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

Archive for April, 2012

Day 70 – Basque – Fri 27th April

Chef Gilles took the demo today (he has taken all but the 1st 2 cuisine demos this term) and cooked a couple of dishes from the Basque region of France which is in the south west along the border with Spain.

The first was chicken cooked basque style. The legs were braised with onions and red, yellow and green peppers and a little epilette pepper. The sauce was then reduced and liquidised. The breasts were rolled in cylinders and wrapped in Bayonne ham and baked in the oven. The chicken was served with a rice pilaf, some strips of peppers and a crisp baked shard of Bayonne ham.

Next the chef cooked a dessert which was a sweet pastry filled with a rum flavoured creme patissiere.

Then we had another practical with chef David, cooking the duck legs and foie gras. My, and several others, duck legs were not cooked in the time given to us in the class – 2 hours of cooking in duck fat. There is no definite time for cooking these – they’re cooked when tender – and long slow cooking is preferable to faster cooking. However they were almost tender and the potato salardaises was cooked well.

So was the foie gras. It’s amazing how much fat comes out of the foie gras as it cooks. It’s actually cooked in a dry pan and the fat runs out as it cooks. However I managed to cook it well and the sauce for both dishes was lovely.

Several people didn’t want their duck legs so, even though I only cooked 2, I came home with 5. Yummmmm.

Day 69 – Perigord, more duck – Thurs 26th April

We started today with the duck breast dish from yesterday and preparing the duck legs for the confit. We each had a whole duck to butcher, i.e. remove the breasts and legs and chop up the carcass to make the stock. We also had chef David taking us for the practical which was a change for us as we had only had him once before and that was in the 1st week of basic cuisine. He was very organised and a good teacher.

There were quite a lot of garnishes to prepare for the duck breasts (beetroot, celeriac, apple and pear segments, orange and lemon segments and zest julienne) which took everyone in the class quite a bit of time. Plus there was the duck butchery and salting and marinading the duck legs for tomorrow’s lessons.

All went well and my duck breast was cooked to the desired pink while the skin was crispy, the sauce was tasty and all looked good on the plate.

Next we had a demo on dishes from the Perigord region of France, famous for foie gras and truffles.

The chef confited the duck legs from yesterday and served them with salardaises potatoes (sliced potatoes cooked in a tin in duck fat with garlic) and a sauce of duck stock, madeira and diced black truffle.

The chef also prepared foie gras. The foie gras was sliced thickly, pan fried and served with a Sauternes and duck stock sauce, with a garnish of peeled grapes. We all got to taste the foie gras and it was delicious.

Lastly we each had a tutorial with chef Gilles where we got our average mark in cuisine for this term so far. I was pleased to find that I was currently 2nd in the class and doing pretty well. I hope I can continue the good score.

Day 68 – Tortes, Duck and my Fraisier – Wed 25th April

We started with a lecture on tortes from chef Christophe, who we have only had for practicals previously.

He made 3 traditional tortes: Engadiner Torte, Linzer Torte and Galette.

Next we had a demonstration on the Landes region of France, which is in South West France, with chef Giles. The dishes were duck breast with citrus and prune and armagnac tart.

The duck breasts were cooked in a pan and served with sautéed apple and pear segments, batons of celeriac and beetroot, segments of orange and lemon, candied julienne of orange and lemon zest and a citrus and duck jus.

The chef also salted, then marinaded the duck legs for making duck confit the next day.

Lastly we had a practical making the Fraisier. I must say this is one of the prettiest cakes we have made so far and mine turned out very well, though my piping of royal icing isn’t quite up to the chef’s quality yet. My pink marzipan rose is, however.

Days 66 and 67 – Fruit cake, skills test and Fraisier – Mon 23rd and Tues 24th April

On Monday we had a demo with chef Nicolas which was about making a fruit cake and then practising some skills we had learnt last term and one new one.

The new skill was making a marzipan rose and here is the chef’s demonstration of the steps in making a rose.

And here is the rose I made

The other parts of the practical were making a fruit cake, which we will be using later in the term for decorating, and practice piping of chocolate and buttercream.

On Tuesday we started with a meeting about the cuisine exam this term, telling us which dishes we may be required to cook in the exam. One is the salmon paupiettes we made on 11th April and the other is a lamb dish we will be doing in a couple of weeks.

Then we had a patisserie demo with chef Nicolas who made a Fraisier which we’ll be making tomorrow.

It’s a layer of genoise sponge topped with creme mousseline with strawberries lining the outside and topped with more sponge and a thin layer of marzipan. The top is decorated with a marzipan rose and leaves and some royal icing piping.

and here are the roses and leaves the chef made for these cakes

Day 65 – Bordeaux – Fri 20th April

Chef Gilles took us today for the demo and practical.

Firstly he made white asparagus with walnut vinaigrette.


Second was fillet of beef with red wine sauce, sautéed wild mushrooms with garlic and pommes noisette.

Pommes noisette are balls of potato cut with a melon baller, blanched then cooked in clarified butter until crisp and golden. The red wine sauce was made from browned meat trimmings, mirepoix, red wine and veal stock then finished with butter.

The steaks were pan fried and served with purple sprouting broccoli, the sautéed mushrooms, pommes noisette and the sauce.

We had to make both dishes in the practical and there wasn’t enough white asparagus so I only had green asparagus to cook, which largely defeated the purpose of the dish. The steaks were good though, as were the pommes noisette.

Day 64 – Vendee, Poitou-Charentes – Thurs 19th April

Chef Gilles took us for the demo and practical again. We seem to be getting him for all our classes. He is very friendly and jolly, but I bet he could be a hard boss. He also tends to go off recipe somewhat which can make following the recipe tricky sometimes.

