Wednesday, 23 May 2012

New business, new website!

Dear all,

Recently, I officially started my own company ‘Sjoerd’s Catering Amsterdam’. And a new company comes with a brand new website.
So, without further ado: I am now on-line!

Please take a look at my new website

As many of you already know, I have been busy cooking for quite some time  – and judging by the feedback from happy customers - delicious cooking at that.

‘Sjoerd’s Keuken’ (Sjoerds Kitchen) not only provides catering services , but also workshops and (private) dinners are on the menu too.

Catering services can be envisioned as cocktail nibbles and light bites, a lunch, but could also consist of a full buffet.
A workshop or private dinner can be organised at a variety of locations (for example, in cookery schools) or even in your own home.

Whether it is a business- or private event, anniversary, celebration, wedding or leaving party (to give you a few ideas), Sjoerd can certainly help you with your culinary needs.

Catering, organising workshops and dinners are always tailor-made to your individual needs, so discussing your requirements is a must from the beginning.

For further questions and bookings you are welcome to contact me at or on telephone number 06-34211789.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,
Sjoerd Servaas

Monday, 9 August 2010

Review and feedback Le Cordon Bleu Superior Cuisine / Cuisine diplome course.

It's been too long since I've written about my Cordon Bleu adventures. Two months ago, I graduated from the Parisian École de Cuisine de Cordon Bleu, and I received my Cuisine diploma after I successfully completed all three courses: Basic, Intermediate and Superior Cuisine.

(I'm on the back row, hands in the air.....)

I wrote my first review (Basic Cuisine) in 2008. Click here for the web-link. My second review (2009, Intermediate Cuisine) can be found here, and this will be my final review on this Cuisine course.
I will not try to repeat myself too often, since some questions you might have are already discussed in the Basic and Intermediate reviews. First, I'll write some feedback on the Superior course and after that I'll say something about the Cuisine Course as a whole.

Superior Cuisine
My last semester started mid-March and ended early June. 3 months. This was new to me, since I did the first two courses 'the fast way', as an intensive course. The learning curve in Basic Cuisine was steep, in Intermediate it was fairly boring (although I learned a lot more than I realised at the time) , and I must say that in Superior the learning curve was HUGE again. I learned so much during this last bit. And my knife skills are not that bad either...

Again, like in the other courses, we had 30 demos and 30 practicals again. 30 demos - that means 30 starters, 30 main courses and 30 desserts. That's a lot ! As you all might know, we 'only' have to make the main course in the practical class.
The recipes sounded nice from the day we started. And they tasted great! I wrote on this blog before that I'd make most of these recipes again at home. Click here and here for some pictures of the nice dishes the chefs made.

I must say, the level of the dishes is higher, more interesting and we use other ingredients as well. Also, the quality of the produce is great: can't complain about that at all! Of course there are dishes you don't particularly like (taste wise), but that's just personal I guess.

What have I learned from these recipes? Well, I know how to make a chartreuse now, I can debone fish blind-folded, guinea fowl and flying rat (pigeon) no longer hold mysterious secrets for me anymore. I know I like to work with fish - more then ever - and nowadays I also like to try to make more desserts. Things like that.

Plating skills: 
Yes, we talked a lot about that during Superior. Especially during the practical sessions. That was very nice and I learned a lot from it. I've also noticed that everybody is very different - even the chefs don't always agree on how the food should/could be plated. I particularly liked the discussions with chef Clerque and chef 'La Petite' (I still don't know her name.) She would stare at a plate for a while, take it all off and re-plate the lot. Great tips and discussions we had. Thank you!

By the way, chef Patrick Caals has finally gotten permission to 'pimp-up' the Intermediate recipes. That is indeed good news. Hopefully he can implement his new ideas as soon as possible.
The Chefs
The two chefs running the 'Superior' show are chef Patrick Terrien and chef Philippe Clergue. Occasionally, some others would give demos (Fréderic Lesourd, Franck Poupard). They're all super chefs, but I must say that chef T. and chef C. are in a different league. No disrespect to the others!
Chef Terrien makes it look all so easy. The recipes all look quite easy, but to get it on a plate properly, that's a different matter. Chef Terrien is a great chef, very funny and creative.
So is chef Clergue. I loved his wine advice and serious cooking during every demo. Also his discussions on (my) plating skills during the practicals were very useful. Chef Lesourd has great dessert plating skills I must say (and lots of gadgets and tips and tricks of the trade). Here's some more background on some of the chefs.

