The anti-vegetarian cookery class

Where to begin with this one?  First no names, probably. So…I went to a vegetarian cookery class on Saturday with mate, Gina (pseudonym). Two previous classes had been fun, hands on, chatty with nosh and a glass of wine at the end. All good. We thought.

Doubt set in early when Head Chef (HC) said that vegetarian cookery was very difficult to do, and involved lots of complicated layers to work.  The plan was to watch him cook six different meals (or more accurately food combinations) for large parts of the morning. Components included deep fried (previously poached) duck egg in bread crumbs, artichoke humous, mushroom risotto with thai green curry, an aubergine sandwich with squash filling and other very fancy bits and pieces. There would be a presentation before we ate lunch. Eh what? Presentation??

There then followed a bizarre couple of hours in which HC did stuff, while we (11 of us) watched. As he jumped around between the six meals/combinations, we were soon lost. Chopped veg, prepared earlier, was chucked into frying pans. Pastes and frangipans, prepared earlier, were whizzled under  our noses then put back in the fridge. We had a handout with the recipes on, but ingredients were substituted (“blame it on the supplier”), large parts of the process were missing or written in chef speak. ‘The soup may need to pass’, ‘Pane it’, ‘Put it in the oven and cook to a core temperature of 70 degrees’… eeek???? What the fuck?

Mary (pseudonym) and her lovely mate from up North were the vocal ones. Questioning why HC hadn’t put the seasoning in the balsamic dressing, why the recipe said use x amount of ingredients when that would feed an army or why the aubergine looked so ropey (“blame it on the supplier”). HC didn’t respond well to the questions. It was like watching Prime Minister’s Question Time; avoided answers, answers to questions not asked or, occasionally, just a glare.

Then it was time to poach the duck egg. We all leaned forward, eager to see how it was done.

“You know all that stuff about using vinegar or swirling the water?” he said, confidently, nodding at us all. “You don’t need to do any of that. Just crack it into a pan of boiling water.”

Whoa. Really? We leaned further forward.

The egg white broke into a thousand threads.

“I’ll just tidy that up,” he said, pulling all the white off, then carefully putting the poached duck egg yolk on a plate ready to pane. Yes, pane. Or pane-eh. That is, dip in flour, egg, breadcrumbs and then deep fry. Pane-eh.

Eventually we got involved in some tabouleh and potato croquette preparation. We had to chop up a bits of veg, dried apricots and sultanas but keep them separate on our chopping boards cos they were for the two recipes. After 10 minutes, HC told us to all put our chopped bits in one large bowl.

“Er, but the apricot and raisins are for the tabouleh, not the croquettes,” said Mary.

That no longer mattered. HC chucked half the bowl of our bits into his bowl of pre-prepared mash for the croquettes. A wedge of brie was then added to the mash, though the recipe said feta. Cheese schmeese, I thought, to myself.

After another hour of baffling demonstration, it was back to our chopping boards, this time to make spring rolls. The veg was distributed and we started chopping.

“Excuse me, the recipe doesn’t have cucumber in it?” said Mary, holding up a chunk of cucumber.

“Just chop it and put it in, but not straightaway,” came the response.

The couple across from us, who were speedy choppers, quickly scrabbled around in their bowl of chopped peppers and carrots, picking out the cucumber.

“You can put the cucumber in now,” said HC. They chucked it back in.

To cut a long story short, we cut our veg too chunky, so had to fry it (off), then the filo pastry (pre-prepared) was cut too narrow, so we had to re-chop our fried veg. By this time, the filo pastry had begun to dry out so wasn’t very pliable. The uncooked spring rolls did not look good.

After a partial experience of making risotto (don’t ask), it was time for the presentation. By this time, the questions had stopped and everyone just sat, dejected. Gina and I chatted quietly about non food related stuff. HC brought in the world’s largest hand mixer (the size of a crane) to whiz the garden soup, a blow torch to scorch the goats cheese crottin on top of the roasted veg in the middle of the soup, and numerous other techniques to plate up the food. The six meals/combinations.  Six different types of plate, or plate equivalent. Yep, they looked pretty fancy and complicated.

At last we were told to go and sit down for lunch.

Well. The food tasted shite. What else can I say? Probably some of the worst food I’ve ever tasted.

“He just didn’t know how to communicate..”, said Gina, as we walked back up the road.

“Or cook vegetarian food…”, I added.

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