I'm studying the Grand Diplome at Cordon Bleu in London

Archive for February, 2012

Day 35 – Dover Sole and Sole Bon Femme – Wed 29th Feb

Today was the start of fish. Chef Eric took the demo.

He cooked 2 dishes: a grilled dover sole and sole bon femme, which is one of the dishes that could come up in the exam.

First, the dover sole. This was simply trimmed of fins, the roe removed and skinned. Then marinated in lemon, herbs and olive oil and grilled whole. Once cooked, the fillets were removed from the bone and served with a remoulade sauce, which is mayonnaise with anchovy, mustard, capers, gherkins, onion and parsley.

Next was sole bon femme. This is pretty similar to the chicken fricassée last week, in that both are in a mushroom cream sauce and have the same vegetable garnishes. The difference, of course, is that one is fish, the other is chicken and the stock is fish or chicken respectively.

The sole had to be cleaned and filleted and the fish bones and trimmings used to make the fish stock. Once made, the fish fillets were braised in the stock, with shallot and mushrooms and then the stock reduced to make the sauce.

The prac today was with chef Neil again! That’s 3 in a row and far too much time lost listening when we could have been cooking.

We were making the stuffed chicken breast. I’ve dismembered lots of chickens and made similar mousses, though with fish rather than chicken, in the past so this went pretty well. Tasted very good too. Even the tomato sauce, which tasted better the more butter I added.

Day 33 – Stuffed chicken and veal – Tues 28th Feb

Today’s demo was about stuffings for meat. But not bread based stuffings, but meat based. Chef Eric took the demo and chef Neil joined us to watch.

The 1st was chicken breast, flattened out and stuffed with a mousse of chicken thigh meat, egg white, cream and herbs. This was rolled into a sausage shape, poached and served with courgette spaghetti and a tomato butter sauce. Quite an interesting technique and it was all very tasty indeed.

Next was stuffed veal parcels. In this case the stuffing was made of minced veal, pork, pork fat, mushrooms and some breadcrumbs. This mix was spread on a veal escalope, rolled up and tied. It was browned on all sides, then braised and served with carrots sliced and cooked in a glaze.

Chef Neil again for the practical, making yesterday’s offal. We had to make the veal sweetbreads and the calves liver.

We spent about 3/4 of the time making and cooking the vegetable garnishes and the rest on the meat and sauces. Seems a bit weighted the wrong way.

The sweetbread was very soft and had to be handled carefully but had a lovely texture when cooked, though the taste was very mild.

The calves liver was also very good. Took about 1 minute per side to cook and keep it from going tough. Excellent flavour, not at all like other livers I have had.

Day 32 – Offal – Mon 27th Feb

The demo today was on offal. The chef cooked 3 dishes of different offals.

The 1st was veal sweetbreads, which is the thymus gland of a veal calf and is a delicacy.

The sweetbread was blanched for 10 minutes in a court bouillon, peeled, cut into slices, breadcrumbed and sautéed, and served with a reduction of veal jus, mirepoix and butter, plus asparagus, truffle and parisienne potatoes (potatoes cut with a melon baller, blanched and roasted in clarified butter).

Next was calves liver. It was cut about 1 cm thick, cleaned of veins, dusted with seasoned flour and sautéed in clarified butter for about 1 minute per side, to ensure it was still a little pink in the centre. It was served with a caramelised onion and veal stock sauce, finished with butter, plus sauté potatoes.

Lastly, the chef cooked lamb’s kidneys. They were cut in half horizontally, grilled, and served with parsley and lemon (maitre d’hotel) butter.

In the practical we had chef Neil Armstrong (the eagle has landed, one small step etc etc…) and he does like to gather everyone around and talk through the whole procedure. Which is fine but it does seem to waste a lot of time that I could be using to cook. I did, after all, take extensive notes in the demo and can follow that.

