Our first taste of Al fresco dining, enjoying the touch of Spring in the air over the weekend. This was a lunch inspired by a walk past the Hackney Fin & Flounder fishmongers on Sunday. I couldn’t resist picking up a batch of Scottish clams, which were cooked in white wine, garlic and fresh parsley, then tossed in Rice Noodles with Olive Oil and more chopped parsley. This was served with a Raw (Massaged) Kale, Sprouts, Orange and Toasted Pumpkin Seed Salad courtesy of my dear wife Nicky Clinch, along with a glass of the crisp Chardonnay which went in with the clams. What a treat! Fin & Founder is well worth a visit – they’re a top notch local fishmonger based on Broadway Market in E8, with a policy of sourcing and supplying sustainable and line-caught seafood.
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When leaving the last Sunday session of the Mastery of Cooking programme, each participant was handed a bag of ingredients, and instructed by Jean Torné to plan and create a meal based on these elements, in an exercise which recalled the popular TV series ‘Ready, Steady, Cook.’
‘A few peas, some watercress, 2 potatoes, 1 avocado or half a zucchini, one leek, some herbs, an orange, a piece of fennel. Create a dish from these ingredients. Cook it. Serve it to your partner or family or to one another and ask them how they received it.’
The invitation was to take part in this process, to observe one’s own participation, to assess (and be assessed) on the results.
And so, I made a ‘Rock pool’ style clear broth soup, inspired by a soup we cooked during an earlier session. The base was a vegetable stock I’d made earlier, which I infused with the Kombu and fresh herbs. (Thyme, Bay Leaf, Rosemary). I cut the Cauliflower into small florets, cubed the Potatoes, and carefully cut the Leek Whites into strips. I blanched all these ingredients separately. I made a Pesto with Watercress, Basil, Coriander and Pine Nuts (left over from a previous cooking session). I served the soup in a shallow bowl with a few Watercress leaves on top, and some dabs of pesto. I made a pressed fennel salad with Pear and dill, served with an Orange Vinaigrette on a bed of sliced Avocado. This was plated up with some Short Grain Brown Rice, and some Tofu chips marinaded with Sweet white Miso, Rice Vinegar, then pan-fried.
As for the assessment: (I ate the meal alone) I was pleased with the soup. Initially the broth had a strong taste of Rosemary (probably a bit much to use as an infused herb) but the whole dish was balanced out when I added the veg, the pesto, and the watercress leaves. It was a little cold by the time I ate it. I liked the ‘half submerged veg’ presentation but it didn’t make for a particularly large dish – more of a starter. The pesto was a real winner, and helped to balance the flavour of the soup, as well as adding a touch of intrigue to the dish. A suitable ‘Algal’ accompaniment to the Rock Pool.
I was really happy with the pressed Fennel Salad, in combination with the avocado. I added the dill leaves far too early so they became a bit wilted and lost their vibrant colour. In future, I would add these right at the last minute, as a garnish. The marinaded tofu was delicious. Again, this was a small dish, more of a starter. But it worked well in combination with the short grain rice.
As we enter the season of seasonal, celebrational Thanksgiving and Christmas fayre, this dish created during an evening session of the Mastery of Cooking course came as something of a revelation. A celebratory vegetarian meal conceived by Jean Torné, lacking nothing in richness and indulgence. It combined some classical cooking techniques with good quality but very simple and accessible ingredients. At the heart, a selection of organic root vegetables, individually sauteed in Ghee and Olive Oil; a Swede and Potato Mash infused with herby Olive Oil and topped with a sprig of Dill; and rich Beluga Lentils cooked with Mushrooms and vegetables. And topping it all, the remarkable Sauce which began with a pot-pourri of chopped vegetables, again sauteed in Ghee, simmered in vegetable stock and a good helping of decent quality wine, seasoned with Shoyu, strained off and reduced, then liberally spooned across the plate.
A plate from the recent Mastery of Cooking weekend: Short Grain Brown Rice cooked with Sweet Potato (hence the pink colouring) sitting on a swoosh made from a reduction of the Sweet Potato cooking liquid; a Sweet Potato stack; a pan-grilled Red Onion with a Tofu and Mustard dressing; a Zucchini ‘Bean’ Salad with Red Onion Vinaigrette.
Creamed Barley and Mushroom Soup followed by Red Rice Croquettes, Kale with Red Onions, Anchovies and grated Parmesan, Baked Squash with Herb, Garlic and Olive Oil dressing. All created during a weekend session of the Autumn module of the Mastery of Cooking programme, under the guidance of Jean Torné.
A side salad prepared under the guidance of Master Chef Jean Torné this weekend. It formed part of the evening meal for Heartspace, a programme run by the Concord Institute. A delicious fusion of colours, flavours and textures working in perfect harmony. Very much in tune with the intention and spirit of the programme – a touch of the exotic and at once familiar.
Before: Fresh Persimmon cut into slices, in preparation for panfrying in a small amount of Ghee.
After: The pan-seared persimmon slices sitting on a bed of sliced Chicory (drizzled with lemon juice) with a sprinkling of Blue Cheese to finish.
A hearty Bean, Vegetable and Kale Stew – prepared after completing an online session with Jean as part of the Mastery of Cooking course last week. A mix of Cannelini and Pinto Beans, pressure cooked with Bouquet Garni. Onions, Leeks, Carrots, Swede and Pumpkin diced and cooked in Ghee with a drop lid. Beans and Vegetable Stock added. Cooked further, then transferred tothe oven for more slow cooking – 2hrs at 170. Kale blanched separately, and added towards the end. Some seasoning, and a small amount of Tamari to finish. Served with a Sauteed Brussel Sprout, Lambs Lettuce and Pomegranate Salad, and Toasted Sourdough with Olive Oil, Rosemary and Sea Salt. Sour Cream and Parmesan shavings round it all off. Images thanks to Nicky Clinch.
Day two of the weekend Mastery of Cooking course. An array of organic and locally sourced autumn produce to choose from to create the Sunday lunch.
Including these delightful ‘Harlequin’ Pumpkins.
We set to work on a batch of recipes, cooking on and off piste in our groups. Picking up a few tips here and there – including a new way to fashion a bouquet garni using some leek greens and a length of string.
And, here’s the result. Chickpea and Vegetable Stew, topped with sauteed Black Carrots and crispy Sage, Panfried Millet, Oven baked Harlequin Pumpkin, and a spontaneous addition to the menu, Roasted Blue Cauliflower on a bed of caramelised Red Onions. A sprinkle of Parsley to finish.
The opening weekend of the Mastery of Cooking programme, and we are set a challenge of preparing an autumnal meal from a range of ingredients. Here’s the result: Long Grain Brown Rice and Red Rice, Brussel Sprouts sauteed with Shallots, Puy Lentils with Sundried Tomatoes, Braised Carrots with Star Anice, Zucchini Ribbons with Mandarin and Chilli, with Carrot Top Tempura as a garnish.