I believe that during class chefs also have another job. Apart from teaching and being a chef, which are actually two jobs in themselves, they have to control a group of students. Well, let me tell you, that's a big issue. My class had 53 people and sometimes that can be quite noisy. The translators are hardly helping out to shut the noisy buggers up so it should be the chef's job. But no, the chefs hardly do anything about loud students and class idiots. A little changed after quite a few complaints, but please chefs - be a little more strict in class ! Or the chefs should at least support the translator publicly when they try to control the class. Some of the translators do actually try to help out chef to control the class a bit. Please keep in mind that some people are serious about doing LCB (apart from those that think it's a holiday camp).

Class size:
As I already said, we had 53 people in class. Personally I think that's way too big, but we managed. Intensive classes tend to be a lot smaller, especially in winter time. I liked that a lot better.

Translation of Superior Class
The classes in both Superior Cuisine and Pastry are being translated again, just like Basic and Intermediate. Thank you Leanne, Gabrielle, Deborah and Polly.

The chefs during our practicals:
There were many. These included our regulars, plus the chefs from Basic and Intermediate, as well as non-Parisian LCB chefs and outsiders. All very nice people. Regarding feedback during our presentation of the dishes, there was not always a good feedback. There are still chefs that say too often that it's 'bien' or 'bon travail'. I can't work with that. At all! Actually, there are only 2 or 3 chefs that give proper feedback. When talking to chef Clerque about this subject he explained that he 'knows the problem'. Chefs: Could you please look into this issue? It will help everybody in class.
And when a certain chef is supervising a practical he should NEVER EVER play computer games on his little computer. Every time (yes, every time!) when this chef was in the practical classes he would only play games or even vanish during practicals. He didn't notice people struggling with issues nor did he see people excel during a class; his final comment was always: 'Bon Travail' ! Bollocks! And take his computer off him please. (He's a very nice chef by the way.)

Furthermore, all the chefs speak English these days. Some better than others, but it's great to have a conversation in Franglais or some other mixture of languages. My French still sucks, but I do get the picture when they speak French and I had some great discussions with all the chefs during classes.

The exam set-up: 
Great! Only 5 or 6 people in the kitchen during the exam, so there was plenty of space for all of us. The crate with all the ingredients was already set-up for us. We entered the kitchen one at the time, with some time in between. This actually means that everybody could plate their 4 main courses and (in our case) soups hot for the jury.
During my exam, I was in the kitchen with people I'd never cooked with. We had soooooo much fun and stress together! Thank you Ensan, Hendrick, Liam and Miguel. We had some good laughs!

The people working at LCB / the building.
All very nice and helpful. A few have left unfortunately, but everybody is still very nice (to me..). The communicating skills are a bit of a challenge sometimes. Replying to Emails is still very very difficult for some... but I've discussed that before and it hasn't changed at all, unfortunately. There are many comments on blogs/Facebook regarding this issue. They are very helpful to enroll you (read: get the money in), but after that the communicating skills are crap.
My enrolment for Superior went very smooth again, like last year when I started Intermediate. I just filled in a PDF-form and sent it in by Email. Personally, I think they should also ask for 'in case of emergency' details (up-to-date telephone numbers and the right contact address) since that can change from time to time. (LCB was still trying to call me on my old work-mobile even though I'd left a long time ago.)

As I wrote before, the entrance of the school (with the shop and reception area) changed a while ago - and for the better. It certainly looks more organized and professional. The so called 'Winter Garden' is still a crappy place; it's an always-too-hot-room with a few tables. (And yes, I do understand it's an old building.)

I was already used to the kitchens and in my practical group we didn't have any real issues with the equipment. Even the ovens were well calibrated. One of the smaller kitchens could do with a few more pans and bowls.

A big thank you to the dishwasher guys and the cleaning ladies. Thank you Souad, Suzanna, Georges and Jean (and others I might have forgotten!).

The class schedule for Superior Cuisine
Slow! Too slow! I was quite bored sometimes when we only had 1 session a day and too many days off. I do understand that other students are also doing the Pastry next to the Cuisine course, to receive the 'Grand Diplome', but for me these 3 months of only cooking were way too slow.
I certainly prefer the Intensive courses. 3 or sometimes 4 session a day is a lot better, I must say.

