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Hello Employment: Laminated Pastry


Dec
04

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter you may have noticed I’ve been doing a lot of baking recently. Specifically, croissants. Why? You may have asked, Why are you making so many croissants? Where are they all going? Are you just eating them all and getting really, really fat? How do you have time to keep making so many croissants?!

I’m a big believer in practice makes perfect and patience. I spent a week at the end of October working at Le Manoir in their pastry section. It was great experience and I learned loads but as I hadn’t worked for about a month and a half and this Stage came right at the tail-end of my radio-iodine treatment, I was a mess. My body felt slow and old and my brain was struggling to remember how to get my body to do what I wanted it to. At the end of my first day I drove back to the B&B I was staying in and collapsed onto my bed, still fully dressed, trying to remember why I was putting myself through this. On the second day I found myself sitting in my car during my break, on the phone to my boyfriend and crying with frustration, having spent around 2 hours that morning failing to segment grapefruit properly.

Such a small thing, right? But I wasted 9 grapefruit before anybody stopped me and it was the most awful feeling, a sense of sinking despair, right in the pit of my stomach. The excellent Chef Benoit Blin, the Head Pastry Chef, ended up giving me his knife and spending 10 minutes teaching me how to actually cut away the rind and segment properly, but even then I couldn’t do it. So when I finally went on my break, I ended up sobbing with frustration in my car – why couldn’t my brain kick into gear? Why was my body not doing what I wanted it to do? Time and time again I’ve been told that I need to give myself a break – I had just come off a month of convalescing at home by myself – and thankfully, from that point onwards I started to find my feet again as my body got back into the swing of things, remembered how to function and how it felt to work long hours and stand for most of the day – all I needed was a bit of time. It was another lesson in patience that needed to be learnt.

Needless to say, I wasn’t given the grapefruit again to segment whilst at Le Manoir, but when I came back home to London I went out, bought 20 grapefruit and spent around an hour practising until I could produce a perfect globe for segmenting. The first one looked like I had “cut it with a spoon”, according to one of my friends, but the last few? They were bloody beautiful.


So recently I found myself in limbo, waiting to hear back about jobs, jumping through HR hoops and killing time in-between interviews. I had mastered grapefruit… it was time to move on to shaping croissants. And so every day for the past couple of weeks I made a batch of croissant dough and left it to prove overnight, then, the following day, laminated it (lamination is the process of incorporating butter into dough, then rolling and folding to make layered pastries), rested, shaped, baked and put the results into a pastry box which I left outside our front door. It was a great experiment – I got to practice making pastries, the neighbours got to eat them and we even started to meet them as they popped over for a chat, or slipped a little thank you note through the door. Practice really does make perfect and a solid couple of weeks doing the same thing, over and over, just yielded better and better results.


And as for patience? Well, that’s paid off too because after waiting and holding out for a month, as of next Monday I’ll be starting my dream job, as a pastry chef at Claridge’s.

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A Month of Financiers: Autumnal Matcha Financiers


Nov
25

HELLO WORLD! So I’m briefly back to blog this recipe because I sort of disappeared off the radar for a bit, just to get a few things in my life sorted. I’m not quite ready to share with you the direction that my life is heading at the moment but there are good things afoot! So at the moment I’m just hanging out, waiting, baking a lot of croissants and pastries (and leaving them out for my new neighbours, which has been going down very well! Hurrah for Random Acts of Pastry Kindness! More on that another time!) and catching up with friends.

This particular recipe came about because the lovely chaps over at Lalani & Co. very kindly sent me some matcha green tea to play with (no reason, just because they’re lovely and they thought I might like some! On a side note they recently launched their online shop – previously you could only get their teas through the restaurants and hotels they supply – and they genuinely have amazing teas, all from artisan family run tea gardens whom they personally work with. If you like tea go check them out because I can’t rave about these guys enough). I actually developed the recipe over a month and fed financiers to every single person who came to visit me (TS had to eat quite a few for me and he doesn’t even like matcha!), tweaking it every time, adjusting the fruit (at one point I was using white chocolate but it was just too sweet), adjusting the sugar, adjusting the matcha and now… now it’s perfect. Financiers are actually named so because their traditional shape makes them look like gold bars but obviously these ones are green because of the matcha and, due to the shape of my mould, oval. So less gold bar, more… green… oval?

