Monday, 2 April 2007

Five Weeks In The Larder

No, not literally. It's been a few weeks since I posted something about my activities in college, but that's not because they've been locking me up in the stock cupboard.

Quite the opposite, in fact. My Fine Dining rotation was certainly a challenging and refreshing change in the early days, but as the weeks went on I began to feel a little less stimulated. To be perfectly honest, the novelty factor started to wear off. But when you're involved in a constantly changing work routine I guess it's inevitable there will be peaks and troughs.

Now I've moved on to Larder rotation, where I've just finished week three of a five-week stint (hence the title).
Here's one I made myself earlier
It's a huge difference being on this rotation now I'm in the third year, because here - and only here - are we left with the great responsibility of designing the dishes ourselves. For Larder, that means canapés and cold starters and a wealth of possibilities for inventiveness. What's more, my lecturer in Larder rotation, Mr. Cottam, has been really supportive of me and let the reins out a bit, allowing me to be quite experimental in conjuring up new and interesting combinations. So away from the hustle and bustle of the hot kitchens and finally given the opportunity to put my creative instincts into practice, I soon found my mojo again. These are canapés I designed on a daily basis during the course of Larder week three, prepared with my own hands and served to lunch guests at our public fine dining restaurant The Escoffier Room. I'm feeling pretty chuffed. Click on individual photos to enlarge.

Seared kangaroo loin brushed
with raspberry vinegar
syrup, sprinkled with
crushed pink peppercorns

A quartet: confit plum tomato,
shredded sun-blush and sliced
yellow cherry tomato crusted with yakajirri bush tomato

Carpet clam with shallots
and pickled garlic, garnished
with chive tips and
red pepper paysanne

Hibiscus jelly with its own leaf
in the centre, finished with its own foam

Medjool date stuffed with
goat's cheese, garnished with
micro cresses

Solidified chicken and lemon consommé with lemon myrtle

Seared drunken salmon
(cured for 48 hours with Stoke's ginger wine), with wild rocket, frissé and green ginger

My first tray
of assorted canapés
Smoked eel with lemongrass
creamed horseradish,
carrot and beetroot brunoise
and thyme garnish
Carpaccio of yellow-fin tuna
with passion fruit seeds
Juniper and star anise smoked
venison with a rhubarb compote
and julienne of orange zest
Hibiscus ice cube
in shot glass Margarita-style
with mint sugar and leaf

Swordfish sushi roll
with mirin-marinated
cucumber and red pepper

Honey-bound toasted pumpkin
and black sesame seeds between
goat's cheese melba toasts

Asparagus tip wrapped in
Dijon-brushed prosciutto with
cream cheese and chives

Wasabi and soy sauce are traditional accompaniments for sushi. Did I just say "traditional"?

Trying to achieve an artistic appearance as well as a great taste
But there's always one that got away and here's mine. My wild card of 'chilli-chocolate dipped physalis with cracked black peppercorns' was deemed to be too bold a statement for our clientele - the majority of whom are over 60.

I'll admit it may have been pushing the boat out a bit too far, but I still think it looked great and tasted as good as it looked.

Still, there's always another time and place. I'm sure this one will see the light of day again, even if it has to wait a while longer. You can't win 'em all!


ros said...

Trig, almost all of those look totally amazing. I have a feeling that seared drunken salmon is going to appear in a larger form on my dinner plate one day - what a great idea to cure it in ginger wine!

The chocolate dipped physalis looks very pretty. Unfortunately I can't imagine what it tastes like (never had physalis) but I'm sure it was really good.

Admittedly there are one or two that I don't really find immediately appealing but that's possibly because I haven't ever tried anything like them. I'm speaking about the solidified consommé and the hibiscus jelly with foam. I'd be very happy to be converted though.

Chennette said...

very nice array of dishes - I only recently discovered the physalis. They use it here in Barbados as a garnish and I'd never seen it before ever. I haven't actually tried it, as the first time, I didn't even think of it as real - what should it taste like?

Schmoof said...

Hey - I followed a link from Ros' blog page and got here - those canapes look amazing. I absolutely LOVE smoked eel. Drooling on my keyboard and its not even 11am!

Trig said...

Ros - The idea for the solidified consommé came at the last minute when I was offered a container of cold consommé by another student from the fine dining rotation.

When made with a good stock and proper clarification process, a consommé naturally solidifies due to the gelatinous content. I simply heated it through, added some lemon zest and juice and some extra gelatin and let it set in the fridge. To be honest I knew it wasn't the kind of thing that would enthuse everyone, but I liked it and really enjoyed seeing other peoples'reactions to it.

The hibiscus was given to me by some representatives of a Mexican food company who gave us a live demonstration cooking with some iconic Mexican ingredients. It came in the form of the dried leaves, which I infused into boiling water and then sweetened the extract with honey. Hibiscus has quite a mild yet incerdibly refreshing taste as a cold drink, but I wanted to take that one step further. That's where the idea for the jelly and ice cube came in. Both were very successful with the customers, although I got word back that some had tried to bite into the ice cube instead of allowing it to melt in their mouth.

Chennette - Physalis tastes almost like a sweet, sticky, tangy tomato. They're not to everyone's taste, but I really like them.

Schmoof - Cheers! I would feel bad about being responsible for any keyboard malfunctions you may experience lol

Richard Leader said...

These look terrific Aidan - I'm jealous of your skills!
I think one of the problems with canapes is knowing what to serve them on - they need something stable to hold, so too many of them include pastry or bread. You've come-up with some neat alternatives!

Pille said...

Lots of lovely dishes there, Trig!
I'm sorry to hear that your physalis didn't make it. I had loads of those (well, plain chocolate dipped physalis) on my recent trip to Italy - my favourite cafe served them. I can definitely 'vision' them with a chilly chocolate, too..

S said...

Trig - you are SO getting your class together for my hypothetical dream wedding. These look fab :D

I also reckon the physalis would've worked a treat - fruit, salt and pepper is a popular Sri Lankan/South Indian combination.


Trig said...

Richard - thanks. I always try to think of different approaches to food.

Pille - I thought the physalis was good, but can you imagine many over-60s munching into these? College was probably right.

S - Maybe I've been spending too much time with Sri Lankans recently and some of it has rubbed off on me. I'll remember the bit about fruit, salt and pepper now you've told me. I'm available for weddings, funerals and bar mitzvahs - if the price is right.

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