What do you think when you see these pictures? ‘How cute’ perhaps. Or even, ‘why is that chick propping up his drunken friend?’. As a chef, I must admit that my first reaction to such pictures tends to be ‘that looks tasty’. However I would consider all of these to be vaguely acceptable answers.
I am here to inform you that there is one person who did not think these things. They didn’t even think close to any of these things. Someone somewhere looked at a small chicken (technically a poussin until it is 28 days old) and thought, 'I wonder if I could debone that and reform it into something pear shaped?'. Unfortunately, after minutes of searching, I do not know who that man is/was. Suffice it to say, that man can burn in hell.
Such a creation is known as a globi de volaille. Or just Globi to those lucky enough to become closely acquainted with it. Given its ridiculous and unnecessary nature, it was of course one of the dishes that I had to cook for my final exam. Mine didn’t end up pear shaped so much as the whole venture went pear shaped (see what I did there, couldn’t help myself). That awful joke was particularly self indulgent given that actually the whole thing seemed to go relatively well, but when life sets you up like that you’d be a fool not to take advantage. Anyway, along with the globi, having made a consommé, a seafood pithivier and a terrine de bavarois, my exams are now officially over and only 3 days of the course remain. Very depressing.
So what’s been going on for the past 10 weeks? A lot. Far too much. Most of it has passed in a blur, interrupted by brief periods of exam madness. The most difficult of which was our celebration lunch, in which we had to devise a three course meal for four people costing £25 to be cooked in 3 hours. If anything up till this point in life was going to break me, it would have been this exam. We were given details of the exam about a month in advance, and I think I dreamed about the exam most nights for the next month. I am not joking. NB: port sauce doesn’t make particularly good subject matter for exciting dreams. Who knew? The whole thing become something of an obsession and initially it was relief rather than any other emotion that accompanied its eventual completion.
After a great deal of practise at home, I settled on my three courses which were: Sweet potato agnolotti in a mushroom veloute with toasted pine nuts and hazelnuts, chestnuts, wild mushrooms and wood sorrel. Then for main, roasted breast of mallard, croquette of mallard leg, liver and raisin, with celeriac puree, roasted onions, cabbage, runner beans, beetroot, beetroot powder and a port sauce. And then to finish, a salted caramel tart with lime crème fraiche.
Despite the stress of the exam, in the end, it was probably the most enjoyable thing that I’ve done during my time at Tante Marie, mainly because it was an opportunity to cook whatever you wanted and demonstrate your own style of cooking, and I was very keen to, as far as possible, come up with my own dishes which meant lots of recipe testing. As such, I honestly think that I have never worked so hard for a single test and the exam itself was possibly the most stressful 3 hours of my life. The degree was a walk in the park compared to this. Luckily all the work did pay off and I got 85.5%. Unfortunately, due to my total lack of organisational ability, I failed to have a camera with me on the day to take any photos. However, I did photograph a ‘work in progress’ version that I made a couple of weeks before. It's missing a few elements that ended up in the final dish, and 'hopefully' some of the refinement, but you get the idea.
There are only 3 days left of the course now, which basically comprise having the rest of this term’s marks returned to us and cooking food for the graduation ceremony on Wednesday when we officially finish. After which I must return to the world and become a real person again. Something I shall not be discussing as I still remain rather clueless about which direction to go in.