Theft (of knives, scrapers and even complete sets!)
Unfortunately it's still very very much present. From those little things that sometimes just turn up in somebody else's knife-kit, to complete knife sets vanishing. Our practical group was great; when somebody would forget something, we'd just give it back the next day.
But there was someone who had her complete knife set stolen on exam-day, just a few minutes before she was about to start. Nasty!
To be honest, things do get stolen because people are not looking after their own stuff and lockers are left open. People even leave complete knife sets in the Winter Garden unattended and then leave briefly. That's asking for trouble. Most actually think that 'in this nice school nobody steals anything'. Well, get real and please look well after your stuff! It can happen to you and knives are expensive (and popular!).

Rungis market tour.
A great (half a) day out and very interesting. Personally, I would have liked to go to the fishmarket, but that wasn't possible. That particular market only runs from midnight until 4 or 5 am. and that's probably way too early for most people....maybe some other time.

The written exam - a new wind is blowing.
The set-up of the exam is still the same. I already explained last year that I don't like this way of doing exams but I guess that's personal. The change is that the director, Mr. Damien Julia, was present during the exam. I must say that he was VERY present! He watched us like a hawk and he warned us up front that he would sanction cheating with a zero mark. Great! Finally no more iPhones and cameras working overtime of people who take the piss out of the exams and cheat all the time. Keep it up!

Class idiots, disturbing students
Unfortunately, there were a few people in class that were 'quite present' (to say the least). As already explained before, chefs should/could do more about that. But what do you do when the chefs have already given up on the behaviour of certain 'students' in class? If somebody is so stupid that she's ruining dishes that chef presents after a demo (before we even have the time to take a photograph the idiot already starts eating the dish). Or when someone's filming almost every class? Or when you're too drunk to sit up straight in your seat? Or when you're ALWAYS late? To cut a long story short: LCB, please take action and send these idiots away - at least during that particular class.

Graduating, not graduating or how to 'arrange' your diploma
I wrote a bit on this subject before in my last review.
Unfortunately two people failed their course this time, one in Cuisine and one in Pastry. But from what we've heard, it was for a (good) reason. Too bad, but better luck next time, they have to do Superior again. Or not......
From what we've heard some time later is that one of the people who failed the pastry course, suddenly did graduate. Eh? Is that possible? There has been quite some correspondence on the internet/Email and Facebook about this subject and rumour is that 'rich and influential daddy talked to the director and LCB reconsidered this persons performance and grades'. If this is true, then it's a disgrace that LCB is even considering it let alone allowing it.
When someone fails the final exam ('It just was not good enough' the pastry chef said out loud when it happened), when your daily performance is crap and when your behaviour is way out of line every day, you do qualify for failing the course. Period.
Come on LCB, this will back-fire big time. LCB has a great reputation but doing these things don't do any good to the school. You don't want your reputation destroyed by people who 'pretend' they finished a certain program successfully. This person even calls herself a 'French Cuisine & Pastry Chef ' on her LinkedIn site.... And it's also very very disrespectful to the chefs and even to all the students. What is my/our diploma worth now? Maybe it works like this in the real world, but I can't say I like it! LCB please think about it.
Enough said.

The Graduation Ceremony
Now, this was a nice afternoon. LCB organized this in the posh 'Cercle de l'Union Interalliée', next to Mr. Sarkozy's office. We, the men that is, had to wear a tie, and that was not that clearly stated on the invitation. But the concierge at the 'Cercle' had a good tie collection available for those who had 'forgotten' their tie....
After a long procedure/ceremony we went for drinks and nibbles. A very nice afternoon, thank you LCB.

There is still no wireless internet available to the students. It's up and running in the building but LCB is not giving any access to it. That's too bad, since there are quite a lot of people using a laptop in class and during the breaks. Please give the students access to the wireless Email and internet.
But I must say, the computer room with 3 desktops is great.

Locker Rooms
Yes! The men's locker room has been expanded last Januari. We have 1.5 square meters more now....
In general, both locker rooms (F and M) are way too small. Don't know how LCB can solve this problem quickly, but it's certainly an issue. And nowadays, each student is only assigned one locker. (Don't take two as I suggested before..... but if there are lockers 'left over', why not...?)
Wouldn't this be nice..... ? Ha,ha !

Another point to look into is the quality of the lock on the door of the locker. I mean the metal bit that you connect the padlock to. With some lockers you can open the door by just turning this metal bit - even when the padlock is on - and the door is open. It would be nice if LCB could look into that and fix that.

