Week 4! at ENTCS.

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Whew!  I really thought after having experienced cooking schools before and being week 4 I would be cruising along with a veteran like style.  Not so!  This school is still kicking my butt.  There always seems to be a group panic near plating time.  Everyone scurries around trying to get all their dishes plated and beautified.  I was far from successful with my Chelsea Buns, as was dutifully pointed out by one of my instructors.  I had uneven cooking, unraveled buns, and a noticeably sloppy frantic application of apricot ‘glaze’, which on my funky buns looked like blobs of sick.

I’m trying to wrap my head around staying on task and on time AND getting everything beautifully presented, Oh, and of course delicious.   I’m not completely in the back of the bus, but I ain’t drivin’ it, that is for sure.

Today I need to present Italian Bread (similar to a focaccia), Blackberry Jellies, Tuiles and Chocolate Mousse,.  I let you know how it goes.

Some Time Later…

Well, THAT could have gone better.  Apparently my Italian Bread was too thin and slightly overcooked.  I kinda liked it but could see the instructor’s  point.  Then my Tuiles seemed to have too much sugar and also overcooked…yeah, I’ll give ’em that.  My Blackberry Jellies could possibly ‘jell’ if I do a dance and maybe donate to some deserving charity; did I mention I forgot to bring the simple syrup to a boil and simmer the aromatics?  The gelatin should fix all that, I hope.

Then finally my chocolate mousse. Where to start.  I guess the first screw up was over mixing the egg whites – how to fix this – start over, et voilà! Right? Eh, no.  Then we take the new egg whites, whipped to perfection, and add them to the chocolate forgetting the egg yolks.  How do we fix this – start over, et voilà! Right?  Again, no.  Egg whites whipped to perfection, egg yolks fluffed as directed, more chocolate melted to desired heat level, mix  all carefully and lovingly as to not to deflate the perfectly whipped whites!  Pour into ramekins and cross fingers.  Fingers crossed, check!

If I had to transpose a school grade to the final mousse, I guess I would say I earned a B-.  Whah??  What went wrong? Whites whipped to swan’s neck, yolks aerated, chocolate just melted, folded together with so much love I nearly shed a tear, ramekin filled and tapped, fingers crossed in the proper crisscross formation.  Maybe it was the tapping? Did I over tap?!  I don’t think I’ll sleep tonight pondering the unknown factor…the X factor.

I have definitely lost my mojo; hopefully this is only temporary.  Being mojoless is a frustrating place to be.  I’ve made an executive decision to try to regroup/ remojo if you will.  How, I’m not exactly sure but hopefully it will include some more interesting photographs and delicious, inspirational dishes cooked by some one else.  Until next time!


“Attention, This Vehicle is Reversing”

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I think in the States, if I multi-ton trash collecting truck was backing up using a warning voice, it would be something like, “Hey! You! Stop texting or playing Angry Birds and move your dumb-ass outta the way before I rub you into the pavement!”  Here in Edinburgh, you will hear in a calm and gentle voice, “Attention, this vehicle is reversing.”   Very different approaches to a common goal.

So on my way to cooking school I managed to live another day and make some darn tasty dishes, two of which I’d like to share with you.  Now I know some of you might be dismissive about soup and more specifically Mushroom Soup, but please give this easy and flavorsome soup a try!  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.  The second dish I will post is Swiss Meringues.  The irony here is that I really like soup, just about any soup so I was excited about our first dish but when our instructors told us we’d be making meringues my nose wrinkled and I thought I’d be wasting a lot of time on cloyingly sweet little ‘precious’ puffs that would go directly into the compost after my critique. Not so!  Yes, meringues of course are very sweet but prepared in bite-size portions and cooked properly they are a delightful treat.  On to the soup! Then the Meringues!

Mushroom Soup

Serves 4

55g/ 2oz Butter

340g/ 12oz Button mushrooms, chopped

3 T Parsley, finely chopped

2 Garlic cloves, very finely chopped or, preferably,  pasted

2 Bread slices, crustless cut into small pieces

860ml/ 1 1/2 pints Chicken stock

Pinch of Nutmeg or Mace

Salt and Pepper to taste

3 T Heavy (double) cream

Fresh herbs for garnish

Melt the butter in a medium sized pot.  Add the mushrooms and chopped parsley and cook on medium high heat until mushrooms are completely cooked through and a little caramelized.  Add the garlic and bread and mix well, then pour in stock, nutmeg or mace and salt and pepper.  Bring to low simmer for about 10 minutes.  Taste to see if it needs to be reduced a bit more.  Pour into a blender or use a immersion stick blender and whiz. Pour pack into the same pot and reheat adding the cream.  Place in heated bowls and garnish with herbs.


