Strawberry champagne trifle
Sometimes life moves far too quickly for my liking, other times it feels like it can’t go by fast enough. At the moment I’m stuck somewhere between the two, desperately clinging on to the last shreds of school life, longing to be away from here and in “the real world”. It’s not a feeling that’s alien to me, I’ve felt like this at every final stage of education: when I left primary school I looked forward to the new opportunities high school would bring, when I left high school I skipped my final year ball to go to an Oasis concert in Manchester with my then bad-influence boyfriend (honestly, probably one of the only real things I now deeply regret), and when I was about to leave university I started working in a baby shop in West London, needing to feel independent but still very much dependent. So I’m here again, waiting to be free from education but terrified because I know that “out there” is a much harder place than “in here”. It’s a bit like prison mentality, isn’t it?
So today I thought I wouldn’t catch you up on all of the weeks I didn’t write a post about what we did at school over the past, oh, I don’t know, eight weeks that I haven’t blogged (my bad), but instead would show you a few actual photos I took when pulling together my portfolio for school and potential future clients… and maybe throw in an anecdote or two because you know me: I love to talk.
I never really got the appeal of macarons (and they are macarons, not macaroons! One of my biggest pet peeves!) until I went to Paris back in March for my one-year anniversary with TS. That was the trip that rescued me from the depression I’d found myself wallowing in halfway through the Intermediate term: the unthinkable had happened and food simply didn’t excite me any more. I think it happens to anybody who makes the decision to go to culinary school – suddenly, at one pivotal point, you just can’t find it in you to care any more about what you’re doing, and that is a very dangerous place to be indeed.
I remember, very clearly, standing in the kitchen, talking to one of the teachers when I suddenly found myself choking back sobs, admitting that I was exhausted, needed a break and, frankly, sick of school. She told me that she understood where I was coming from and all I needed to do was go have a really good meal somewhere to get me excited about food again; luckily that weekend TS whisked me off to Paris and we spent an amazing weekend wandering around markets, speaking terrible French, eating at the amazing Pierre Sang Boyer (genuinely one of the nicest chefs I’ve ever met, so talented and the food was incredible) and eating macarons from Pierre Herme.
Forget Laduree, forget any and all macarons you have ever eaten, made, looked at or heard of: you have not eaten a real macaron until you have eaten a Pierre Herme macaron.
The flavours we had were innovative, insane and delicious – white truffle and hazelnut, foie gras and chocolate, olive oil – I didn’t even know you could combine such flavours with a macaron and end up with something completely mind blowing, because that’s exactly what it was, mind blowing.
We ended up buying about three macarons each and taking them back to our hotel room, with the intention of having one, saving the rest for later and heading out to a cafe for lunch. What ended up happening was that we ate all of the macarons and I passed out on the bed, surrounded by macaron wrappers, literally lying in the litter of my spoils. It was a great day and a great weekend because when I came back to London and back to school, my food fatigue had passed and I was ready to tackle it all again with renewed passion.
Brownies were another thing I didn’t really “get” until I realised that a brownie should not be a dry, crumbly thing that you have to choke down with copious amounts of liquid, but instead should be moist and fudgey, sticking to your teeth, the roof of your mouth and everything else it comes into contact with; one that screams for the classic milk accompaniment. I am, apparently, very fussy about my brownies.
Luckily, I have a tried and true recipe which comes courtesy of my friend Russell and his fantastic blog Chasing Delicious, one which I adapt only slightly, adding 100 g of milk chocolate chunks, or peanut butter and jelly for a little unnecessary indulgence. I make these at least once a fortnight and give them out to my friends, to potential clients and to TS to take to work and share with his office and they never disappoint.
Danish jam star pastries
Layered pastries, or laminated pastries, were never something I thought I’d make, let alone love to make. Something about the ritual of rolling and folding a slab of butter encased in a bigger slab of dough is incredibly enjoyable… maybe that says more about me as a person than I’d like to admit! The key is to keep your butter cold but pliable and work quickly – greasy butter equals greasy pastry. The only thing is that because it takes such a long time to make layered pastries, when something goes wrong at the end it is heartbreaking.
My saddest cooking day was probably Danish pastry day. That day the ovens on our side of the kitchen were going a little insane – I’m convinced they were running a good ten degrees hotter than they should’ve been – so when we put our little Danish pastries in, confident that they’d soon become beautiful, delicious creatures, not even ten minutes later they were burnt to a crisp. I think I heard my heart break – I just stared at them in disbelief, feeling like I wanted to cry. All of that work for naught. It was devastating. I didn’t cry, though, I actually haven’t cried since the middle of intermediate term (shock!), I just chalked it up to a dodgy oven and moved on. What else can you do?
The best Chelsea bun I ever had in my life was in Cambridge at, you guessed it, Fitzbillie’s. If you follow the food writer Tim Hayward then you’ll know how he saved the iconic Fitzbillie’s from disappearing from Cambridge forever. After reading about the changes he made and by completely happy chance happened to be visiting Cambridge, I of course had to go to Fitzbillie’s to try the Chelsea bun. It was fantastic – gooey, delicious, warm, melt-in-your-mouth indulgent. It was so good we went back twice.
Ever since then the humble Chelsea bun has entirely risen in my esteem. I haven’t quite made it to the glorious Fitzbillie standard of Chelsea bun, but I’m getting there. I think it needs more butter… (what doesn’t?)
Salad of peas, ricotta & spring onion
This is the last photo I’m sharing and I’m sharing it because firstly I like it and secondly it is something so simple and yet so fantastic, which, as I’m learning, is really how I like my food and my life to be. If I’ve learned anything over the past year it’s that it doesn’t have to be overly complicated to stun, it doesn’t have to contain the fanciest ingredients, life doesn’t need to be all glitz and glamour (although a little in moderation is certainly not a bad thing), and yes, life is too short so sometimes you just need to go with it. And yes, I do have Leiths to thank for these lessons. I’m much more myself than I’ve been in a long time, much happier to be myself and very, very willing to put in the work and to learn.
Even though I’m ready to be out of education I’ll never be ready to stop learning.
Until next time, peace and love,