3 course crunch

So all these restaurant services have been building up to today. It’s a special day. I designed a 3-course menu comprising an amuse bouche, a starter and a main course. I had 4 hours for mise en place, then I had to serve 3 of each plate under restaurant conditions. Fun. Fun. Fun. Actually, despite some serious trepidation it was great fun. And I’m sure it’s a useful precursor to the mock exam next week.

I had the list of ingredients some time back so at least I could start to think about my menu early. Certain ingredients had to be used, namely squid ink and squid, and guinea fowl. These could only be used once and not in multiple dishes, for example the guinea fowl could be used in the starter or the main course but not both. The amuse bouche had to be vegetarian. Minimising waste was important, specifically, the whole guinea fowl had to be used.

My amuse bouche was a beetroot bouchée. Puff pastry filled with beetroot 3-ways—braised, pickled and puréed, topped with homemade cheese infused with lemon and thyme, chives and pickled onion. A pretty little thing. They never give us cheese on the ingredients lists. Sigh. And beetroot works so well with cheese, goddammit! Bugger it, I thought. There’s full fat milk and vinegar available so I’ll make my own. Easy. Bring the milk to 80C, add vinegar and stir. Separate out the curds. Cheese! I added lemon juice, zest and thyme leaves before letting it hang. And I used the whey to marinate the guinea fowl breasts. No waste ‘ere guv’nor.

The beetroot was cooked at a simmer. Once peeled a few balls were scooped out with a Parisienne. That’s the braised bit done. I cut macédoine, which went into a pickling liquor I made with white balsamic vinegar, along with some sliced onion. This turned the onion pink. Lovely. Pickled bit done. Lastly, the beetroot trimmings were puréed with some double cream and lemon juice giving a vibrant pink. Creamy bit done.

This was layered inside the puff pastry just before service. It was a tweezer job to delicately place all the toppings bearing in mind the pastry was about 3cm in diameter. Dainty. A gob full, basically.

Braised, pickled and puréed beetroot bouchée with lemon thyme cheese and pickled onion

Amuse Bouche from Group C

My starter was a squid ink risotto with marinated squid and a mustard emulsion. The risotto was straight forward enough. After all, I’ve had practice in the week leading up to this session. I cooked it to 80%, chilled it and finished it during service. Lovely, oozing, black creaminess. The emulsion was made from a vinaigrette of whole grain mustard and white wine vinegar with an egg yolk, then whisking in olive oil. A pinch of sugar was needed in the final seasoning.

I mostly screwed up the squid. Prep was easy but I scored the body on the wrong side. It didn’t curl. Sob. It’s meant to be scored on the inside because it will curl naturally that way apparently. And, in waiting for the elusive curl I overcooked the body. Doh. At least the tentacles were ok. Rocket leaves and the hot squid were plunged into a marinade of olive oil, lemon juice and zest and dressed onto the plate. I’m kicking myself now because during service I didn’t have the wits about me to cut the body into smaller pieces for a better presentation.

Squid ink risotto with marinated squid and a mustard emulsion

My main course was a ballotine of guinea fowl breast with a leg meat bonbon. Breaking down a whole guinea fowl is messy because it’s such a fatty bird. The wings and a very trimmed carcass made a mighty fine sauce, even if I do say so myself.

The legs were slowly poached in stock with vegetables. The leg meat is tough and needs TLC. I let them cool in the poaching liquor for extra effect then the meat was pulled from the bone and shredded. I diced some and puréed about a quarter with white balsamic vinegar, shallot, and reduced veal stock. Mmmm. The shredded and diced meat was mixed with the purée, and a panade of breadcrumbs soaked with a little clarified butter was added. The mix went into the fridge. Once cold enough I made balls, which were dredged in flour, egg and pink breadcrumbs to make leg meat bonbons. Wicked! These were deep fried to get crunchy and finished in the oven. Damn tasty!

The breast, with the skin on, was stuffed with duxelles using thyme instead of parsley and rolled together. I rubbed some of the guinea fowl fat on cling film, set down a bed of thyme and bay leaf, and put the rolled breast on top. The cling film was then used to tightly roll the breast into a cylinder. This went into a water bath at 65C for 40 minutes. When it came out it was patted dry and pan-fired in button to crisp up the skin.

Garniture was poached Charlotte potato, finished in butter and chives, glazed carrots and baby Savoy cabbage which had been steamed and then charred.

Ballotine of guinea fowl with mushroom duxelles and a leg meat bonbon

Overall I was pretty happy. I served everything on time so my plan and organisation worked.

Flavour combinations worked well.

The bouchée was fresh.

I overcooked the squid body but the risotto was great and the mustard emulsion was nice too. The presentation would have been tidier if the emulsion was just a little thicker. Shame.

I was ecstatic about the guinea fowl ballotine and bonbon. They tasted fantastic. Even chef remarked how well the ballotine had turned out. I was annoyed that the skin had caught in places. Overall, I was pissed with the presentation of the plate. It was meant to look refined but ended up looking rustic because the elements were all too large. In hindsight I should’ve turned the potato so it had a precise shape and size. And I ended up putting colour on it during the reheat, which was not what I wanted. I should’ve used a quarter of the baby Savoy cabbage and not a half. On the plus side my carrots were beautifully glazed.

All in all, I was happy. Mostly relieved.

Starters from Group C

Main courses from Group C

More main courses from Group C