Week Six - Soufflé
And so we arrive at the final challenge of Disaster Chef 2015. It's been a culinary rollercoaster. From pasta to pastry...sponges to soufflés, I'm genuinely amazed the skills I've picked up, and more surprisingly the fun I've had along the way. My confidence in the kitchen has massively improved. And whilst I'm not quite declaring myself a Professional Nigella...I can confidently whip up some pretty decent grub now!
But a Roquefort Cheese Soufflé?! A fleeting thought passes my mind, that if I were to invite friends over for "Soufflé" I'd probably spend the entire night convincing them that I had not just paid someone else to cook. But after last week’s demolishing of the Walnut Cake they may just be eating their words!
The Bechamel Sauce looks way too watery at first. I'm about to chuck another load of flour in when at the eleventh hour it magically thickens. And thickens and thickens. I remove it from the heat before it starts to resemble concrete and add the wonderfully stinky Roquefort. I'm assured by my pal that it's definitely not gone off, ‘that's just the way Roquefort smells’....hmmmm. Separating the eggs goes off without a hitch and I hark back to the days of Week 1 when this task took me 30 minutes (and 12 ruined eggs).
The ramekins are lined and I set forth folding the egg white in…easier said than done when you've used a teeny saucepan! Into the oven they go and 9 speedy minutes later I have some glorious soufflés. As Raymond would say...Bien, Trés bien.
Week Five - Walnut Cake
5 weeks in and I feel like things are starting to turn a little corner. My kitchen ‘misfortunes’ are slowly becoming fewer and I’m picking up all sorts of genius little tips along the way (e.g. do not ‘guess’ the weight of ingredients). Some of my previous attempts at cakes have been so embarrassingly bad that I have not dared inflict a cake on the general public in ages (not long enough to erase the memory of some I suspect). But my slowly emerging kitchen confidence has me thinking that it may be time to shake that up…
This week’s challenge is a Walnut and Strawberry Cream layered cake. The type of stuff that always tastes absolutely divine with a good cup of tea. The prospect of making a sponge cake sends a shiver down my spine. I have never (ever ever) made a sponge cake that hasn’t collapsed. I let Miranda’s soothing voice calmly guide me through the process, stopping every few seconds to compare my mix to the one in the video. My neurosis continues to the lining of the tin, every crevice is dutifully smothered in a layer of butter. But maybe all worthwhile as the baked sponge cake comes out of the tin showing no signs of collapsing. Hurrah!
The filling is a dream to prepare (mostly because it tastes so delicious). In fact, I would advise making extra to allow for ‘taste checks’ along the way. The cake (and my dreams) nearly falls to pieces when the top layer cracks as I add it. The filling came to my rescue as I used this to disguise the top. Is there anything this strawberry cream can’t do?! The finished product looks fantastic, festive almost. This is definitely general-public worthy. It comes along to a friend’s party with me. There’s no cup of tea but there is wine. It seems that a smooth glass of Merlot is the perfect accompaniment to my cake. Who knew?!
If at first you DO succeed…try not to look amazed.
Week Four - Pastry
Fresh from the trauma of the Great Dim Sum Disaster of last week, I approached this week’s challenge with trepidation. I have been attempting to crawl back from last weeks fail by using the Kenwood Chef Sense almost every day this week…I’ll be dammed if I let one undercooked / borderline poisonous wonton ruin my otherwise budding culinary career!
Raymond as always makes the whole thing look as easy as pie (sorry…). I follow his instructions extra carefully (this time using the CORRECT ingredients), and before I know it I have a glorious ball of shortcrust dough. And it actually looks like the picture this time. So far this is already going miles better than last week! Following a mighty battle with some unruly clingfilm (the clingfilm won out) I concede to rolling out my dough straight onto the work surface and line the pie dish. It looks so darn good that I feel it is worthy of a pic (see and gasp-in- awe below).
Swiss Chard is a brand new ingredient to both my kitchen…and my vocabulary. My hyper healthy pal tells me it’s a tasty green veg, a superfood no less! I choose not to tell her my plans for mixing said superfood with butter, cream and a hefty dose of cheese. I assemble the pie, it looks incredible. Cue more pictures. 30 minutes later I have a glowing, golden dish that makes the house smell amazing. I’ve just about managed to crawl back from disaster on this one. As Raymond would say…voilá.