Regardless, this recipe is delicious and I’ve got about 10 or so people who would fight you if you said otherwise! So this is for everybody who came over, tried them and then begged for the recipe, and enormous thanks to all of my taste testers! Without you I’d be much fatter than I already am.

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Watch This Space: Honey Beurre Noisette Madeleines


Aug
15


At the Street Kitchen BurgerDog launch with co-founders Mark Jankel & Jun Tanaka.

After a whirlwind of activity I’m finally in a quieter phase. The weather has turned whilst we’re still only in August (big surprise, welcome to the UK) and with the grey skies come a slightly grey mood. It’s inevitable, really, the end of summer always lies heavy on my heart, but the quiet period I’m in at the moment definitely doesn’t help. I’m itching to get back into a kitchen, to keep learning, but for now I just have to wait.

Why the wait, you ask? Well, after two years of repeated visits to the hospital, I’m finally having a scan to prepare me for radio-iodine treatment. About bloody time, right? The upside is: no more fannying about with monthly visits to the hospital for blood tests or constant medication yo-yo-ing; the downside: I need to take about a month off because I’m going to be radioactive and am not allowed to work in close contact with, er, anything. I actually sent that sentence to a potential employer in an email recently, which is, to me, a big giant win.

So whilst I take a break from my mad dash around the UK Michelin restaurant scene (which I’m missing terribly at the moment), I guess I’ll just take some time to do some reading and baking, househunt (yes, again), practice rocher-ing and julienne/dice everything in sight. What else can I do?

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Working 9-5: Wild Rice Salad


Aug
01


Team Feeder!

Since graduating a month ago (!) I’ve not stopped. Moving from stage to trial to private job, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind and, though I’m exhausted, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m not the kind of person who can do nothing for long periods of time, instead choosing to fill my diary as full as I can, as many dinner dates, coffee dates, lunch dates, private jobs, stages as is physically possible. Of course the downside to this is that when I get sick I get really sick, a classic case of burning the candle at both ends, and recently this is exactly what’s happened to me.

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Life After Leiths


Jul
18

What do you do when the 9 months of familiarity – of standing at the same steel worktops, cursing at the same gas ovens, washing up the same equipment in plastic basins, checking the same wooden drawers under your benches (knife, fork, spoon, 4 teaspoons, fish slice, slotted spoon, metal spoon, whisk, rolling pin, 2 wooden spoons: DONE), sitting in the same chair in the demonstration room (“oi, that’s my chair, get out”; “I can’t believe she’s sitting in my chair again, what’s she playing at?!”), eating lunch out of plastic bags with plastic cutlery which is guaranteed to snap in the dining room, drinking at the same pub every Friday, wearing the same whites (“do you think I can get away with wearing this apron again?”), finding an endless supply of tea towels strewn around the changing room, laughing with peers and teachers, crying over spilt milk, hospital visits for the more extreme cuts, burns and war wounds, of everything – is just gone? Done? Finished forever? What do you do?

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The End of the Road: Leiths Diploma, Term 3, Weeks 2-10


Jun
26

As I write this, the penultimate post in my Leiths Diploma series, I’m sat in my bed with my stomach in a bundle of knots because tomorrow I’ll be cooking for the last time at Leiths and taking my final practical exam. I’m nervous, I’m excited and I’m more than a little sad – these past 9 months have been a roller coaster of emotions but, ultimately, it’s been one of the best years of my life.

I haven’t been very good about updating my blog this term, mostly because I’ve been keeping very busy with life (I moved in with TS about three weeks ago!) but also because I’ve just been so exhausted I really haven’t had the energy to post anything. Sorry, totally my bad. But, regardless, all of you have been so lovely with your comments, your emails, you Tweets, even when I disappear off the radar completely and/or start having a mild mental breakdown. So thank you, dear readers, for helping to keep me sane, even when I let you down by posting nothing/of note.

But enough of my ramblings. Here’s what I did over this past term:

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And Pause: Leiths Diploma


Jun
07


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.

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The Beginning of the End: Leiths Diploma, Term 3, Week 1


Apr
22


Lamb noisettes, ratatouille & dauphinoise potatoes.