The school party
This time the school party was sort of at the end of the course. A nice evening in a club in central Paris. But wouldn't it be a lot nicer if LCB organises this at the beginning of the course? In that case you get to know each other a lot quicker!

Signing up for the LCB alumni website
That's a no go! This alumni website doesn't work or there is no response to any applications from (ex) students by LBC. Too many people have tried to sign-up, but ALL gave up after a few tries...

Would I do it again? Will I recommend doing the Cuisine diploma?
In one word: YES! I would definitely do it again (not that I need to!) if I had the opportunity and the money. LCB courses don't come cheap at all, but I loved every minute of it. Of course things go with up-and-downs, recipes are great and bad, I met loads of great people, some idiots, and of course some things or issues are just personal. And we all have our good and bad days.
But yes, I liked it a lot and I must say I've learned a lot of kitchen stuff, recipes, techniques, procedures and other skills as well.
For me, the whole Cordon Bleu experience has been life changing. I'd been unhappy in my former chemical job for many years, and now I have found something that I really enjoy doing. So be warned..... Cordon Bleu could change your life!
Because of my blog and the reviews that I've written about my LCB adventures, I regularly receive Emails with questions from future students from all over the world. Some have really specific questions about the course or (cooking) life in Paris and I've always answered them with enthusiasm and with an honest answer. Some people I have Emailed with are now following a course or have been to LCB already! (From NL (a few), HK, US (a few), E, CH, UK) That's just great. I seem to have become a bit of an LCB ambassador...

How does this Cuisine course fit in the real (kitchen) life?
At the moment I work in a professional kitchen. This is a kitchen of a good (fish) restaurant, a hotel and a banqueting section, so it's busy. I've seen lots of things already that I've learned (or just seen) at LCB, but only now 'I get it'.
LCB could explain a bit more how it works in a real kitchen. Why not explain (in detail) why you use a blast chiller so often, certain mixers, vacuum techniques, steaming dishes etc etc. !? Please explain WHY people have to be assistant for a week during the course. We all understand why we have to learn to chop properly, but you only learn the real knife skills in a professional kitchen. Mine have improved a lot already! Just 'brunoised' 11 crates of sea bass fillets for a nice starter....
I must say that I'm not doing that bad in the professional kitchen, but it's only now that I understand some of the things I've learned in Paris. All in all, the things I learned (and already knew) are very useful.

Before I forget - when you graduate, even after the Basic certificate, people think you can cook! (And some students also thìnk they can cook and that they are already a great chef - even after they've 'only' done Basic Cuisine.....) Well, let me tell you, you just did a nice course and that's just the beginning of it. So please, cook a lot, practice, practice, practice and you'll get better. And - taste, taste, taste, taste! Do try to get some experience in a professional kitchen. That helps a lot.
And tell your friends and family that you still want to visit them for a NORMAL dinner, since they all think you are a critical chef now who only cooks on a high level... (Some are even afraid to cook for you now....) They also expect a posh dinner when they visit you. We all know that that's ridiculous, so explain to them that you also eat 'simple' stuff. Sounds familiar?

Other Blogs, reviews, LCB cuisine adventures
There are many many blogs available on the internet with stories and comments about the Cordon Bleu courses and life in Paris. As you know, I've written 3 blogs already, Basic, Intermediate and Superior with feedback. (Please click on the links for more information.)
For those of you who are interested in attending the Parisian school, or just want some background info on 'LCB life', here are some great web links to start with:
(All blogs are recently written, 2009/2010: Scroll all the way down in these blogs and start reading...)

Mark M. wrote a good review last year. Click here for the link. Nice stories about his adventures in Paris. (Mark did Intensive Basic Cuisine in Nov/Dec 2009)
Anthony F. is still at the school and doing the Cuisine Diplome. Great detailed and funny blog, with lots of pictures. (2009-2010). Anthony is also doing the Wine Program. One of the better blogs!
Carolyn G. is also doing the Cuisine program and will graduate this August. (2009-2010)
Meredith G. has just graduated. She was one of my classmates in Superior Cuisine. She did the 'Grand Diplome', both Pastry and Cuisine. (2009-2010)
Sarah D. finished pastry in 2010.
Mirjam v. R. just finished intensive Basic Cuisine. (summer 2010) including lots of pictures.
Will R. , a classmate, wrote some articles about his adventures during the Cuisine course (2009-2010)
And Jen is still writing about the Pastry course she's doing in Paris at the moment. (2010)

There are so many more Blogs, Facebook pages, Hyves, Twitter and other things available on the web that I can't give you a full list. Please enjoy these links and just 'Google' the rest yourself. And if you do have any questions, please do not hesitate to send me an Email and ask anything you want!

