I had a stint in a professional restaurant kitchen last week. What a baptism of fire! All stainless steel and bench fridges. A ‘Rational’ cooker which is a bit like ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’ a portal to every kind of cooking method! You can grill, roast, bake, steam,stew,blanch or poach food all in one cooker. The computerised control panel looks like you need a degree from Oxford to operate it but once you are familiar with it it’s a doddle.
All the equipment is scaled up compared to domestic bowls, whisks, saucepans, blenders etc. The skill is trying to guess which of the dishes on the menu is going to be the most popular so you can prep accordingly. More difficult than it sounds! What you or I might love and choose will be different to others. Afternoon teas were very popular so I was put on the pastry section. A 3 tiered stand with mango panna cotta shots topped with meringue, mini fresh fruit tartlets, chocolate macaroons filled with chocolate mousse, tiny carrot cake, chocolate dulce all balanced beautifully even though I say it myself on the top-tier. One below the fresh cheese, fruit and plain scones served with Devonshire clotted cream and jam. Bottom tier: Smoked salmon and cream cheese open bagels, cucumber sandwiches, roast beef and horseradish cream and coronation chicken and baby leaf wraps. An absolute indulgence and treat!
The secret of any kitchen section is to be as prepared as possible. Make all the sandwiches in advance and cover them with damp kitchen paper to prevent them from drying out. Bake the scones off in the morning and warm them just before serving them. Slice the cakes to size and lay out on a tray ready to assemble. Spoon the clotted cream into ramekins to have to hand. All these time-saving tips help enormously when the order checks are coming in fast and furious. There was also a gentleman’s afternoon tea on offer with more savoury options: Sausage roll, scotch egg, Mordon blue cheese, biscuits and crackers. Fruit Trifle and fruit cake. On offer a nip of whisky or port. The teas on offer are enough to rival most plantations: English breakfast, Earl Grey, Green Dragon, Strawberry and cream and Darjeeling.
It would be selfish of me not to share some of the delicious recipes from this tier of treats! So here is one of my favourites the mini fruit tartlets:
Mini Fruit Tartlets
Sweet shortcrust pastry
65g caster sugar
3 free range egg yolks
200g plain flour
Cream the butter and sugar together. I did this in a KitchenAid mixer which was far quicker than doing it by hand.
Beat in the egg yolks one at a time
Mix in the flour until the mixture comes together like a ball
Pop the pastry onto a floured surface and knead quickly until smooth. Not too much or you will over work the pastry.
Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and pop in the fridge for 30 minutes
Roll out and line mini tartlet cases or a larger tart case if you prefer. Bake blind until golden brown.
Tartlet Filling: Creme Patisserie
4 egg yolks
60g caster sugar
25g plain flour
2 tsp cornflour
Beat egg yolks and sugar until pale and thickened
Whisk in the flours
Heat the milk until it’s just about to boil
Whisk the milk into the egg mix
Pop the whole lot back into the pan stirring all the time so it doesn’t catch and burn until thick and boiling
Remove from heat and cover with cling film to stop a skin forming. Another thing I learnt on my restaurant cooking jolly is if you stir when a skin has formed you’ll get lumpy custard!
Once the custard has cooled pipe or spoon into the cold tartlet cases and garnish with some fresh fruit.
© Catriona Macdougall cookyourselfhappier.com, 2017