And so here we are: the final term at Leiths. I keep trying to get it to soak in that after 6 (hard, hard) months we’re into the home stretch now, that in 3 months time I will be a trained chef, that I won’t have somebody hanging over my shoulder, telling me what to do, reassuring me that my baked custard is set enough, that it’s time to look for a job and get some references together.

Sometimes when I look at my food I’m not sure if I’ve gotten any better since week 1 of the foundation term – I’m so involved in this world, this bubble, that I feel I’m a little too close to it all to be able to really take stock. But then somebody asks me a question or ponders over the science of a dish they’re eating & the answers come to me like second nature, proving that it has actually become ingrained in me, that I do know what I’m doing. A tiny kernel of pride is sitting deep inside my heart, pride that I’ve made it to this final term & worked my ass off to get here, hope that I am now a better cook – maybe even a chef? – but, also, pure relief that it was the right decision.

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The End (Part II) & The Beginning?: Leiths Diploma, Term 2, Weeks 9 & 10


Apr
12

It’s been hard for me to write this post. I’ve sat staring at my screen for a couple of days now, the page just waiting for me to start typing. I could say it’s because I’ve been busy – I have, after all. We’re on Easter break now and I’ve filled my time with working like a mad woman, from a charity dinner for 50 I organised and executed with 3 friends for my mother’s homeless shelter, to turning out 200 scones every day for 3 days for the pastry section at Hix Mayfair in Brown’s Hotel. But no, that’s just an excuse. The truth is that I’ve really been taking a break from writing to contemplate my future and to spend a little more time in the present.

Blogging does not come without its traps. On the plus side, it’s an outlet, a way for me to document what I make, photograph (though being full time in school does not make for much time for that any more, sadly, hence all the Instagram photos) and eat, a way to chart my progress through culinary school, and it’s a fantastic way to connect with people and I have met some really fabulous people over the past – nearly 3! – years. It’s also a way for people who know me to catch up with what’s going on in my life, the trials and tribulations, the joy and the successes.

However, on the down side, when you have a public outlet, you also have public scrutiny. I’ve heard the whispers, the not so nice things that are said – sometimes not even behind closed doors – and more than anything it just saddened me to the point where I didn’t want to keep writing, didn’t want to put myself out there for those critics to nitpick at. I never started this blog because I wanted to show off or pretend to be anything more than I am, I started it for the pure joy of writing and cooking, I started it for distraction from my final year of university and amazingly my tiny piece of the web became something more, it made me a part of a community. When I started at Leiths back in October this blog became my way of reminding myself what it was I was doing, of trying to figure out where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do – something that became very difficult a few weeks into the middle of the second term – but it was very much about me because, well, that’s what this blog has always been about: me. It may sound very self-involved but I have never pretended that this was anything more than it is.

The point is that when you put yourself out there and you try to be honest and faithful to who you are, it is very likely that you will receive criticism. Fact. The difference, I suppose, is how you choose to deal with it. And so this is how I’m dealing with it: I will not change who I am, what I write or how I write; I will stay true to myself, to my voice and to my style because there will always be critics, there will always be nasty things said and comments made but, as a good friend once told me, “haters gonna hate but haters never hate on losers”. And so, with that said, let’s get on with it because I have some exciting news!

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Three Nightmare Weeks: Leiths Diploma, Term 2, Weeks 6, 7 & 8


Mar
05


Jamaican lamb curry I made at home with leftover boned leg.

You may have been wondering where I’ve been and why I haven’t been posting for the last three weeks. In all honesty: I’d lost my enthusiasm for food.

Now to somebody like me who absolutely loves food this was something of a tragedy. I’ve actually been feeling kind of depressed because it seemed that everything I was doing was turning out terrible – even simple things were letting me down, like forgetting to put salt into my beer bread so that it looked great and had the right texture but tasted of nothing. I was out of the zone and as a result the weeks had been fairly disastrous, the cherry on top being our cooking for 50 task experience. I started to dread going into the kitchen, terrified that my bad luck would follow me in again and on Friday I found myself wiping away tears of frustration over brandy snaps; that was basically when I realised that I needed a break. But we all have to go through the bad to get to the good, right? So this post is all about the bad – we’ll save the good for the next (I have to give you something to look forward to, right?). Enter the three nightmare weeks…

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