Thank you!
@ LCB: Bruno, Fréderic, Patrick 1, Marc, Franck, Philippe, Patrick 2, 'La Petite', guest chefs, Xavier, Patrick 3, JF and JJ, Amélie, Karine, Thomás, Vincent, Juliette, Pouy-San, Damian, Céline, Kaye, Jean-Luc, Christine, Setsuko, Bérénice, Sandra, Suzanna, Souad, Catharine, Janine, Leanne, Ben, Polly, Deborah, Gabrielle, Georges and Jean - and all the others that I might have forgotten...
And to all students I met during my adventures in Paris: Thank you! It's been great fun indeed.

Have I forgotten something?
If I have forgotten something in this review, please feel free to contact me and tell me about it. Also if you have questions regarding LCB cuisine courses, (cooking) life in Paris, housing etc etc, do send me an Email. I'll try to answer your questions the best I can.

Thanks for reading my blog, your comments, recipe input and all your support !
Au revoir, Sjoerd

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Chef de carotte, chef de big quantities (bucket cookery!)

And I love it ! As of 1st August, I am sort of busy in the kitchen of the Grand Hotel/Bridges restaurant in Amsterdam. It's been quite a week, to say the least. Let me give you a quick update what I've been doing:

  1. peeling and chopping carottes; crate after crate...
  2. vacuum packing duck, chicken and cook the stuff at low temperatures
  3. help out serving the amuse-bouche (appetizer)
  4. make mirepoix
  5. chop up herbs
  6. serve a bunch of Americans... (180 people)
  7. peel more carrots
  8. cut and deep fry lotus-root
  9. make toast/croutons
  10. fry lamb/duck on a one square meter frying plate
  11. chop more herbs
  12. get clean pans
  13. finely chop loads of shallots
  14. wash up
  15. plate up for lunch (180 people)
  16. cut and wash baby lettuce
  17. peel peas
  18. clean and de-skin mackerel
  19. make yellow-fin tuna tartare
  20. make a crudité (sticks of cucumber, daikon and carrot - mandolin....)
  21. slice the scallops thinly
  22. chop up more shallots
  23. wash and slice a cate of spuds; steam
  24. chop 20 bunches of spring onions
  25. wash and blanch paksoy
  26. fry rice (15 kg!?) with mixed vegetables and egg
  27. make omelette (60 eggs - 15 minutes....)
  28. vacuum pack fennel with stock, butter and seasoning; cook and cool off quickly
  29. finish salmon in oven (150+ portions; serve!)
  30. cut artichokes (already cleaned!!! )
  31. get more clean pans
  32. thinly slice more spring onions
  33. discuss an amuse-bouche set-up for customers
  34. wash up again
  35. peel, slice, cut, dice, mirepoix more carrots (I'm chef de carotte by now!)
  36. and probably a lot more that I already forgot....
Right now I have a few days off; Back to work this Sunday, then next week 'only' two days, and then it's going to be busy; 6 days in a row. Normally a shift is from 11.00-23.00, but sometimes chef changes that into a new schedule - 10.00 to 'unknown'.... nice. But it's great ! Every bit of it. I guess.... my back hurts, my arms, my legs, my feet and the rest of my body is 'tired'. As I said, I love it.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

New job !


As of the 1st August, I've been offered a (paid !) job at a very nice restaurant in Amsterdam. Please have a look at (fish) Restaurant Bridges. It is located along one of the canals in the city centre. The restaurant is part of the Sofitel hotel group, and is based in the Grand Hotel in Amsterdam.
I had a job interview last Wednesday, and chef offered me a trial-day in their kitchen. I did that last Friday on the 12 hour shift from 11.00 - 23.00 .... my, what was I tired after that. But I loved every minute of it.
Chef made me work on the oysters, amuse bouche, peeling veggies like peas/carrot/cucumber/daikon, slicing the scallops, preparing sous vide chicken dish, deep frying some Renkon/Lotus root slices, cleaning/slicing mackerel and much more. Looking back now, I was quite surprised what chef allowed me to do on such a trial day and at the end of the evening I was offered a job to work in their kitchen. Details will be filled in next week.
It will probably be a schedule of 4 working days and then 3 days off. 12 hours a day in the kitchen.....

