Back in the kitchen with The Cambridge Cookery School
It was with a great deal of excitement, and a tiny bit of trepidation, that I agreed to cook a three-course dinner in the kitchens of The Cambridge Cookery School, on the evening of Saturday Feb 3rd.
After five months away from the cut and thrust of a restaurant kitchen, ‘match-fit’ would not be an apt description. Thankfully, I managed to rope in a little help in the shape of Lawrence, my trusted former sous-chef from The Hole in the Wall, and Tristan, who is soon to be seen leading the kitchen at the impressive looking Parker’s Tavern.
I was thrilled to learn that the event had sold out within just a couple of days of the tickets being advertised – especially as the menu I designed was slightly more adventurous than the food I had been cooking previously.
My main focus – on using top quality produce, sourced locally where possible – remained. But in terms of flavours I wanted to add a few adventurous accents and hints - taking in subtle nods to Scandinavia and Japan, as well as France and Italy, especially in terms of technique.
The main course, comprised of superb legs of local venison from Radwinter, proved to be the most popular dish of the night. They were seam-butchered into individual muscle cuts and cooked to medium rare before being paired with slow-cooked aubergine, finished with an umami-rich miso and ginger glaze. The dish was finished with sesame, spring onion and a faint dusting of smokey lapsang souchong tea to add depth. A rich sauce made from the bones was lightened with sesame oil and a citrussy ponzu made of soy, lemon and orange.
New potatoes, cooked in seaweed dashi were paired with a mushroom puree. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds, cooked in a pressure cooker until they had just the merest hint of bite, provided texture – while a stunning wild mushroom, gently cooked in butter, lent the dish a touch of decadence. Acidity came from the same mushrooms, lightly pickled in rice wine vinegar and mirin. The dish was seasoned with a salt, infused with more dried seaweed.
Fruit at this time of year may well be limited – the bounty of the late summer but a distant memory – but what is available is very exciting. Yorkshire's forced rhubarb, daringly and invitingly pink, is irresistible and particularly brilliant when paired with another January crop of blood oranges from Spain. Some of the oranges were boiled whole for two hours, then blended into a smooth puree to be folded into a gluten free cake mix. The remainder were juiced and mixed with Campari to create a bitter-sweet granita, which was a lovely cold foil to the delicately poached rhubarb.
I was a little busy in the kitchen to take any snaps, but luckily local foodie and photographer Ozzie was in attendance – you can see a few more over on Ozzy’s Flickr right here.