I was happy to see my colleague able to attend classes, though with his burnt hand wrapped in a bandage like a boxing glove and feeling pretty exhausted. Quite a shock to the system, that burn.

Today’s dishes were Mouclade, Navarin of lamb and Frangipane tart.

Mouclade is steamed mussels in a curry sauce made from the cooking juices, curry powder and cream.

Navarin of lamb is a neck of lamb stew. The meat was cut from the bone and diced, then browned in a pan and cooked in the pan with mirepoix, tomato paste, white wine and veal stock until the meat was tender and the sauce thick and glossy. It was served with glazed carrots and turnips, green beans and broad beans.

Lastly the chef made a frangipane tart. A pate sucrée pastry shell was filled with almond cream and baked in the oven.

Chef Eric took us for the practical. We haven’t had him for a class since last term and it was good to see him again.

We made the mouclade and navarin of lamb. Both were very tasty, though a far too small amount of lamb. Here are my dishes.


Later in the day we had this term’s cheese lecture. The chap who covers cheese has a fantastic knowledge of the subject and is wonderfully enthusiastic. He gave us another fabulous lecture.

Day 63 – Sologne, Loire Valley – Wed 18th April

Chef Gilles took us for the demo and practical again today and made 3 dishes.

The 1st was a goats cheese, blended with cream, formed into a quenelle and served with a beetroot and grape vinaigrette, some strips of crisp baked filo pastry and a lamb’s lettuce salad.

Next was roast quail with a shredded vegetable cake. The quail was cleaned and wrapped in strips of pork back fat, seared then roasted. Once roasted, the legs and breasts were carved and kept warm while the carcass was chopped and used to make a sauce with white wine, mirepoix and veal stock.

For the vegetable cake, potatoes, carrot and turnip were cut into julienne, salted and queezed to remove excess water, then cooked in clarified butter in a small round tin until crisp and golden.

The quail was served on the vegetable cake with sautéed mushrooms, bacon lardons and glazed button onions and the sauce.

Lastly the chef made a traditional tart tatin. Apple quarters were slowly cooked in buter and sugar, then topped with puff pastry and baked in the oven. Once baked it was turned out onto a plate.

In the practical we were just making the quail and accompaniments. It was quite hard to cook the quail just right. With a bird this small (the whole bird is smaller than a fist) it’s very easy to under or over-cook it. However it tasted good – a slightly livery flavour as well as meaty.

Unfortunately my colleague in the class suffered a very nasty burn to his hand when some very hot oil was spilled on it and lost some skin. He had to go to the hospital burns unit for a dressing and won’t be able to cook for a week or two, though he can still attend classes. I hope he recovers well and quickly.

Day 62 – Viennoiserie part 2 – Tues 17th April

Today we started with a lecture on fruit jellies and confectionaries. The chef made pate des fruits (a pectin set fruit jelly), nougat, hazelnuts dipped in caramel and a caramel cut into squares and decorated with piped chocolate.

Then it was onto croissants and brioche.

The doughs made yesterday were used to made a brioche a tete (traditional shape), brioche Nantaise (8 balls of dough in a loaf tin), a walnut brioche loaf and croquelin, which is a brioche with chunks of chocolate inside.

From the croissant dough, the chef made croissants, pain au chocolat, pain aux raisins, almond croissants and a range of different danish pastries.


In the practical we made the 4 brioches, croissants and pain au chocolat and 3 danish pastries. Here are the brioche and pastries I made.

Day 61 – Viennoiserie part 1 – Mon 16th April

Patisserie this week was about Viennoiserie, which means croissants, danish pastries and other yeast leavened doughs. The classes also covered brioche.

The chef made croissant dough which is not unlike puff pastry but includes yeast and doesn’t involves so many turns as the yeast action provides some of the aeration. He also made brioche dough which is a very rich bread dough with the addition of lots of eggs and butter. Both these doughs were refrigerated for use in the next class.

He also made some bun dough which was used to make hot cross buns, Chelsea buns and Devonshire splits, which are plain buns, cut open and filled with raspberry jam and whipped cream and dusted with icing sugar.


Day 60 – Touraine – Fri 13th April

Today was about dishes from the Touraine area of the Loire Valley, that is around the city of Tours. A very pretty area of France, with plenty of Chateaus and vineyards.

Chef Gilles took us for the demo and practical again today.

The first dish was Fillet of Pork with prunes, stuffed mushrooms and Dauphine potatoes.

The pork fillet was sliced lengthwise to create a pocket which was stuffed with halved prunes, then rolled up again and tied to hold the shape. This was browned all over in a pan then roasted in the oven.

A duxelle of mushrooms was prepared and used to stuff the mushroom caps, topped with some butter and parsley breadcrumbs and baked until golden on top.

Dauphine potatoes are a mix of mashed potato and choux pastry, formed into quenelles and deep fried.

Finally, the sauce was made from the pork trimmings, sliced onion and shallot, Vouvray wine (a specialty of the region), veal stock and cream.

The dessert was a sweetened cream cheese mixed with whipped cream served with raspberry coulis and strawberries and redcurrants topped with a little fresh mint. The chef moulded one cheese in a ring then served it on a plate, and one in a ramekin, topped with coulis and the fruit.


In the practical we only made the savoury dish which wasn’t too hard. The potatoes puff up when frying and turn into a very light and airy accompaniment to the pork and the mushrooms were full of flavour from the duxelle. Another tasty dish which seemed to evaporate quickly once I got home. How does that happen?

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