cheese frosting.” And I didn’t like that thought at all. The only reason carrot cake exists is as an edible plate for cream cheese frosting. No one would touch carrot cake if it came without the icing. It tastes misleadingly healthy and that’s a bad trait in a cake.
So I made 1 and 1/2 times the recipe, which was just about enough icing to thickly cover the top of the cake, but barely enough to satisfy my hunger for cream cheese frosting. My teacher tried the cake and said: “Delicious.” Then she squinted at it and said: “That looks like a lot of icing.” I attempted to look innocent, but I’m not sure she was fooled.
I rounded the morning off by murdering shellfish in a hot pan, apart from the oyster and the sea urchin. Those I ripped apart while they were still alive. Being at the top of the food chain has it’s benefits sometimes, especially when you’re armed with an oyster shucking knife and a teaspoon.