You will have a fishy for your little dishy

Day 5
Stuffed flounder sandwich with roasted red peppers, saffron and shallot sauce and sautéed scallop, dressed salad leaves and edible flowers

Pan-fried mackerel fillet with cannellini bean and tomato stew, crispy pork belly, crackling and grain mustard sauce

Lemon tart

Waking up this morning felt like the last day of a great holiday. I didn’t want to get up, I didn’t want to pack, and I didn’t want to have to hand my key in, because all of those things meant I was going home. But I also didn’t want to be miserable as we faced our last challenge of the week which I was eager to tackle: round and flat fish filleting.

Today we were tutored by David, a wild food and mushroom expert who would take us through the fine (or fin!) art of fish filleting. Since adding a filleting knife to my collection at Christmas, I have tackled a round fish, and made an okay job of it, but not flat.

My first attempt at filleting flat fish, and I’m pretty proud of my handiwork

Mackerel up next, which I’ve done once before, following instructions in Leith’s Fish Bible. I think I made a pretty decent job of this little fishy

Shucked scallop

David’s demo made such good sense, and was easy to replicate back at our counters, and I think with a bit more practice, this is one I could master. After all the meat and butter I’ve eaten this week, I I‘ll be at Steve Hatt’s bright and early tomorrow morning to buy some fish to practice on, and kick-start the detox I need after eating like a princess (or at least a WAG) all week!

Totally new one on me: squid. Never cooked it, never touched one.

Squid, dissected and almost ready to go into the pan, where it was flash fried and doused in chili sauce
Chilli squid. Delicious. South Devon Chilli Company sauce was a winner.

Flounder reassembled into a “sandwich” before going into the oven

And the eating unabated continued today. I can’t make something and then not eat it, and as I type this on the Paddington-bound train home, I still feel full. But oh, the food. The crackling garnish on the mackerel, tomato and pork belly dish. The reduced pork juices drizzled over the flounder. The lemon tart! Mmmmmmmmm…..

The final flounder dish

The pace was less frenetic today, and it made for a good end to the week. But 4pm rolled round all too quickly, we got a chance to say ‘bye to Darrin who’d had to duck out of our last day to attend to the building of their new School premises just up the road, (they move in July), collect our certificates, say farewell to our classmates and hit the road home.

The final mackerel dish (eaten approximantely 20 minutes after that huge flounder…and stll lemon tart to come!)

I’ve had such a good week in Ashburton, helped enormously by having such fun, friendly and foodie classmates (never before have I spent whole evenings talking about food! I loved it!) and in a really relaxed environment that achieves the balance of theory and practice (I’d guesstimate about 20/80 split of theory and demonstrations against “doing” either alone or in pairs), and delivered in such a way that you aren’t intimidated to ask a question, or for a repeat of what’s just been done, or to generally feel like a real part of the course, not just an observer. I’ll most certainly be back, and recommending it to other food-loving friends.

Tarting up the tart

Lemony, crispy tart perfection

And although I’ll reflect on it more over the next few days, I think this week has confirmed in my mind that I want to do this more, and if I can, as a job. To paraphrase C, who said “if you’re going to eat every day, you may as well cook good food”, if I’m going to go to work every day, it may as well be doing something I love, which is working with food. I just have to figure out what kind of work, and just do it.

New skill of the day: Filleting flat fish. Far easier than I thought it would be. and with pretty good results.

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