Swiss Meringues

Makes about 50 small or 12 large meringues


4 Egg whites

Pinch of salt

225g/ 8oz Baker’s (caster) sugar


Filling (Optional):

200ml/ 7 fl oz Heavy (double) cream, whipped


Preheat oven to 225°F/ 110°C

Place parchment on 2 baking sheets.  Whisk egg whites and salt until stiff but not dry.  Add 1 Tablespoon of sugar whisking until stiff and shiny.  Continue adding sugar 1 Tablespoon at a time.  Drop meringue onto prepared sheet pans using either a small or large spoon – just make sure they are all about the same size.  Leave space between each meringue as they puff up during baking.  Depending on the size of your meringues bake from about 1/2 hour to 1 hour and a bit  What you’re looking for is to be able to peel the bottom of the meringues from the parchment easily and firm to the touch.  The color of the meringues should only go slightly off white otherwise they will be overcooked.

You can choose to sandwich the meringue (bottoms) two together with the optional whipped cream in the middle. Lecker!

Week One of Edinburgh New Town Cooking School

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Or ENTCS for those in the know 😉 . Week One in a word: blissful-chaos. Ok, that’s two words, but I used a little hyphen so we’re good.  A quick rundown of the techniques and dishes we were responsible for this last week:

Knife skills (cutting perfect veggies)

Basic egg preparations

Basic pastry types

Basic chocolate

Creme Anglaise

Poached pears

Creme caramel (yum!)

Mayonnaise (by hand – dread, dread, dread)

Vichyssoise and other soups

Chocolate profiteroles

& Quiche Lorraine!

My guess is that most students only managed laundry and sleep over the weekend, but I could be wrong.  There are some beautiful places to visit here and currently lovely weather so hopefully there were some adventures had as well.  I pretty much kept to my neighborhood (New Town).  I, of course visited ‘my wine guy’ at my local wine shop and schmoozed him with my leftover profiteroles.  I’m hoping to get the nod to some wine tastings and other grape related activities. Then I was unsuccessful with my shoe shopping – I wound up in some high-end crazy expensive designer shoe place looking for a Converse retro and was surrounded by Italian twee, the least expensive being £180 !! Then off to lunch at Brown’s.  I like their atmosphere in general and today they had live piano which was very nice.  I tried a cocktail there on the name alone: You Rang M’Lord. It was pretty good; it had Tanqueray, Lychee liqueur, lemon juice and Elderflower cordial.  I would have preferred half the lychee and twice the gin.  I thought of my sister JoAnne and toasted to her, as she digs the elderflower something fierce.

Next week we have a heap of new techniques and recipes to explore.  I hope to see everyone back in the kitchen and keep a 0 dropout rate.  Next week I’ll include a recipe or two that I think is great and very reproducible at home.  Until then…

Edinburgh beginings

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So I had my first pint in Scotland.  For those of you who know me, that’s kind of a big deal.  For starters, I’m not really a beer drinker but the bigger issue is that I’m socially backward…in addition to being a female on her own in a strange local.  But I thought, “What the hell, everyone is out and about, the night is young, I’m sporting a new hair cut (more on that later) and I’m thirsty from spending money in the shops on crap I don’t need – it’s beer time.”  I walked surreptitiously (or not) down Rose street.  Rose street is a pretty nifty street for tourists and locals alike.  The street is pedestrian only with the exception of deliveries, it has a little flag ‘ceiling’ so it always looks festive and the shops and pubs are interesting.  I was looking for a pub that said via it’s ambiance, “come in strange lone female; no one will ask you to lift their kilt or other ‘customs’- just enjoy a cold one.”   I passed by a popular place but then noticed a sign saying If You Voted Yes, Come In For A Pint – politics, no thank you!  Next place.  I picked The Black Cat.  What’s in a name?  The bartender was pleasant enough and I understood most of what she said, although she may have spat in my beer as I didn’t tip properly…that’s fine, the beer was warm, grossly warm so maybe spit was an improvement.  I chose to sit outside to watch the passers-by and text like any other normal person avoiding eye contact.  Noooo, down sits a Scotsman, probably in his 70’s. He is very liquored.  He’d been on a binge because it’s voting day…uh, ok.  I realize this is a very momentous occasion with elections finishing tonight so I truly was curious about what was happening through his eyes.  Well, they were pretty crossed and getting more so.  Not a lot that was shared by my seat mate was coherent.  Lots of ‘tits-up’ and Margret Thatcher isn’t really a ‘fucking nob-head’.  I tried to finish my beer without being too obvious about how quickly I was gulping and headed out.

As socially awkward as I am, I’m even more challenged when it comes to hair – I guess there are worse things.  I loved the cut and color I got from a local salon.  Great staff and talented people, but after walking out and braving the beginnings of Edinburgh’s autumn, all the product whipped out of new style leaving me to look like Justin Bieber –  the early years – I nearly cried; I dislike little mr. bieber, especially his hair.  OK! Enough whining. On to the good stuff, and there’s a lot of good stuff!