We were cooking the poussin demonstrated last week. For a very small amount of food (a poussin weighs about 1 pound, 400-500g and half of that is bone, cartilege and other inedibles) it was a ridiculous amount of work to cook it and all its garnishes. It was meant to serve 2 in theory, but I ate it all at the end of the class before leaving the kitchen. Quite tasty but basically just a small chicken.

As it was my birthday last week but I had classes on the evening of my birthday, we went out to dinner today. We went to Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and had a wonderful meal, with great service, a view into the kitchen, and opulent surroundings (the restaurant is in the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Knightsbridge). Would definitely go again. Here is the extra dessert they gave me while Dani had coffee:

Day 31 – Genoise sponges – Fri 24th Feb

Today was about Genoise sponges and we had chef Matthew for the demo and practical again.

The 1st recipe was one that could come up in the exams: Genoise sponge layered with raspberry jam and buttercream.

Eggs and sugar were whisked over a bain marie until the ribbon stage and lots of volume had been achieved. Flour and butter were folded in and it was baked in a round cake tin.

The chef made a raspberry jam from frozen raspberries and sugar and a little lemon juice to correct the final consistency.

Next was the buttercream, which is eggs and extra yolks whisked, then sugar syrup, cooked to soft ball, slowly drizzled in to the whisking egg. Once cool, soft butter was whisked in a little at a time.

A soaking syrup was made from sugar and water flavoured with eau de vie de framboises.

Once the cake was cooked and cooled, it was split horizontally and brushed with the soaking syrup. Raspberry jam was spread on one half, topped with buttercream, then the other half of the cake, and buttercream was spread over the top and sides, then decorated with piped buttercream, chocolate, flaked almonds and fresh raspberries:

The chef then made a genoise roulade. Not dissimilar to the cake above but for this the genoise was cooked as a flat sheet. Then raspberry jam and buttercream were spread on it, rolled up and coated in more buttercream:

In the practical we were just making the layered genoise. It takes one heck of a lot of whisking to achieve the right volume of egg and sugar foam and I was pleased to achieve a cake with very good volume. It was evident that others hadn’t whisked enough as there were cakes varying in volume, some of them only half the desired height.

The buttercream has a lot of butter and sugar, but doesn’t taste greasy or too sweet. It does have a smooth texture and is shiny and easy to pipe and smooth.

My cake went very well and looked and tasted great. More birthday cake!

Day 30 – Lemon Cake and Madeleines – Thurs 23rd Feb

Patisserie again today and we had chef Matthew for the demo and practical and it was the start of cakes.

First was lemon cake. This was made using the creaming method. Butter and sugar were creamed together, eggs added, then flour and lemon zest folded in and some milk added to get a dropping consistency. It was baked in a loaf tin lined with paper. Once baked, a syrup of sweetened lemon juice was brushed over the top and allowed to drizzle into holes pierced in the cake, dusted with icing sugar and decorated with candied lemon zest:

Next were Madeleines, which are a traditional small sponge cakes cooked in a scallop shaped mould. Eggs, sugar and honey were whisked to the ribbon stage. Lemon zest and flour were molded in, then, once the batter had been chilled, melted butter was folded in. The batter was piped into well buttered and floured moulds and baked for only 10 minutes and paired up with the scallop sides outwards:

The chef also made an almond and pistachio cake. Marzipan and pistachio paste were puréed in a food processor, eggs and melted butter each added slowly, then a little flour folded in. It was baked, then decorated with apricot glaze and chopped nuts.

In the practical we made the lemon cake and madeleines. It went well, though looking around the kitchen, there were some lemon cakes that came out of the oven with less height than when they went in. Someone forgot the baking powder. I’m pleased to report that my cakes were excellent, however.
It also happened to be my birthday today, so I had made myself a birthday cake. 21 with several years experience!


Day 29 – Chicken fricassée, Poussin and Guinea Fowl – Wed 22nd Feb

Today we had a demo and practical with chef Eric, then another demo with chef Gilles.