Week Three - Dim Sum
Here’s the thing…me and savoury food have a love/hate relationship in the kitchen. Armed with my witch’s cauldron, not a square of my kitchen goes undestroyed in the making of a simple supper. An innocent mix up of ingredients has previously been the making…but more often the utter breaking of many a dish. And this challenge was no different. Full disclosure: I USED THE WRONG FLOUR. Put it down to a case of identical packaging, similar-ish flour names (bread vs brown), and a very hungry girl.
My dim sum disaster was doomed from the start. A shortage of spoons (where do they all disappear to?) resulted in some questionable measuring of the oils…but I like to think also gave me that devil may care look that Martin had when making this. I “pulsed” the ingredients for the filling together (much less of a violent task than it sounds), and when procrastination had reached its limit, braved myself for the pasta making. THE. MOST. FUN. EVER!! Bravo to Kenwood for thinking up this joyous contraption. Possibly a little too much fun as I definitely over-rolled my brown bread pasta. So I doubled up the squares and the cooking time to match. Not my best move.
The finished product was a little overcooked, a little soggy and disconcertingly healthy looking…Not even my witches cauldron could save me this time!
Week Two - Meringue Cake
You had me at the word chocolate. And salted caramel. And meringue. Pretty much all my favourite things in life mixed into one glorious ginormous cake. Whilst I am extremely committed to consuming said cakes, the making of them has always been one of life’s great mysteries. I watch the video, read the recipe…then watch the video again. Watch, read, panic, repeat.
Realising that panic will get me no closer to salted caramel heaven I embark on my Maiden Meringue Journey. My bowl is squeaky clean, practically sterilised. Eggs separated and furiously whisked. Miranda merrily suggests that the best way to check that they're ready is to hold the bowl over my head and pray they don’t fall out. Not a chance. I barter with the resident guinea pig – he agrees to allow me to use his head in return for a taster of the cake. Hurrah!
Into the oven they go, and I start on the ganache. Which FYI is just a fancy word for choccy sauce. The hardest part of this task may well be trying not to eat the individual components whilst they cool….
Assembly of the cake goes pretty smoothly. I’m accidently/on purpose a bit too heavy handed with the caramel, but soldier on. The finished product looks incredible. I can’t believe I’ve actually made this. I’m happy, resident guinea pig is happy. And there’s leftover caramel….
Week One - Brioche
Ok, here goes. Day 1 on my journey to becoming chef extraordinaire. Farewell burnt pans and dodgy puds. (Paul) Hollywood, watch out. Although strictly speaking this isn't exactly Day 1. Truth be told I had a false start on Wednesday - let's call it a learning point (or utter failed disaster, whatever). Thursday is a much better day for making brioche anyway, so I hear.
All dough hooks blazing, I go head first into the task. Step 1, weigh 250g flour. Easy. Wait...how to know what 250g of flour looks like?? Ah yes, scales. Hmmmmm. Don't have. Tricky. No matter, Google step forward! Anyone with a spare 5 minutes and nothing to do on a Thursday evening should be encouraged to google "what does 250g of flour look like". The many ways to measure 250g of flour without scales are, quite frankly, weird. I settle for the tried and tested, totally foolproof method of eyeballing the ingredients. Surely if it looks like the same amount that's in Raymond le balances video I should be on to a winner??
The finished product made my kitchen smell divine. Looks like it could have done with a bit of SPF50, but beauty's on the inside eh?!
When it comes to the kitchen, healthcare worker Aisling describes herself as having “all the gear and no idea”. With a kitchen kitted out with all the latest appliances and equipment, she has everything she needs to become a dab hand in the kitchen; however, attention to detail with recipes is Aisling’s undoing. She once mistook flour for salt when baking a Chocolate Orange Cake for friends, resulting in a bizarre concoction with a taste resembling The Dead Sea. Aisling’s goal in entering Disaster Chef is to improve her overall cooking and baking skills and become someone with ‘all the gear and some idea’.