I have now for the past couple of years been asked by my daughters school to teach a Masterclass to year 10 Food Tech students. To try and give them a bit of realism and give them some tips and ideas on food preparation in a professional kitchen.
So this last week I duly arrived at Maidstone Girls Grammar School to prepare and teach a class of 20 students the intricacies of boning a chicken, making a new potato and spinach terrine and then finally having been given the “water” chocolate mousse recipe by Damian Allsop I felt it was of sufficient interest to also get them making this.
It was a packed day as I started off by showing them how to joint a chicken and stuffing its French trimmed breast ready for roasting and serving with a wild mushroom ragout. The making of the terrine (a quiche without the pastry basically) and then presenting two finished plates to illustrate some presentation ideas.
Well I was impressed their teacher Mrs Meek was keen to give each girl a whole chicken to work with as this was no small cost. So as they all settled into first quickly making their own terrines and then boning their chickens there was a great deal of grimacing and squeamish face pulling as they were made to handle the chickens. It is a sad state that we have become so anaesthetized by handling fresh unprepared foods so much. They did a remarkable job some obviously better than others but overall they all managed to produce a boned stuffed and rolled breast of chicken.
With the terrines now out of the oven and cooling down we then had chance to quickly knock up some Irish soda bread as well. There was not a spare 5 minutes to be had as I had set them a deadline of 12:30 to serve up the terrine and then the chicken so they could all sit down and eat together.
Well they just about did it… the classroom looked a bit like a bomb had hit it but overall it was a success and they all seemed to like the terrine and the “monster” sized chicken breasts also seemed to get devoured! The bread was a triumph apart from a couple of students who managed to forget that all important addition of bicarbonate of soda to act as the rising agent! I guess the reading of the recipe will be high on the agenda next time!
So fed and rested (a bit) the afternoon session kicked off with the chocolate dessert. We firstly had to blow up small water bomb balloons to act as the mould to make little chocolate cups that we could then use as a casing for the finished mousse. This required a large pot of chocolate melted and tempered ready for the balloons to be dipped and left to harden. I had warned them if the chocolate was too hot they had a tendency to explode! This they duly did on several occasions but overall we managed to get 20 plus balloons chilling!
The mousse was then started by melting chocolate over a saucepan of hot water (bain marie) and the egg whites were whipped to soft peak meringues with some added sugar and the chocolate was then emulsified with some water and agar agar mix. This all then combined ensured the mousse was light and the absence of cream means a much cleaner flavour. The girls all did an amazing job as it was all a bit unfamiliar and the cries of “I don’t like dark chocolate” were turned to “OMG this is a bit of alright” As I dished out some Damian Allsop water ganache chocolates to them all to sample and I showed them how to plate up the mousse and garnish. One girl presented a truly magnificent example that had a true “Faberge Look” about it and it even garnered praise from the man himself Damian Allsop via Twitter when he tweeted a few days later.
As the girls departed with their extra mousses for their family to taste at home and we tidied up and packed away I reflected they had done an amazing job in the time given. It was good to see them not only embrace a task they viewed with trepidation but also thoroughly enjoy foods and products they were unfamiliar with.
So next year will be a new challenge and we hope a new set of budding cooks will step up to the challenges we set them.
The recipes used can be found via the following links