In the 1st demo chef Eric was cooking one of the recipes that could come up in our exams: Chicken Fricassée with mushroom cream sauce and glazed vegetables.

The chicken was cut into 8 pieces: 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks and 4 pieces of breast, dusted with seasoned flour and seared until golden brown.

Shallots and sliced mushrooms were sautéed in the pan, deglazed with white wine, chicken stock added, the chicken pieces returned and then cooked int he oven for 20 minutes or the chicken cooked through. The chicken was removed from the pan again, the stock reduced, then cream added and boiled again, with the chicken returned to warm though.

The chicken was served with glazed baby onions, roasted turned potatoes, and glazed, turned carrots and courgettes. There is a lot of vegetable turning in this recipe which is why it is on the exam. We have to turn 6 of each vegetable for the exam and it takes a considerable amount of time to do.

The chef also made a panfried, breadcrumbed chicken breast, served with asparagus and beurre noisette.

In the practical chopping the chicken didn’t take long but turning all the vegetables did. And I managed to cut myself! It’s my 1st cut and I’m in my 6th week at Cordon Bleu, so I don’t think that’s too bad. But it’s annoying and it’s on my thumb so keeps getting caught. Not deep, just a nick really.

We didn’t get into the kitchen on time as the previous class hadn’t finished, so we were late starting and late finishing.

However I was quite pleased with my finished dish and my turned veg, particularly compared to others in my class:

Finally we had a demo with chef Gilles. He cooked braised guinea fowl with cabbage and pan-fried baby chicken (poussin) with tarragon and mustard sauce.

The guinea fowl was trussed and browned in a similar way to the roast chicken from a few weeks ago. Then it was braised in a large pot with blanched savoy cabbage, mirepoix in large pieces, garlic, a large piece of blanched bacon and a Morteau sausage, with chicken stock. Once braised, the guinea fowl was carved and served with slices of the vegetables plus bacon and sausage:

The poussin was prepared by removing the backbone and wing tips and flattening the bird. Browned in a frying pan, it was cooked in the oven with tarragon stalks, mustard seeds, white peppercorns and chicken stock. Once cooked, the stock was reduced and cream, dijon mustard and tarragon added. The poussin was served with the sauce, peeled new potatoes and an apple compote:

Day 28 – Soups part 2 – Tues 21st Feb

More soups today.

Chef Gilles took us today and it’s always a pleasure to see him as he is always so pleased to see us!

Today’s demonstrated soups were Beef consommé, french onion soup and a crab bisque. In the practical we would be making the first 2 of these, but not the crab bisque, which is a shame as this is the most interesting to me.

The beef consommé is made by clarifying beef stock. Minced shin, egg whites and mirepoix were mixed together and placed in a saucepan and the cold stock placed on top, then placed on a low heat. As the stock warms up a raft of the mince and egg whites floats to the top taking all the impurities in the stock with it leaving perfectly clear soup. Then it was infused with some black pepper. To serve it was garnished with fine strips of herb crepes.

For the onion soup, finely sliced onions were sautéed in butter and allowed to caramelise slowly. Some garlic, bacon, flour and a bouquet garni were added and then brown veal stock and simmered for 20 minutes. To finish, a little sherry was added and the soup was served topped with a croute of baguette topped with cheese and gratinéed.

For the crab bisque, chef Gilles had the largest brown crab I have ever seen. The body alone was about 1 foot across and the claws were big enough to take on a boxing champion! And it was still alive. But not for long as the chef boiled it for about 15 minutes to start the cooking.

Then he broke it up and chopped it in 1 inch pieces, seared it with some mirepoix, deglazed with white wine and cognac, added fish and chicken stocks and some rice tied in a muslin bag, which would be used to thicken the soup. It was simmered until the rice was cooked then strained and reduced. Cream was added, plus a little more cognac, then it was served with some reserved crab meat from a claw and some rice.

