Welcome to my tales of cookery school, food and travel

The first 30+ posts of this blog describe my experiences as I complete a nine month cooking course - the City and Guilds Diploma in Food Preparation and Culinary Art. I did this after I moved out of full time employment and it was purely selfish - I love food, cooking, eating and drinking. Subsequent posts are about, food, travel and adventures.

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Saturday, 4 February 2012

Week 26: fabulous farinaceous

Did you look up farinaceous? 

It sounds wonderful doesn't it?  A bit like luscious, or curvaceous, or stupendous - all of which you are likely to become if you indulge in an excess of farinaceous products.  It is from the French la farine, meaning flour, however the term has expanded to mean starch products in general.  Actually, it may well come from Latin, but as I was severely traumatised by Sister Barbara in Form 5 Latin class, I am now incapable of remembering any Latin vocabulary.

Do you know how many kinds of flour there are?  Nor do I, but my friend Wiki lists 30 odd, aside from the obvious wheat flours we use on a day to day basis.  It is likely you use either standard (aka soft, all purpose, plain) flour and high grade (aka premium or strong)  most often.  Strong flour has a higher gluten content and is more suitable for bread and pastas.  Soft flour is better for cakes, pastries, scones and other baking.  All that said, I inadvertently use all purpose instead of strong flour to make my pasta during assessment this week  yet still manage to get Distinction, so it can't be that crucial.

drying sheets of pasta before shaping
True confessions: I do not own a pasta machine and prior to this week I have never made fresh pasta. Yet I do like eating the stuff - though not so much by the end of the week.  Aside from plain pasta, which we use for fettuccine and so on, we fool around with flavours, also making tomato, spinach and - my favourite - squid ink.  My tortellini are not very accomplished as you can see, and look more like mitres than the belly buttons (they are also known as umbellico).  Legend has it when Lucretia Borgia stayed in an inn one night the innkeeper was so captivated by her beauty he peered through the keyhole of her dimly lit bedroom. The sight of her navel was enough to send him into ecstasy and inspired him to create the tortellini that night.  Apparently she hadn't been eating too much pasta so he could see her navel.  I'm not sure who peered through which keyhole to create ravioli, but I am happier with my ravioli which do look like little pillows.

Other farinaceous products that receive our attention this week include gnocchi.  It transpires there are three main types (who knew?) one of which you may remember from
Week 15: They let us cook for paying customers (if you haven't read this blog it is worth reading) That's was gnocchi romaine - made with semolina. We use potato to make gnocchi piemontaise, the one you probably know best; and gnocchi parisienne. Now this last one is a complete revelation to me - it is made using pâte à choux - choux pastry, the same stuff you use for eclairs and profiteroles, but with parmesan and no sugar.   Once the dough is ready you pipe it into simmering water to poach, then transfer to a baking dish, cover with cheese and bake. I wish I could say mine look like the ones in the photo but they don't.  I refrain from photographing mine which look more like anaemic worms. However they do taste good with a blue cheese and walnut sauce.

What else? Shanghai dumplings made with a spicy pork filling are good. Most of the class deep fry theirs and eat them on the day. The hunter gatherer and I eat them for lunch today, however I do not recommend freezing uncooked dumplings in two layers!  They stick together and as a result we eat free form steamed dim sum -delicious none the less.

All in all, an enjoyable week.  People are starting to look for work experience placements and also for jobs as we approach the end of the course. From the middle of March we do three weeks work experience (unpaid) before returning to class for a couple of weeks and the course end on April 20th.  In the past students completed work experience in two blocks, one of which was about half way through the course. Apparently chefs would then "poach" the students from the course so students didn't return. This was a loss to Weltec as they then lost the subsidy for the student. Also a loss to the student as they did not gain their (internationally recognised) qualification. Consequently we do one longer block close to the end.

That's all for this week - enjoy our national day on Monday.

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