Thursday, 19 April 2012

Bettys Certificate Course so far... and Vegetarian Ponderings.

So Tuesday was a busy old day. I had just about recovered from the information and butter overload on day one. Tuesday was food hygiene and introduction day. We introduced the person sat next to us and I introduced my partner Suzanne as a mum of 6; a self employed business woman who wants to take time out to do something different. She introduced me as a food lover, who is working towards a career change having spent time out in Korea figuring myself out, exploring food and the course was my reward for 2 years away from English food! She also explained that the main thing I want to get out of the course is how to do everything properly, especially meat preparation.

Since coming back from Korea, I have had a rethink about vegetarianism. Korea and the countries around it, have really opened my eyes to the principal that people around the world eat meat without question. That doesn't mean I agree with their food processes, but it does mean I have become a little less sensitive and perhaps more realistic about meat. Asian countries especially, seem to embrace the flavours and textures of their food and separate the whole thing from the lambs and pigs frolicking in the fields. A few people have joked around with me for some time that meat eating is something I am seriously missing out on. On the other hand people have commend my resilience when faced with difficulties while living in a culture that cannot understand vegetarianism. I am a vegetarian of 14 years and find the idea of eating meat strange and exotic! I have always brushed it off when Tom has commented that I will be lacking important nutrients. But knowing I was coming home to do this cooking course, I began to wonder how I would cope even preparing meat and to a certain extent fish as well. Food with a face!
It led me to think long and hard and I began to question my reasoning for doing the course at Bettys. Why put myself through it. Bettys is an institution, and a company which sources every single ingredient carefully and ethically in order to reap the best quality products. Free range butchers and locally sourced ingredients are of the highest standards. I realised that above everything else, I really enjoy cooking and eating and at the end of the day it is something I think will make me happy to be involved with day to day. I could not seriously attempt to get the most out of this rather expensive ten day stint or likewise a career in cookery, if I was not prepared to taste fifty percent of the end results.

So I did something rather naughty. On the plane on the way back to England, Tom had luckily been offered three seats to himself further down the plane where he could lie down. I was alone and really hungry. Lots of things were going around in my mind, it was a long flight home and it was a time of reflection, the end of an adventure. I realised that as an adult, I had not eaten meant, (other than the odd sneaky camouflaged ham or minced beef I found in my food in Korea). To me this seemed strange and I realised for the most part, it was psychological. The guilt, the judgement, the 100 different opinions. So when the flight steward asked me chicken or lamb, I said, "chicken, please". Nobody around me knew I was vegetarian, the airline and my director had failed to provide me with a pre-ordered alternative and I was hungry. So while no one was looking, somewhere above Russia, I ate some chicken.... and it was okay. Nobody gasped in horror, nobody laughed or made chicken sounds. When Tom came back he didn't believe me when I told him what I had done.

So since then, I have sampled a few bits and bobs and taken the notion that I shall not pigeon hole myself as vegetarian, I will simply embrace the Bettys experience and see what happens.

All the dishes below have been cooked by myself on the course, and sampled by myself.


Eggs Benedict/ Florentine - Poached eggs on a toasted Bettys English muffin with ham and homemade hollandaise. 

Plaice ready to fillet

Filleted plaice goujons - all by myself

Hardest part of the day: Looking that fish in the eye.
Best part of the day: Filleting my first ever fish.

The rest of the day was spent on the hygiene course.


Bettys full fat and creamy porridge. Secret ingredient is salt and brown sugar mixed in.

I opened my first ever oyster

And threw it down the hatch.

Cauliflower puree with pan-fried scallops and a red wine dressing.

So satisfying, 8 minute chocolate fondants. Served with Bettys breadcrumb ice cream

Rack of lamb, bones exposed by myself, with a herb crust.

Finished lamb although mine went in the freezer uncooked, so this is the tutors.

Hardest part of the day: Dealing with the lamb bones.
Best part of the day: The moment I cut into my chocolate pudding and found fondant and not sponge!


Choux pastry

Finished profiteroles with chocolate and toffee sauces, filled with creme patissiere

The most divine Swiss onion tart. Nice pastry if I say so myself
Hardest part of the day: A very difficult pork dish and presentation challenge which I forgot to take pictures of. Whoopsie, must have been the stress!
Best part of the day: Making a fab pastry case.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Catching up and Bettys

So a great deal has changed for me in the past 6 weeks. I was busy towards the end of February wrapping up everything in Korea and saying farewell to some excellent friends. March was my first month back in sunny England and my my, how I have gorged myself on cheese, apple pie and other long awaited treats.
I have been job hunting and spent rather a lot of time looking into supply teaching work, but as I have had a long planned 10 day cookery course booked in at the renowned Bettys of Harrogate I decided to see if there were any jobs available there. Working at Bettys would be an absolute dream, especially if it allowed me to develop skills and enjoy my work.

So I applied and I got a job working at Bettys Harlow Carr in Harrogate!!! :)

So I am one very pleased little lady. But back to the current turn of events, I have today worked myself into an exhaustion cooking up a storm. It was day one of my much anticipated cookery course.
Today we learnt knife skills including crudities, brunoise and julienne, Chicken stock, Beef stock, Vegetable soup, Houmous, Victoria sponge, Buttercream, Roast red pepper sauce, Chicken basil and parma ham, Pomme puree and Sauteed courgette.

Although I have previously made a few of these things many times, it was interesting learning about the reasoning behind each and every ingredient, the importance of how and why chefs hold their knives in a certain way and the painstaking attention you must pay when skimming the scum from a good Chicken stock!

Vegetable Soup and Houmous with crudities- Betty certificate course.

Feed back for my Houmous and crudites was excellent, apparently my batons were perfectly cut into equal lengths and widths, my soup needed a little more seasoning.

Victoria Sponge - Bettys certificate course.

The Vic sponge looks so good, but I am saving it for the weekend so didn't get to sample it. The key point I took away from this quite simple recipe was aeration and more aeration. Also it's helpful to use a thermometer inside the oven to ensure your oven is the perfect temp. The original Victoria sponge was sprinkled with castor sugar and not icing sugar. It looks a bit like it is smiling!

Chicken, basil and parma ham with roasted pepper sauce, pomme puree and sauteed courgette- Bettys certificate course.

My main dish of chicken and parma ham was presented in threes which is apparently a nice number for the eye to look upon.

Hardest part of the day: Pushing my potatoes through a sieve.
Funnest part: Piping butter cream onto my sponge cake!

There are a variety of people on the course, including a lady from Japan who is working next to me.
I am looking forward to the next 9 days. Tomorrow will be a day of study towards our food hygiene certificate....