In the practical the raft of mince and egg whites just wouldn’t rise in my consommé, even though I followed the chef’s instruction, so I didn’t have a very clear soup. It was jolly tasty though.

The french onion soup went pretty well however and had a great colour and flavour and I do like the grilled cheese croute on top. Yummy.

Day 27 – Soups part 1 – Mon 20th Feb

Today saw the start of a couple of days on soup.

Chef Eric took us for the demo and made 3 soups, 2 of which we would be making in our practical.

He started with leek and potato soup. Sliced leeks and onion were sweated in butter, then chicken stock added and diced raw potato. This was simmered until the potato was soft, liquidised, and passed through a fine sieve. Some fine julienne of carrot, leek and celery was placed in a mound in the centre of a bowl and the soup poured around it.

Next was cream of cauliflower soup. A little onion and leek were sweated, then flour was mixed in. Next cauliflower florets were added, then milk and water and all simmered until soft, then liquidised and passed through a chinois. Cream was added then into a bowl and garnished with some cooked cauliflower florets and croutons.

Finally the chef made a chicken and mushroom velouté. Sliced mushrooms were sautéed in butter and a roux made in another pan and chicken stock added and brought to the boil. The mushrooms were added and the soup simmered for 15 minutes, liquidised and passed through a chinois. The soup was finished with a liaison of cream and egg yolk and garnished with julienne of mushroom and chicken breast.

For the practical we had to make the leek and potato soup and the chicken and mushroom velouté. Chef John took us for this practical.

The hardest thing for this practical was all the julienning of vegetables and chicken. Otherwise fairly straightforward, though the chef told me I’d used too much liaison in the velouté, which made it very creamy (which I don’t mind) and the leek and potato soup was underseasoned. This was after my putting the salt from a small ocean into it! Some of these chefs like a lot of salt.
It made a lovely meal with some of the rolls I made on Saturday.

Lastly we each had a tutorial with chef Eric. 10 minutes to raise any issues you have with the course so far and to get your average mark for the 1st 5 weeks. It turned out that everyone in my group had a score between 3 and 4 out of 5 and mine, at 3.717, was the second highest in my class. Really pulled the wool over their eyes!

Days 25/26 – Bread and eclairs and more bread – Fri 17th and Sat 18th Feb

On Friday we just had one class which was a demonstration of making bread with chef Graeme.

He started with a white bread dough. Strong flour plus a little salt and sugar were sifted together, then warm water and melted butter poured into a well in the flour. Fresh yeast was worked into the liquid and then the flour worked into the liquid. Once combined it was kneaded for 10 minutes ont he bench then allowed to rise until doubled in size.

While it was rising he made soda bread. Soda bread uses a chemical reaction to provide lift, rather than yeast. Strong flour, salt, sugar, sodium bicarbonate and cream of tartar were sifted together and a little butter was rubbed in. Then milk and buttermilk was added and all mixed together to make a soft dough. This was formed into a ball, brushed with water, dusted with flour from a sieve and a cross cut in the top. It was then baked in the oven. The chef incorporated raisins into some of the dough to make one loaf of raisin soda bread and one plain.

While it was baking, he returned to the bread dough. He portioned it into 45 g portions and formed each into a ball. Then he shaped them into lots of different shapes and topped some with seeds, olives or sundried tomatoes. The rolls were baked in the oven for about 12 minutes.

Here are the chef’s finished soda breads and bread rolls:


On Saturday we had 2 practicals back to back, firstly making the eclairs and then the breads.

The choux pastry was easy enough to make, though I learned I needed to have piped the eclairs a little further apart in places as some of them didn’t rise fully. The chef said it was because they were too close together and the steam from them prevented them rising properly. Looking around the class, the eclairs had a huge variety of sizes and shapes. Some were very wide and high, some were more like biscuits and were actually less high than when they went into the oven.