Although I have not yet tried Milnes’ “World Famous Haggis Nachos”, I have had some very delicious food out.  One of the things I really like about Edinburgh is that no one pub/restaurant is trying to be like the other.  Each offers it’s unique vibe and menu – it’s so refreshing to get away from the cookie cutter big box approach.  Although haggis nachos have been put on the back burner, I have had Haggis BonBons!  What? Yeah…and they were good. They were one of many tasty bites from The Bon Vivant. I’ve also checked out Brown’s and Queen’s Arms, both of which hit the mark.  The staff at all of pubs/restaurants have been equally wonderful.  School starts on Monday! Cross fingers that I don’t chop off any fingers.


planes, trains & automobiles

So, I’m off to another cooking school!  It seems to be habit forming.  This school is located in Edinburgh, Scotland and like the others I’ve attended, offers courses of various lengths.  I’ll be checking out the 3 month program as well as taking short courses at a Chocolate school nearby.  Both programs should be pretty fantastic.  I’ve never been to Scotland, and with the elections coming up the whole experience will be very interesting.

I’m currently in an airport lounge….where drinking martinis at 4pm is apparently an epidemic.  I’d love to partake in this widely accepted craze, but I think if I did, I’d likely miss my plane (on the floor, lickin’ lint).  I better stick with my tea and water – what a whimp, what have I become.

Once I get settled in my closet size studio tomorrow, I plan to hit the streets and take some photos of my new surroundings.  Until then…. stay hungry.


Pachyderms, Penguins & Parathas – Wildlife & Wild Cooking!

Ok, I know…enough with the alliteration! Here are some recent photos of what’s happening during our visit to the Western Cape.  We had a beautiful visit to the Kirstenbosch Gardens-a must for visitors who appreciate the outdoors. We also had our close encounters with African Penguins and rock dassies (rumor has it related to the elephant, but hmmm I don’t quite see the resemblance).  We dabbled in a few more cooking courses and of course, copious amounts of wine.  Enjoy!

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Calorie Catch-up in the Cape

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We haven’t blogged in a while.  We have been kinda stuck in an eating & drinking cycle that, for the most part, seemed a bit redundant.  There have been some standout events though!  Steve’s indifference to my ticking off the top restaurants in a local magazine changed when we had dinner in Franschhoek at The Tasting Room.  The creativity, presentation, and service were, well for lack of a better word, fun!  I couldn’t stop smiling through the whole dinner.  The chef mixes a sense of humor with deliciousness.  We also had a beautiful lunch at Pierneef A’ La Motte and some badass bone marrow at The Kitchen At Maison.

We also took a fun cooking course at Leopard’s Leap.  It was a quick 3 hours filled with appetizers, bubbly, wine, patê, and a couple things catching on fire – good times.  We’ve been tasting wines at gorgeous wineries throughout Franschhoek, Paarl, and Wellington.  It’s all kind of a blur; most of that due to consumption.  Tomorrow we head to the city to celebrate my birthday.  My birthday wish? (Lipo! -kidding…) to eat at the number one rated restaurant in the city this year – The Test Kitchen.  When we called about a month ago to make a dinner reservation, all they could manage for us was lunch for two at the bar….ok….my expectations are a little high.  We’ll report back and bore you to tears with yet more food photos – lucky you!

Eradicating Wine Drinking Aliens in the Overberg

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The past week has been a whirlwind of adventures. The noise and dust from the road repairs to the flood damage in front of our little cottage has driven us out, over the mountain and down to the Southern most tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas. Dry and hot in summer and windswept and cold in winter. We are drawn here by a new wine area Elim, L’Agulhas. We rent a house in Pearly Beach. It overlooks a rugged coastline and the cold Atlantic. The days are long and filled with sunshine, perfect for slow ripening grapes. Also for walking the beach checking out the tidepools and finding treasures. Today the treasure is in the form of shells, in particular the intriguing  flat white spiral Ndoro. These are detached bottom sections of conus shells.  Used as currency in Zimbabwe since the 17th century they are still worn by spirit mediums and considered to bring fortune and longevity to those who find them. We visit Struisbaai, a color filled fishing village and watch the days catch of yellowtail ( Amberjack) being unloaded. It’s a busy place with fish being gutted on the boat ramp, clouds of noisy gulls and traders haggling over prices.  As each boat is offloaded small pickup trucks rush the fish to Cape Town restaurants. Prices are just under $10 for a large fish. We breakfast in a small padstall.  The food and service are excellent. Polite smiling people serve homemade breads and preserves with our morning eggs, bacon and boerwors. I had the kippers, Christina says no Smooches for me. The preserves here at the roadside stalls are simply fantastic. Green or brandied figs anyone? Fresh watermelon, orange skin confit and a host of others.  We are now near Bot River and are on our way back through Heaven and Earth wine route for more ‘research’!  Cheers…