Chef makes a dish today that I have never heard of but I know that it’s going to be one of my favourites. It’s a French classic called Pommes Anna and it’s basically potatoes and butter. And I’m talking serious quantities of butter. Chef sculpts the potatoes so they are as round as possible and slices them very thinly. He layers them in a circle in the pan, seasons them, douses them with butter, adds a bit more butter and bakes them until they are golden and crispy.
He serves the Pommes Anna with a herb encrusted rack of lamb, and Ratatouille Provençale, a colourful Mediterranean vegetable stew that screams summer. And just as an extra treat he’s showing us how to prepare a loin of cervena. You might not be able to see properly from the photo but he squirted little mounds of beetroot relish and horseradish mousseline in the gaps. I’ll ask Chef if I can publish the recipe for this. It’s one of the stand out dishes. (But then it is only week 3)
We are in awe watching him handle the produce and juggle the various stages for each dish. He has so much on the go that it’s like watching a conductor bring a symphony together. For us, the finale is at 10.30 when we get to taste it all. We take our photos and then sample the delights, conscious that we are going to have to try and match the standard in the practical.
No one is ever late for the 12 o’clock start in the kitchen. In fact we wait at the kitchen door or peer in the windows armed with our knives and notes while those on duty set out the specialist equipment and ingredients. Several of us admit that this is most nervous-wracking part of the day. We just want to get in there and get at it.
Chef says it’s like day one at the Kirks sale when he opens the door. We rush in, organise our mise en place, inspect our ingredients and get underway.
We trim the lamb into a French rack. It’s fiddly removing all the bits of meat and sinew off the bones. But it’s really important so it looks clean on the plate. The trick today is making sure the lamb is cooked medium rare. If it’s too pink it will be chewy. I’ll rely on the thermometer to get it perfect at 45 degrees.
The ratatouille is a bit tricky too. I need to preserve the colour of the red peppers, tomatoes, and zucchini while the aubergine has to be cooked but not soggy. (Chef says raw aubergine is nasty). He refers to the Ratatouille as a picture of seasonal change. Out with pumpkin and kumara and in with the delights of summer. He offers us the chance to make some parmesan crisps which adds some zing to the presentation. The plate, he tells us, is like the artist’s canvas. I take extra care with the presentation. I’m thrilled with the result.