Chef's school - new methods of cooking
You may have read an introductory post by me on the news section of the Jamie website. If not have a look at the news section of the site for an entry on 23 January.
In summary, I'm changing career from being a lawyer to doing 'something' in the food industry. At the moment, this means I'm doing a 6 month long intensive chef's course at Westminster Kingsway college.
We cook and learn so much each day that it will be impossible to blog everything. We're in Week Four at the moment, so I've a little catching up to do. Look out for a few of these posts over the next 2 or 3 days.
We're covering the basics over the first five weeks. Much of it I've done before, but maybe not always correctly or efficiently. So it's good to go over that ground anyway. But there are new things too, including methods and techniques that aren't so easy to do and learn at home - often because of access to equipment.
For example, in Week Two we got to experiment with sous vide cooking.
This is something that you have probably seen mentioned on TV shows or in books; it's very popular at the moment.
Basically, it means vacuum packaging meat, fish, vegetables, even eggs, and then cooking them at a relatively low temperature in a water bath. The water bath stays at a constant temperature, so what you're cooking doesn't get overdone. This is obviously really useful in commercial kitchens where they've lots of things on the go and demanding customers. The natural flavours of a product are also retained as there's no where for them to escape to! What is really interesting, I think, is the difference cooking like this has to textures and tastes.
We got to experiment with salmon and chicken - it's great to be able to taste the difference between cooking methods side by side.
The picture I've attached shows the difference between pan fried salmon (on the left) and sous vide salmon (on the right). The sous vide version keeps the salmon bright pink throughout the fillet. It's almost translucent too, isn't it? Also, the texture of the fish is kind of gelatinous - quite different to the texture of the pan fried fish.
To be honest, I quite enjoyed the flavour of the pan fried salmon - frying in butter obviously adds a nice flavour and it's easier to get tasty crispy skin too.
Sous vide chicken was really interesting too. When comparing sous vide to pan roasting a chicken breast, the differences were quite remarkable: a sous vide breast barely loses any weight (and therefore moisture), so was juicy and tender ... and if you were a chef, you'd probably think you could get two portions out of one breast for, say, a salad, rather than one from a pan fried breast, such is the difference. However, the taste of the pan roasted chicken was hugely satisfying (though if it had been overcooked, it wouldn't have been so nice ... a risk that's not there with sous vide).
It's a difficult call as to which texture and taste I prefer. Cooked simply, the pan roasted one was marginally better.
BUT it's worth noting that both the salmon and the chicken took on flavours really well and easily when we were being more creative a day later. They were excellent when we added Asian flavours (such as lemongrass, galangal, chilli, lime and coriander) into the sous vide bags before cooking. It didn't take much of these aromatics to really enhance what we were eating. Both the chicken and fish were excellent served with a lovely, zingy, roast pepper, chilli, lime and coriander salsa. Nice.
Till next time. Ed
Check out my blog for recipes and London based restaurant reviews www.rocketandsquash.com
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Best of luck on your new journey! I just used galangal for the first time last week and I am so amazed and in love with it!
Nice work, good luck.
My problem with Salmon, is a big chunk of it is factory farmed. Salmon used to be special occasion. It still is for me, as I eat wild salmon at Christmas and perhaps as a birthday treat. Now with farms it is disgustingly cheap. I would like to see this trend reversed.
I bought some Ling today for a bargain price £3:25 for two good steaks. There were also some mackerel that looked amazing. We still get a few mackerel in Cornwall in winter. I will wait till summer for them, as they become a bargain price.
I dare say sous vide machines are not cheap. I wonder if it’s possible to make something, at home, that does it cheaper. Wallace and Grommet vacuum cleaner style.
I would love to cook something sous vide. Especialy some of the quality food available in our area.
Best of luck to you! We've had a lot of interesting ingredients and foods in our travels, but I don't think we've experienced food cooked in the sous vide method.
Goose... there are a few homebased sous vide hacks. the most basic is a vaccum packaging unit like a food saver and then a large pot of water in the oven with a probe thermometer. It takes awhile to get the water to even out temp wise but it apparently works. the other option is something called Sous Vide Magic. It is a controler that basically turns a very basic Crock pot into a sous vide machine, and you then add in an aquarium type bubbler for the agitation.
Hi all. Thanks for your good wishes.
SonomaEddie - yeah, galangal's great isn't it. In some ways it's like a subtle version of ginger isn't it. But it's got some of it's own beautiful properties too.
Goose - good on you for promoting and consuming seasonal wild fish. Salmon is remarkably accessible isn't it; but the non farmed stuff is beautiful and far less fatty than farmed stuff, so worth using, I think.
Re the sous vide machine, you can definitely have a go yourself by buying a cheap vacuum packing machine (apparently available in some supermarkets and office stores) and then heating a pot gently with a thermometer and a bucket of ice next to it - to keep control and bring the temperature back when you need. Can't say I've tried it yet!
Really looking forward to reading your blog and learning of you progress.
I graduated from Westminster last year!
How brave you are! Good for you! I enjoyed reading your blog.