Please also have a look at their menu; It looks super and they work with high quality products - especially the fish. The restaurant received great reviews in the papers (in Dutch), magazines and websites.
I'm very excited about this next step in my life. And thank you all for your support !

Sjoerd (no chef - yet! ha,ha.)
Update Thursday 29th July; starting this Sunday, 1st August. Really looking forward to it!

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Away on a bread baking course in Scotland !

Bread baking in Scotland? Yes, we're going to West Linton, about 20 km South of Edinburgh. We'll be learning about making country-style breads, croissants, 'mini' breads, the economics behind it, setting up a bakery and much more.
The company is called 'Bread Matters', please check it out HERE !
This means, that I won't be updating the blog for a few days. Sorry about that. Please be patient! I'll be back.....

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Lesson 22; crunchy veggies, fusion cuisine and macarons ! yummie !!

This was a strange lesson; For a starter, chef Terrien made crunchy vegetables with peas and a peppermint sorbet, for mains he called the dish fusion cuisine, combining Spanish, Asian and French influences and for dessert chef made typical French macaroons....... strange combinations indeed !
The starter could be used in the exam. Since 'a soup' is on the exam list, we could make a pea soup. The trick is to shell all (!) the peas for more flavour (or press the cooked peas through a drum sieve). The crunchy vegetables are served cold, so I guess the soup is also served cold (with the sorbet.) - but I can't really remember....
Then the interesting fusion dish. Roasted thick cod fillet, gazpacho with basil and eggplant paupiettes. This was nice. Very tasty and easy to make. This was also our practical, and I ate it all !
It looks a bit messy on the plate; Plating skills...
We used one aubergine to make the stuffing for the second aubergine..... as you do... So, put one scored aubergine with slices of garlic in it and some olive oil/salt/thyme in the oven at 180 degC for about 20 minutes - when done, scoop out the flesh and put that with some sauteed onion and breadcrumbs in slices of sauteed aubergine. Roll it up and keep warm. Tasty!
The vegetable skewers that go with it are funny. Cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, chorizo (?!), bell pepper and courgette on a skewer. Interesting combination. The gazpacho was nice. Basically, you put everything in a blender and cool it down. Served luke-warm.
All these strange combinations actually tasted very good. I've made the main course already at home. Nice!
Macaroons; Or macarons. Tricky. Frustrating. Chef said he wasn't that good with it, but I think he did a great job. Nice and smooth batter and the end-result was a great dessert. We've tried to make macaroons at home last week. 5 times already..... and most of it went straight into the bin ! I mean, it was edible, but the shape and consistency was way off. Bugger. We have to try again, it's becoming frustrating now. But I will succeed in making a proper macaroon!
You only need powdered sugar, ground almonds, some egg whites and normal sugar to make a macaroon. So it can't be that difficult. Well, it is!
Chef served this with fennel ice cream. Fennel ice cream??? Yes, and it tasted surprisingly delicious.
Thank you chef for an interesting tasting.
Until next time!

Friday, 2 July 2010

Escabėche de rouget, blancs de pintade et blancmange aux fruit de saison. oh, la,la, c'est bon!

Lesson 21;
LCB calls it 'modern cuisine'. The main course that is. I'll get back on that later.
Chef Lesourd was cooking for us today. That's the little one on the right hand-side in the picture ... he's a great chef, he has super dessert plating skills and he's always talking about little tricks of the trade, selling gadgets and it's just fun to work with him.
For a starter, chef made red mullet 'escabeche' with fennel cream. The fennel cream is easy: Just put some sweated fennel (cooked) with creme fraiche in the blender. An 'escabeche' is a cooked marinade we use for the fish that consists of a brunoise of carrot, fennel and onion, some garlic, vinegar, a bit of herbs (and a bonus: saffron!)
When still warm, pour over the fish fillets. It's best to do that 24 hrs in advance. I can't remember if the dish was served hot or cold - I'd say cold, but I'm not sure. The colourful marinade can be used as a garnish; served on top of a blanched fennel leaf.

Then our 'modern cuisine'..... Guinea fowl breast cooked on the bone with lemon grass 'fricandeau' of legs and a mushroom flan. Well, modern.... I don't think so... 
You start with the standard procedure: Take the fowl, burn the feathers off (it also kills all the bacteria!), cut off the wings, take the wishbone out, cut off the legs (watch the oyster). Debone the legs and take the skin off. Chop off the backside of the carcass for the jus. The supremes are left on the breast bone for further cooking. So far so good. This was easy!
Of course we use the leftover bones and carcass to make a jus.

