Friday was a lovely fishy day (and we were in excellent hands as Chef Rob has not only worked for Rick Stein but also as a fish monger [these guys must have an excellent skin care regime, b/c they look about 25, but have enough experience to be 50]). We started with a flat fish, lemon sole (above top). Having never filleted a fish before I watched Chef Rob with eagle eyes and scribbled copious notes. We had a beautiful fish each (they had been caught either the night before or that morning and were so fresh!) and got to work, firstly cleaning it, then removing the fillets and then the skin. I was very slow at this, but I got there in the end and didn't leave nearly as much meat on the bone as I thought I would! (me above, looking just a little pleased with myself - I just filleted and skinned a fish!)
The lemon sole fillets were rolled with red peppers and spinach and steamed for our first course of the day. This was to be accompanied by a creamy saffron sauce which we made while the fish cooked and with gorgeous fat scallops (which we had earlier removed from their shells [above] and cleaned - they were diver caught only days earlier) which were sauteed in some butter.
The flavours were really lovely and the seafood had clearly not been long out of the ocean.
Next up we gutted, cleaned, filleted and deboned beautiful looking mackerel (above & below - their skin would have made gorgeous shoes!). We tried the mackerel raw with just some sea salt and lemon juice (above) and it was delicious. We pan fried our fillets and served these with a crispy rasher of the pork belly we started cooking earlier in the week, a sliver of crackling and a tomato and cannellini bean stew (from the tomato sauce we cooked several days earlier). We had whipped up a luscious salsa verde to finish off this great lunch. The flavours and contrasting textures were a triumph (made only more special by the knowledge we'd prepared the fish ourselves).
After this experience, I'm determined only to buy whole fish from now on (I recall saying that about chickens on Monday ...)!
Dessert was the smoothest, zestiest, yummiest lemon tart. We had made the sweet pastry case the day before, and today it was filled with the lemon filling and cooked. After trimming the pastry and slicing, we blow torched each slice and inhaled.
The day finished with presentation of certificates and our very own (clean!) aprons, before some photographs.
As I think you can tell from reading my posts each day, I had a truly wonderful week. All the staff at Ashburton, from the lovely receptionists who somehow always knew my name, the gorgeous boys who were constantly washing up so we never had to, the Assistant Chefs (Luke & Ben) who were always on hand to offer advice and assistance (and in Luke's case a cheeky remark), to the Chef instructors Rob and Stuart - they are a brilliant team who obviously all respect each other (Chef Rob greets the washing up boy "morning Chef") and enjoy their job. Their good humour was infectious. No question was too stupid, and if the answer could be demonstrated, rather than simply explained, it always was. The Chefs were particularly good at giving tips on how to prepare food in advance and how to fit cooking into our daily lives.
I couldn't recommend Ashburton Cookery School enough. Never have I done the same thing continuously for a week and not once wished I was somewhere else. It really was my idea of heaven.