Saturday, August 19, 2017

Weekend Cooking: Oooh la la!!

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I got a stand mixer for my birthday back in June. That was only part of my present though. The other part was a cooking lesson experience. Or more precisely, a French Dinner Party cooking lesson, and I finally got to do it on Wednesday night at Gourmet Kitchen Cooking School.

The dinner party is either available as the finale of a six weeks beginner course, or as a standalone lesson, so the group was a mixture of the people who had been doing the course or as a one off. I was one of two people who were only doing the dinner, but despite that we still felt welcomed by the rest of the group.

I had had a busy day at work so it was a bit of rush but I got to the cooking school just in time to start cooking. A quick wash of the hands, and it was time to start. Even just the sound of the menu was a bit intimidating but I guess this is why we do things like cooking find out what is and isn't achievable.

Below is the menu that we cooked. When I look at it, I do think 70's dinner party but someone who has been to France recently has confirmed that it is still very much on the menu now. Of course, I might need to go to France myself to prove it. You know, scientific research purposes.

Chicken Liver Pate
Twice Baked Cheese Souffle
Beef bourguignon
Creme Brulee

Of these, I would never have attempted to make pate or souffle. I have made easy versions of bourguignon, and my partner is making creme brulee on a regular basis in an effort to perfect it, so I knew that wasn't as difficult as it might seem.

Working together, the group all performed the necessary tasks to bring the dinner together. We started with the beef as it needed to be cooked the longest. The interesting thing was that the recipe included deli meats called speck and kaiserfleisch which are pork products with a smokey flavour and a thick layer of fat that rendered down as part of the cooking process. The other tip that I learned much later in the night was that you can use pureed steamed carrots to thicken a stew. You couldn't taste the carrots but it certainly seems like a better way to thicken than adding cornflour and water like a normally do.

While the cooking process for the bourguignon was quite lengthy, it was definitely worth the extra effort. Beef, red wine, shallot, celery, and mushroom combining perfectly with creamy mash potato (both in terms of texture and also the ingredients that went into the potato - there was no shortage of cream and butter all night).

Then we made the pate. I don't mind pate on occasion, but I don't think I would necessarily have thought about making it myself. I was surprised to see that it wasn't actually that difficult to make, with the most time consuming parts of the process being the cleaning up of the chicken livers and then making sure that they are completely cooked. It did taste delicious with toasted slices of baguette. One word I would probably use to describe it would be rustic. It wasn't chunky at all, but it was thicker and more solid than the pre-made pate that you buy in the shops.

Next, onto the twice baked cheese souffle - something that I would always have thought was far too difficult to make, but it really, really wasn't that difficult. Super cheesey and super delicious. I think this will be the first thing that I try to make at home.

One handy tip I learned was that when you are making any kind of bechamel sauce if you heat your milk up separately and then add it in slowly as normal it should speed up the thickening process. I am definitely going to try this next time I make any kind of white sauce.

When I first looked at the website to see what we were going to make, I was really, really hoping that it would be tarte tatin. A few years ago I but creme brulee was also good, and really not difficult to make. Beautifully creamy and its always fun to get the blow torch out and melt the sugar to make the crispy topping.

The teacher, Laura, was knowledgeable and patient, and I could definitely get used to having an Alex in the kitchen to clean up after us as we made each dish!! The atsmosphere was friendly. The only thing I guess I wasn't expecting is that we didn't end up eating until around 10pm which made it a late night after an already long day.

So I guess the test of how successful a cooking class was is to ask the question would I go back again and the answer is yes, I have had a look at the website and I am contemplating both of the patisserrie masterclasses, the Japanese class, the Thai masterclass or maybe just the macarons class. Or maybe all of them.

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  1. Interesting techniques and ingredients in the beef dish ... your instructor seems to be fast & loose with French traditional ways, but there's nothing wrong with changing foods to your own liking.

    best... mae at

  2. what a wonderful birthday present! I'll remember to use the Bechemel Tip. I've made Creme Brulee a few times because my husband loves itl

  3. I've never had a souffle in France but the rest of the menu is still very popular, I concur. Cooking lessons sound like so much fun--I would definitely do the Thai one as that's my favorite kind of food.

    If you're looking for a good tarte tatin recipe, you can never go wrong with Clothilde from Chocolate and Zucchini). She is my go-to for recipes:

    You may need to click on English at the top to change the version as it automatically defaults to French on my computer.

  4. What an awesome opportunity! And you are so right that the menu looks like a throw-back. But all yummy. I am definitely using that tip of heating up the milk first when making a white sauce. And creme brulee is one of my all-time favorite desserts. I hate to admit it, but I've never made it myself, even though I own a mini blow-torch for caramelizing the top.

  5. Classic French cooking never goes out of fashion. This sounds fabulous, I will check out this cooking school myself.
    PS If you would like my recipe for single serve goats cheese souffles, it's in my Facebook notes...

  6. That sounds like so much fun! My sister-in-law took cooking classes here in NYC a few years ago and enjoyed it.

  7. Jealous! It sounds like you learned a lot