The meatballs in this dish are made from chorizo, mascarpone, left-over leg meat, some basil leaves and breadcrumbs. Fry the little balls (oh yeah!) in oil/butter. Don't cremate the stuff, just light-brown please.
The little flan is made with duxelles and cream. When the breasts (still on the bone) are cooked in the oven at 170 degC, slice the supreme off the breast bone with the knife. Actually, I thought it was a tasty dish, certainly no modern cuisine (more like old fashioned to me). But it was nice. Thanks chef! My practical for this went really well.
Le dessert; A fruit mixture with a mojito sorbet and a jasmine tuile.
This very refreshing dish was really really nice. There's not much to say about chopping up fruit, making a mojito and cooking a tuile. The blancmange is made from milk, almond milk and agar-agar. To make a frothy foam, just use a 'giraffe' blender. Bon appetite !

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Leçon dix-neuf et vingt. (Early May)

OK, after some sort of successful atelier, it's time for a normal demo again. Lesson 19 and 20. (3-4 May 2010) Chef Terrien in control in both demos.

Lesson 19; They call the main course 'creative cuisine', well, that has to be seen.
starter: Green asparagus and crab charlotte with a citrus vinaigrette.
mains: Roast beef tenderloin, 'mi-venaison' marinade with soy, daikon radish and beet 'brochette' and a parsley potato crisp - oh yeah! how creative.
dessert: Frothy caramel with Guerande sea salt, coffee and cognac chantilly.

I remember the starter. That was delicious! And the picture looks nice as well. A very nice summer dish with cold asparagus and fresh crab meat.

The main course was quite good. 'mi-venison' marinade means that you marinade the beef for a short period of time in the fridge. Very easy to do. And a sauce is made from the beef trimmings of course...
The skewer is daikon and beet(root).

Dessert; A great presentation by chef of this dessert - and ruined within a second by our fat class idiot!
'It' ate the whole glass before we even realized it. The $%#@!

The caramel is made with a creme Anglaise (egg yolk, add hot milk, whisk like hell) and caramelized sugar/cream/milk. Finally some gelatines leaves are added. Strain, add some salt and keep cold.
Decoration with angel hair makes it the perfect dessert!

Carlos and Miguel are about to plate-up.

Stephanie getting feedback from chef T.

The main course for lesson 20 is creative again.
The starter was an egg white with a runny egg yolk in the middle. Now that was quite a nice trick chef did. This is a great starter when you have guests - with a surprise element!
The egg whites are beaten stiff (with a bit of salt and a drop of lemon juice) first. Then line a mould with paper and butter well. Make 2 rounds with this mould from a sandwich and put in the oven at 180 degC to make toast.
Put one slice of toast at the bottom of the mould, fill with a bit of stiff eggwhite (1/3), put in the (left whole) egg yolk with a bit of salt, fill the mould with the rest of the egg white and platten the top of the mould. Put in the oven for 2-3 minutes at 70 degC. Put the second pice of toast on top right before serving. Garnish; sauteed morels and some green leaves like parsley or chervil. And a sauce made from morels and beurre....
Trick: You can also finish dish dish in the microwave. That just takes 8 seconds at the highest power.
The name of the dish: Egg blancmange with a truffle and morel mushroom coulis.

Mains: Crispy sea bass with French toast, capers and lemon and a chicken jus.
A chicken jus??? Yes, we ruin the dish again with a chicken jus....

I like this dish. Easy to make and the fish is surprisingly tasty, despite all the clarified butter we use. Already made this at home and we're going to make that for our friends this weekend. (They're German - I make BIG portions.... ha,ha!) I'm not making the chicken bit. 

For dessert chef Terrien made us craquelin aux pommes, sorbet ananas et sirop de melisse-citronnelle.
It's some kind of crumble (craquelin) and compote  with a pineapple sorbet on top. Nice. I liked this as well. Instead of using apples for the compote you can also use pears.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Lesson 18, our second atelier (workshop).

I was looking forward to this workshop. This is the second workshop we had and I was not as nervous as I was for the first one.
This time we have to use sea bream, veal tenderloin, sweetbreads, caul fat, artichoke, spinach, beetroot, cauliflower, pearl onions and asparagus. On top of that, there is a wide selection of vegetables, oil, wine, herbs and spices available.

