Day 87 Celebration Lunch Exam

This was a day that I was looking forward to, while at the same time dreading! Looking forward to it because I wanted to get in the kitchen and cook a menu that I had created to fit a brief, but dreading the day because the 22nd of February was the day of the exam, as well as the day we had to hand in our coursework assignment! The assignment involved a lot of work over the weeks and months running up to the 22nd, so much so that we were given the project around mid-November. At the same time as this, I also had to create the menu for the Celebration Lunch exam, cost out the individual components and get them to fit into the £25 budget precisely, put together all of the paperwork to go along with the costings, recipes, etc, shop for the ingredients, oh and practice a few of the individual components! Once done though I knew that the only thing between me and graduation was the Final Practical exam the week after! :-)

The brief was to:

Plan an interesting 3 course celebratory menu for 4 people, which can be cooked in 3 hours. Your budget is £25 and your menu should consist of Starter, Main Course with Vegetables, and Dessert.

Day 87 Celebration Lunch

We were expected to include various skills where possible, such a meat or fish prep, baking, gelatine, sauces, variety of cooking methods, etc,. We were also told to play to our strengths, create a seasonal menu and as all food would be plated up at the same time we should think of the overall colour palette we would create.

Asian Consomme with Julienne Pepper Garnish

I decided to go with a Consomme for my first course because I knew we would be asked to make one in the Final Exam. This then would be a practice run in the kitchen where I would cook the Final Exam. This consomme is made with a Chicken Stock (that we were allowed to make ahead and bring in on the day) and was flavoured with things such as Kaffir Lime Leaves, Lemon Grass & Green Thai Curry Paste. I have cooked this for friends since graduating and one of their daughters described it as ‘an Asian hug in a mug!’ :-) It is just so flipping tasty and when served in an over-sized coffee mug it is so easy to drink it rather than eat with a spoon.

For a good Consomme you want it to be star bright, crystal clear, of good flavour and well seasoned, and with no fat droplets on the surface. With this dish I think I hit all of these and I was very happy with how it turned out :-)

Guinea Fowl Galantine au Gingembre et Cassis
with Pommes de Terre Rissoler, Baby Sweetcorn & Mange Tout and Game Chips

Keeping in mind the advice to play to our strengths I knew that I had to get meat prep into the menu somewhere. It was during my Christmas break that I had got the chance to bone and roll some turkeys so this was the cue for the Galantine. Given the exam date was February 22nd I have to concede that I was outside the game seasons for all game birds. Loving the unusual as I do though I decided to go with a Guinea Fowl for the outer part, I would stuff that with the boned and skinned meat from a whole Pheasant, and then plump it out a bit more and add a bit of additional flavour with a Sausage Meat stuffing. The sauce I carbon copied from a dish we had prepared previously for Duck Breast with Ginger & Blackcurrant. I love the sauce so much and from my trials I knew the flavours worked really well together.

For a starch I went for Rissoler potatoes, which you par boil, cool and skin, before cooking off in a frying pan with quite a bit of Butter to get that nice golden brown colour and crispy outside. I first cooked potatoes in this style during the Game class and thought that they would compliment the game in this dish quite well; I would also get 2 cooking methods for the price of 1 item! For an injection of colour I chose to cook up some Baby Sweetcorn & Mange Tout, and with a nod to the traditional meat accompaniments I rounded off the main course with Game Chips. The problem I had was that game chips need to be sliced very thinly. I had selected a mandolin that wasn’t set quite thin enough but didn’t know how to adjust it, or think I could ask. I had no choice but to crash on and as it turned out the thicker chips became quite bendy once cooled as they were not as crisp as they could have been.

On reflection the 2 potato dishes were maybe not the best combination for this course; both in the sense that there were 2 types of Potato on offer, and also because of the similar colours and textures. I was disappointed with the sauce because I over-reduced it making it thicker than I would have like, and despite practicing the cooking times for the Galantine twice, the cooking times on the day were a little off..because of this I wasn’t able to rest the meat for as long as I would have liked once it was out of the oven.

A Trio of Desserts
Strawberry, Kiwi & Passion Fruit Pavlova,
Profiteroles with Chocolate Sauce
Apple & Cinnamon Jelly

Dessert was my tribute to 2 of my favourite desserts from the course, plus a jelly shot to include some gelatine work. The idea of miniature desserts was also to set myself a challenge to cook small food. Since starting the course I had always found that I cut things on the larger side of the expected, and had a tendency to plate up more food than was necessary! To me, a trio of miniature desserts was to show that I could do small food!

I wasn’t 100% convinced about the skill level of this dessert because to my mind the skills involved were not as demanding as other desserts we had been taught. The Mini Pavlova and Profiteroles were both from early in the first term and the Apple & Cinnamon Jelly seemed so simple. However, I think what kept me feeling certain about this dessert was that as a combined trio there are quite a few techniques involved; making and cooking the meringues, making the Choux Pastry and Chocolate Sauce, and Making the Apple & Cinnamon infused liquor that was then set with Gelatine. On the face it things they were 3 quite simple items but combined there was a lot of time and effort involved.

Issues with the dessert – The Meringue needed baking at Gas Mark 1/2 but the oven didn’t have a 1/2 setting and I think this is why they came out with a slight tan appearance :-s I didn’t quite reduce the Chocolate Sauce enough and in the photo above the profiteroles can be seen through the sauce, I also forgot to finish the Apple Jelly’s with a blob of Whipped Cream with some Cinnamon folded through it.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and even though this menu got me the second highest mark there are definitely things I would tweak if I were to do it again. I think that while the overall concept is good, there are details that could definitely be improved, tightened up, and just executed better. With regards to the 3 hour time-frame I believe I plated up 7 minutes over but it was a decision between throwing things on the plate and not being happy with them, or getting things on the plate how I wanted them and taking a hit on the timing front. The exception to this was that I still forgot the blob of Cinnamon whipped cream on the jelly shots.

About richardpholden

Chef living in Henley-on-Thames working for Weber BBQ's UK. Passionate about food and championing local/niche suppliers. Available for private catering, in-home cooking lessons and menu consultation. In this blog I hope to honestly share some of my journey with you, the highs and the lows, as well as post thoughts that have provoked me and made me think about something in my life, or in the larger world, in a slightly different way. These are my thoughts and my interpretations and questions on any given topic. I love the kinds of questions that make us look at an aspect of our life and delve into it more than usual. I hope you enjoy!

Posted on May 20, 2012, in Updates and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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