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Monday, 29 November 2010

Five tips from a Michelin starred kitchen

It's Chris here, taking a break from our kitchen and a step into a very different kitchen, that of Martin Wishart's Cook School.

Recently, I had the privilege of attending a Martin Wishart Cook Course specialising in fish and shellfish. A wonderful gift from past colleagues, I arrived, slightly daunted and unsure what to expect but keen to learn and enjoy what was in store.

While it was an amateur course all the attendees were, as you might expect, pretty seriously into food and the standard was high.

First the chef gave a rough description of the exciting dishes we’d be cooking: pan fried scallops with leek and water vinaigrette, crispy hake galettes and sea bass with fennel and warm tomato vinaigrette.

Each dish was then clearly demonstrated and we were left to our own devices to copy what we saw - preparing then eating our creations. Some of it was new, some of it was familiar but it was great to have the luxury of time to think through and enjoy each stage of the process without the pressure of a table to serve. And, I left with some hints that I thought you may find useful and interesting:

1. It sounds obvious, but use plenty salt when cooking shellfish - cook in very salty water to make sure you get the taste of the sea.

2. When making galettes or fish cakes, shape the mixture then freeze before frying to ensure the cakes keep their shape.

3.When frying a fillet of fish with the skin on, cook on the skin side only for the majority of the cooking time then finish off for 30 seconds on the other side – this will ensure the skin is crispy, not soggy.

4. When pan frying fish, season and oil the fish – not the pan.

5. When seasoning shellfish only use salt, not pepper. Pepper is too strong a flavour for the delicate flavours of shellfish.

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