Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Master Chef?

Yesterday evening, I helped DS do a "dry run" of his Cookery Assessment for today.  He was given two sheets of paper, set out with spaces for his ingredients, utensils, safety considerations and method; he had to make an item of food in class today and present it to the teacher.

J. decided to make Salmon Fishcakes and to accompany these with mashed potatoes and carrots.  Sounds straightforward, but he is still only 13, doesn't really like to cook and hadn't made these before.  The only "plus" that I could think of, was that he likes salmon fishcakes! 

I said he could make these, but only if he made them at home first.  I didn't want to just give him a recipe and leave him to sink or swim! 

So we spent two hours in the kitchen, getting out ingredients - writing it down as we went, peeling potatoes and carrot - writing it down, cooking the potatoes, salmon and carrots - writing it all down...

It was very hard work.  DS got super-stressed (as he tends to do).  I did my best not to get cross (because I hate to see him upset and it makes me grumpy!).   I managed to be patient, not too bossy (!), help him to understand what he needed to do and why (like why we put a little egg in with the salmon and mashed-up potatoes). 

He learned a lot - how to prepare boiled potatoes and carrots, how to make fresh breadcrumbs in the blender (how to operate the blender in fact!), how to make fresh mashed potato properly, how to make the fishcakes so that they didn't fall apart when being cooked.... lots of stuff. 

This was the result:

Didn't he present it nicely?  And it tasted great - really very nice indeed! 

This morning we were in the kitchen early, getting the ingredients together for today's Assessment.  J. was calm, relaxed and really quite confident.  It really was worth doing it all at home first, to make sure he understood the process.

The "Dry Run" and J's hard work all paid off.  The Cookery teacher had asked three other teachers to come in and assess/judge the children's food. 

J's Salmon Fishcakes, with Mashed Potato and Carrots came FIRST!  He was congratulated and given a round of applause.  A girl in his group made Raspberry and Chocolate Tart, which was judged the best dessert. 

I am really proud of my son today! He doesn't like to cook, but he came up with this idea himself, he cooked it and presented it so beautifully and his efforts were given their just reward.  He's a little star!

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Just in case you fancy having a go yourself, here is our recipe:

Lizzie and J's Salmon Fishcakes, with Mashed Potato and Carrot.

For each fishcake with mash you need:

1 Large potato (think medium-sized baking potato)
1 small Salmon Fillet
1 Carrot

You also need :

Cooking oil (we used sunflower oil)
1 Slice Bread for breadcrumbs (will make enough for about 4 fishcakes)
Herbs (we used dried mixed herbs, plus dried basil)
Salt & pepper, plus any other seasoning you fancy (spice?)
1 beaten egg (or two if making 4 or more fishcakes)
A little milk

Peel the potato and scrape/peel the carrots.  Cut the potato up into small pieces and boil until soft.  Slice the carrots (J. likes long slices, as you can see!), then steam over the potato pan (or place in the pan to boil for about 5-8 minutes).  Drain the vegetables and set aside to keep warm.

Meanwhile,  fry the salmon fillets in a little oil, until just cooked (they will be cooked a little more once they are in the fishcakes).  Place on a plate and remove any skin.  Break the salmon into flakes or smallish pieces.

Take around half the potato and put into a bowl, mash (but not too mashed - a few small lumps are fine), then add the flaked salmon, herbs and seasoning, plus a little beaten egg to bind it, then mash together gently.  If you prefer a smooth filling for your fishcakes, pop it all in the blender and blend it on "pulse" a few times, until you are happy with the texture (remember that over-blending cooked potato results in a sort-of gluey-stuff which is not very nice and doesn't hold its shape well either!).

To make the fishcakes, take a portion of the mixture, using two dessert spoons or floured hands and shape it into a patty.  Place it on the plate and dab beaten egg on the top (you won't be able to paint it on, as the mashed potato will stick to the brush, so just dab it over).

Season the breadcrumbs with herbs then sprinkle a layer of breadcrumbs over the fishcake, gently pushing it with a fork, to make sure it all sticks. 

Use the fork to help you scoop up the patty in a curved hand, then turn it over.  Apply egg and breadcrumbs to the other side.

Repeat until you have all your patties ready  (we made one large fishcake each, but you can make them more dainty if you prefer - however they stay together better if they are not too thin).

Fry the fishcakes gently, turning carefully with a fish-slice or spatula, once they are brown on the base. 

Mash the remaining potato, adding a blob of butter and dash of milk, plus any seasoning you like.
Make a layer of potato on the plate, then place the sliced carrot around this, or next to it, as you fancy.

Place your fishcake carefully on top, then garnish with salad (or serve with a side-salad). 

Serve with mayonnaise (J. added a little basil pesto sauce to his mayonnaise, which tasted really good).


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  1. he can come and learn to make cakes at my house xxxxx
    jo x

  2. Thanks Jo, he might even like that idea!!

  3. What a patient mum you are Lizzie...well done to DS-very good presentation skills!
    Alison xx

  4. Very impressive indeed! We have been cooking a lot these holidays as the weather is not great for getting out - I know what you mean about having patience with children in the kitchen!

    Well done J! :-)

  5. Great job J, the meal is beautifully presented:) You've every right to be proud of him and yourself for paving the way to a stress free cooking session at school. What a lovely Mum you are xx

  6. Lizzie that is so wonderful, many congrats to your son and how lovely that you took the time to do a dry run! I used to hate cookery lessons at school and still dislike cooking to this day. However, I am going to try to make these. Love how J presented the meal too, yum!

    Thanks so much for birthday wishes and for dropping by. I tried to comment on your lovely Oxford photos last week, but Blogger wasn't letting me. x

  7. Those sound so yummy and your picture makes them look delicious.

    We made banana muffins today trying them out before we have to take them to fair. Hiredman gave them a thumbs up.


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