We made creme patissiere and flavoured it with coffee extract (we had no choice in this, even if we, as I do, loathe coffee) and piped it into the eclairs via holes we had poked into the bottom of each. Even the rather flat few of my eclairs filled with the creme ok, though I thought it might not flow inside easily. The chap who made biscuits rather than eclairs had to present his creme patissiere as an accompaniment.

Next we warmed the fondant to a coating consistency, flavoured it (more coffee, yuck!) and draped it over the eclairs to cover them. Then we had to pipe some chocolate on each to decorate them. I’m not great at piping yet so my decorations weren’t perfect, but passable.

Then it was on to the bread. Fairly easy to make the bread dough, though one person did ask when they should add the yeast while he was already kneading his dough! Surprisingly, he was ok to add it to the dough and work it in that way. I think everyone managed to make some decent rolls, though the shaping was very variable.

The soda bread was pretty easy, though 3 people managed to leave out the sodium bicarbonate so ended with a pale brick rather than a light loaf.

Here are my finished breads:

Day 24 – Puff Pastry slice, Eclairs and Eggs – Thurs 16th Feb

Today we had 2 practicals and demo class sandwiched in the middle.

The first practical was to finish off the puff pastry that we started last week. I am hoping and presuming that it had been frozen in between. Puff pastry freezes well.

We were to make the puff pastry slice with fruit that was demonstrated last week. First task was to roll out and shape the puff pastry and then bake it.
This would show how well we had made the puff pastry and it was evident from the various puff pastry cases around the kitchen that my classmates and I had made a wide variety of puff pastries, some rising well, some hardly at all, some very unevenly. I was pretty happy with mine.

A few minutes later, one of my classmates managed to set his pastry on fire. Not just blackened, but actual flames and smoke! We were lucky the fire alarm wasn’t set off.
While the pastry was baking we had made the creme patissiere and he had placed the oven tray on the hob when he took it out of the oven. We have induction hobs and they only heat up things placed on them if they contain lots of iron. So stainless steel pots heat up well as do baking trays, but your hand wouldn’t if you placed it on the stove. However he hadn’t turned the hob off after making his creme patissiere, so when he placed his baking tray there it heated up quickly and burnt his pastry. Fortunately it was at one end of the pastry, so he was still able to use half of it.

Once the pastry was cool, we spread the creme patissiere in it and topped it with fruit, then glazed it to give it a shine and prevent oxidisation of the fruit:

Next we had a practical on making choux pastry and eclairs.

Choux pastry is a very different pastry to anything we had learnt so far. Water and butter, plus a little salt and sugar, is brought to the boil, then strong flour is tipped in and mixed in until a smooth paste is achieved. Once cool, lots of beaten egg was beaten in until a dropping consistency is achieved.
The chef piped the paste in cylinders about 12cm long and well spaced so they have room to expand and the steam to escape when baked.

Once baked and cooled, they were filled with coffee flavoured creme patissiere piped in through small holes made in the bottom of the eclairs, then covered with coffee flavoured fondant. Fondant is just sugar which has been boiled into a syrup then worked as it cools to make a glossy and very fine textured paste. It is very stiff at room temperature and needs to be warmed to 38°C to be usable, but no higher or it loses its gloss. Once warmed it was run in a ribbon from a spoon over each eclair to cover the top of each eclair. Then the chef piped chocolate on the fondant to decorate the eclairs:


Lastly we had a practical cooking eggs.

We were to make eggs florentine and an omelette.

Not a hard practical and all went pretty smoothly, except for the classmate beside me who is in a perpetual panic in every practical and drives everyone nuts.

The egg poached nicely – yolk still runny – and the mornay sauce was delicious and the spinach a lovely counterpoint to the richness of the rest of the dish.

The omelette wasn’t too hard though I needed to agitate it more as it set. Not something I’ve made much before as they’re not something that interests me much to eat.


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