09 June 2006

Summer in the kitchen

Chefette can happily announce that summer has officialy arrived in London this week. Hundreds of people have been cooking themselves to a bright shade of pink in Hyde Park over the past few days. And at school, Kitchens 2 and 3 have been getting really hot. Think swollen feet, pink face and sweaty hair hot. The Scotsman, bless him, has been touchingly concerned with our welfare, and keeps reminding us to drink lots of water.

Did a work experience evening at a stylish, well-known London restaurant the other day. (A rooftop establishment, with a spectacular view from the Thames -- hint, hint). Thought their food was very over styled, over clever, and over handled. Their 'tuna nicoise' starter consisted of a thin toasted strip of pita bread, on top of which was aligned, from left to right: a round disk of chargrilled tuna loin, a single quail's egg dipped in paprika, a tiny cluster of folded anchovies, a chunk of bright purple potato, a few lightly dressed snow peas, and something else I can't remember. How pretentious is that? I mean, why not just give us a normal nicoise salad with beautiful ingredients? But the team there were great to me, and it was good to experience another working kitchen. I did get to plate up a few dishes during service on the cold starter section and the dessert station. Also got some good experience opening oysters, thankfully without any nasty cuts and scrapes.

Loads going on at school of late. We've been doing shellfish this week, and I did pretty well with the scallops, less well at the crab. I've also learned how to cut the top off a bottle of champagne with a sword. Evidently it's a ceremonial thing, known as 'sabrage'. I've no idea if it will ever come in useful as a party trick, but I may try it on the husband one of these days just to show the old dog still has a few tricks up her sleeve (works with a knife also, not just a sword). As a new year's eve baby myself, I'm predisposed to believe that anything pertaining to champagne is probably good.

Best thing about today was my dessert. A rich and utterly mouthwatering raspberry creme brulee, with a thin, golden caramelized crust on top and a luciously soft set to the cream. The Scotsman couldn't taste very well since he had a cold, but his assistant pronounced it very good indeed. I was a little worried when the recipe said the ramekins would set in 20 minutes in a bain marie in the oven, and mine took an hour (!). But they were so good I ended up making a complete pig out of myself, finishing two individual portions of it. Made the cycle ride home in the heat a bit difficult I can tell you ...

We also had a cheese guy in for a demonstration, who fed us loads and loads. Around 20 different cheeses we tasted. A slightly odd fellow, but boy did he know amazing amounts about cheese. Indeed, had Got Religion on cheese. He kept sounding off with messianic zeal about how crazy the EU regulations are for prohibiting the sale of raw (unpasteurised) milk. And how it's practically a criminal offence to serve unripe cheese. Then he would lament how the British public -- who for generations have wanted only inexpensive cheese -- now had unsavably bad palates, and wouldn't know the good stuff if it bit them in the ankle. When I asked him about transporting cheese back on the train from Paris to London, he told me I could bring pretty much anything back without any concerns about hygiene, even if it is out of the fridge a good few hours. Can't really say I fully grasped his argument, but it was along the lines of 'good, artisan cheeses often have so much naturally occuring bacteria in them anyway, that there's no room for the food spoilage bacteria to develop'. If that means anything to you let me know!

Must dash shortly and get some dinner on the table. In the meantime, a humourous anecdote for you. One of those bizarre random London interactions with urban fauna. I was at the computer the other weekend and happened to glance outside the window. What did I see but one of the local fox population -- one that lives near the rubbish bins behind the parking lot of the apartment building next door --stretched out and sunning itself on the roof of the green soft-top sportscar that parks in space number 36. It had actually climbed up the car to get on top of the roof. How on earth it started doing that, I shall leave you all to ponder.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Having made cheese myself growing up on a farm when unpasterized milk soured, it is very important to let cheese ripen and to let the natural bacteria work in the cheese. To have good cheese we always let it sit at room temperature several hours or several days in the pantry. As you work with cheese more you will get a sense concerning this as when working pastry dough. Mom