I'm not that keen on the sweetbreads, I think they're tasteless 'waste' food, but at least I know what to do with the stuff. (soak, membrane off etc - pan fry/deep fry)
Some background on sweetbreads: It's a long-time foodie favorite, many, many people still have not tried them, or even know what they are. To be honest I can’t say I blame them with a name like sweetbreads. I mean, they are neither sweet, nor are they anything resembling bread.
So what are they? Well, as eloquently as I can put it, sweetbreads are the thymus glands of young veal, pork and lamb. That’s right, today we’ll be learning about eating thymus glands! Yuk! Here’s what they look like:
Now we can get these thymus glands from two places, the first is just below the throat of the animal, and the other is near the heart, which are generally more prized and more expensive as many consider them to have a better flavour. Enough about this stuff...
I decided to make a (raw) sea bream carpaccio on top of cold asparagus, a drizzle of (fish) sauce around it and a mixed herb salad and a vinaigrette for a starter.
For mains I did a grenadin. (That's a nice veal steak.) Use the trimmings for the jus, make a pepper crust for the veal, a cauliflower flan, 'packages' of spinach/lemon zest, fried sweetbreads (clarified butter, espelette pepper) and some cooked pearl onions. Easy on the pepper for the crust; It can be very overpowering! I think I did OK with this whole dish. Little chef, la petite, thought it was OK. Not super, not bad.

Not surprisingly, we all make something completely different again. These workshops are a great way to practice for the final exam. Here is an impression of the results. (I have more pictures available for those who want to see more.)

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Dishes during the course, 22-29 April; 3 demo's.

Part 2. Lesson 15, 16 and 17.
Let's start with a few pictures.

starter: baby calamari with chorizo, bell peppers and rocket pesto. A nice summer dish.

A creapy handicapped looking squab.... It just looks funny. Deboned and stuffed, cooked in a cocotte with pork belly (and lots of garlic!)

Dessert: bitter chocolate soft-centered cake with arabica sorbet. Very,very nice indeed!
(recipe on request....)
Lesson 16;
Then chef made something with (greasy) fish; Sole, a very nice fish. Easy to make, but I thought it was a bit of a waste of a good fish to 'let it swim like this in the sauce'. I know that it's all about the style and technique, but I didn't like the presentation of this this. I skipped the corresponding practical.....

starter; haddock, mackerel and potato terrine with dill and a horseradish sauce. The makerel is poached the night before. Haddock is always smoked in France, so please pay attention when you buy this.
It's best to make dishes like this well in advance, it's better to let it rest overnight in the fridge to get more flavour.

An avocado sorbet for dessert. A what?? Yes, and it was surprisingly good. Served with a mango and pineapple chutney (French style) and shortbread pastry sticks.

Lesson 17; Let's start with dessert!
Sauternes wine jelly with a marbled lemon sorbet and a balsamic jus. A very refreshing dessert. Presentation: one round piece of sorbet or two small(er) strips.

Pan-fried monkfish, a vegetable puree of parsnip, Jerusalem artichokes (and lots of beurre et creme) and potato crisps.
Crips are made with waxy potatoes, like BF15. Peal, cook well and dry out in the oven at 140degC. Puree the lot, pass through a drum sieve (and add butter when warm!) Lay a bit on a sylpat and roll out very thinly. Sprinkle with fleur de sel and sesame- or poppy seeds and put in the oven at 150degC. (option: mix a bit of parsnip puree with the potato puree for more flavour!)

Crisp langoustines with a citrus emulsion, olive oil and wasabi for the starter. Chef Terrien had a creative moment...
I liked this starter, very light and tasty (spicy!). The kadaif pastry we use here is Turkish and made from cornstarch, flour, water and salt. Presented with a herb salad; That's easy - mix chervil, flat leaf parsley, tarragon, lemon grass, mint and marjoraml. Add a bit of herb-vinaigrette (last minute) with a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice.

tip: For a nice herb vinaigrette: reduce a bit of orange juice (strained!). Put basil leaves, coriander, few spinach leaves for extra colour (all herbs chopped up), wasabi and a pinch of salt in the blender. Blend with olive oil and the cold reduced orange juice.
(You can add a little bit of water if needed.) Check seasoning. Result: Green, spicy vinaigrette.

Next is our second atelier (lesson 18) with sea bream, veal tenderloin, sweetbreads, caul fat, artichoke, spinach, beetroot, cauliflower, pearl onions and asparagus.