My Return to Tante Marie
A little over 1 year after graduating from Tante Marie I received a request to return and give a cooking demonstration to the current intake of budding chefs. When Andrew (school Principle) asked me I was naturally very honoured and also a little nervous! I remember having a conversation with him shortly after graduation saying how I thought part of the testing procedure should be for students to give a dem in-front of the group; now my reckoning hour had arrived 🙂
So the scene was set. I had 2 hours after class on a Monday evening to get across the core principles of how a barbecue can be used to full effect. In the process I hoped to plant seeds in some of these receptive minds about how they can incorporate barbecue cooking into future menus… Over the 2 hour period I was going to show them some barbecue classics, such as Beer Can Chicken, but overall they would see me create a 3 course menu with everything being cooked on a barbecue. I did have 2 grills for use, 1 gas and 1 charcoal but this was just for illustration purposes for the 2 heat sources. Any dish could be created on gas or charcoal.
*I should add that while photos show the indoor use of gas and charcoal barbecues, I do not promote the indoor use of barbecues because of their potential fatal effects on human health. This demonstration was undertaken with Health & Safety very much in-mind. A full risk assessment was completed prior to the start and adequate controls and measures were put in-place.
Before a good dem there is always the prep. Now I’m not at the stage where I can rock up and find that someone has done the prep for me, so after some running around for ingredients, I arrived 2 hours ahead of the dem to get myself all sorted for what I would be cooking. Unlike the last time I cooked at Tante Marie, this time I had an entire teaching classroom to myself, and I also have the help of 2 great people, Kim and Ben. Let’s just say that I have never prepped for a dem in so little time; thanks guys 🙂
So the menu for the demonstration was as follows:
with a dressed green salad
Rosemary, Garlic & Lemon Butterflied Leg of Lamb
with roast potatoes and hot ratatouille
Beer Can Chicken
Pork Steak with a Barbecue Spice Rub
Raspberry, Orange & Pistachio Cake
served with sugar smoked pineapple
All cooked on the barbecue, and all cooked within a stretched 2 1/2 hours… 🙂 The purpose of the dem for me was to demystify how to use a barbecue to its full potential so we covered off Direct and Indirect heat sources and then illustrated those with some grilling, roasting, smoking and baking.
The nerves I had felt when Andrew first asked me to do the dem were beginning to flutter around my stomach as the 5:30pm start time drew closer. I should say though that I didn’t hesitate to accept the initial invitation because Tante Marie has given me so much, not only during the time I spent there but also since then, so I was so happy to be in a position where I could bring something back to help them too. I also know the caliber of Chef that normally demonstrate to the students at the school, so I knew the decision to ask me wasn’t taken lightly.
The turnout was outstanding! All students at the school were in their final 5 or 6 weeks and entering the phase known to some as, ‘The Final Countdown!’ In-fact as I arrived on the day I was told there was a group of students who were in the exam kitchen for their final practical exam. When I saw so many people filing into Ile-de-France as I was setting up, I was amazed and very honoured. This was an after school, completely optional demonstration, that nobody had to attend if they didn’t want to, yet my estimate would be that over half of the current students were there. Add to that the teaching staff and some invited guests; nervous? I’ll say!! 😉 lol
I received a very warm welcome from Mrs ‘A’ on behalf of the school, very flattering, but then it was time to get cooking. First up was the Raspberry, Orange & Pistachio cake. This is taken straight from the Weber Experience 2013 tour menu so I am very familiar with it as I’ve been baking it since the end of February. A very light cake with a slight tartness from the raspberries, a clean note from the orange, and a bit of texture from the pistachios. It has proven well so far and again it wasn’t to disappoint.
Next up was the turn of the Beer Can Chicken, which was simply seasoned with salt and pepper, and perched on its holder for the 1 1/2 hour roasting time (indirect heat). This for most people is the most fascinating, maybe because you tell them that you’re going to roast a whole chicken on a barbecue, but I think mainly because of the interesting stance the chicken takes as it cook.
The lamb was prepared with a very simple yet flavourful rub, that is now a go-to recipe for me. After the lamb has been removed from the bone and butterflied, score the meat slightly on both sides in a diamond pattern. This helps to tenderise the meat by shortening the muscle fibres. It also allows the flavours to penetrate the meat and really add the taste you’re after. So,
4 springs of fresh rosemary stripped and chopped
A good 30 leaves of fresh mint roughly chopped
6 cloves of garlic crushed or microplaned
Jest and juice of 1 lemon
6 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp sea salt & 1 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper.
Prepare each component individually before piling together on your chopping board and roughly chop through to fully combine the flavours. Next rub it evenly over both sides of the lamb and you’re ready to get grilling! The barbecue was set up for indirect heat at 220C and the lamb was sealed for 5-8 minutes per side, lid down, until the lamb self-released from the cooking grate. After the second side was sealed, the lamb was moved to the indirect heat area and left to cook through for an internal temperature of 65C.
To go with the lamb I simply tossed some small new potatoes, strips of red pepper, slices of courgettes and aubergine, and some green beans in olive oil and seasoning. These were cooked in a vegetable basket until tender (indirect heat).
To finish with we had the cake that had been removed once baked and allowed to cool. But a cake isn’t enough so I added some pineapple to go with it. Grilled pineapple is quite popular for a dessert cooked on a barbecue but I wanted to do it with a slight twist. The twist was to smoke it with some dark brown sugar for about 5 minutes before serving up with some cake and extra raspberries. Try sugar gives the pineapple a very interesting candy taste as the vapourised sugar (vapourised caramel) circulates around the cook-box of your barbecue and coats each piece lightly…try it 🙂
The dem ran over ‘slightly’ but then my dems aren’t always known for finishing on-time… I was always told that I talked too much but from the feedback I received over the next few days it would seem that the information was well received and the students found it very useful. They were quite a quiet group but maybe they were quiet, or maybe I just talked enough that they didn’t have a chance to ask any questions 😉
I thoroughly enjoyed myself, I loved that I was able to give something back to the school and current crop of students, and from the emails and tweets I received in the following days I think they enjoyed it too! While the initial invite came from Andrew, he was unable to be there on the evening due to a prior engagement but I have since spoken to him and he has asked me to return later in the year to do another demonstration. This time though it will be as part of the scheduled program for the whole school. So thrilled and honoured and of course I said Yes!! 😀
Thank you to everyone at Tante Marie, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and I’m glad you did too.