Recently I was invited to attended a Foie Gras Terrine and Foams Cooking Class at the Kempinski Grand & Ixir Hotel, at the city center Bahrain. Also, I would be taken on a tour around the hotels main kitchen areas. Having never prepared a fresh foie gras before and foams made at home were usually placed on top of a cappuccino, I was excited to learn something new. Although I’ve eaten foie gras on occasions, it’s very much a luxury food and certainly not your typical everyday store cupboard ingredient… maybe in France! Arriving at the Saveur private kitchen and dining area, Chef Mike the hotels Chef de cuisine was ready and waiting along with assistant, Chef Altaf.
Aprons on and sleeves rolled up, Chef Mike presented us with a fresh foie gras. The term foie gras means “fat liver” and is the liver from a fattened duck or goose. This very classic French dish beings with a quality ingredient and Chef Mike informed us about the different grades of Foie Gras, A and B. Grade A being of superior quality with less veins and blemishes, making it more suitable for pan searing.
Placing the duck liver on non-stick baking paper, Chef Mike separated the lobes and showed us how to locate and remove the large and small veins and any other blemishes. It is a methodical process which needs care. Slicing thinly and smearing the foie gras over the non-stick baking paper helped find veins and impurities that otherwise would spoil the smooth texture and look of the finished foie gras, if not removed. The duck liver was so silky and buttery to work with and there was no weird smell… if you are wondering. We had a taster of some pan seared foie gras and discussed flavours that would complement the rich, velvety, melt-in-your-mouth delicacy.
The next step, we prepared some finely chopped golden raisins, orange zest and orange juice. Gently working the ingredients into the foie gras, along with a seasoning of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Chef Mike demonstrated a technique, shaping the foie gras mixture into a tight compact cylindrical roll, using layers of cling film placed on a work surface. Following his instructions we successfully (although not as quick) completed the task… with a wee bit of help!
The very tightly wrapped foie gras was poached in a hot water bath for less than a minute, removed and immediately plunged into an icy cold water bath, stopping any further cooking. The completely chilled foie gras was removed from its cling film casing and re-rolled using the same technique we had learned earlier in the class.
With the finished foie gras terrine in the refrigerator, we prepared apples and grapes for a fruit chutney. Chef Mike made sure that we knew how to hold our knife correctly when chopping… we all need our fingers! Balancing the sweetness and acidity of the fruit chutney was important and with a few spices quickly fried in a little oil, lightly crushed and tossed in… a delicious fruit chutney rustled up in no time.
Adding another element of flavour to our dish, Chef Mike showed us how easy it is to make a quick culinary foam with two ingredients, a coconut syrup and good quality coconut cream. Both ingredients simmered together until reduced and lightly thickened. The liquid cooled for a short time and a stick blender used to aerate the liquid, creating a foamy head. The foamy head was scooped from the top of the liquid and placed over the foie gras before serving. Of course one of the best parts of any cooking class is sitting down and tasting what was created. The taste of the Foie Gras Terrine with Coconut Foam served with Fruit Chutney and Brioche did not disappoint, with each element of flavor complementing the other.
It is not every day you get taken backstage to view the inner workings of a large hotel kitchen and it’s quite impressive to see. Chef Mike and Sari steered me around the various work stations and main kitchen area. Everyone immersed in their work. Standards are high… imagine doing three deep cleanings every day (main kitchen) and that’s not counting the major clean-up. And the staff are still smiling 🙂 Meat, fish and chicken each have their separate walled areas, with pork banished to room of its own, under strict lock and key. There are also areas for freezers, fridges and dry stores. I think I may have seen the biggest cooking pot ever, for cooking Dahl. While fresh produce is of most importance, it is always good to know that the Kempinski Bahrain has some of its fresh produce supplied by a local Bahraini farmer.
I thoroughly enjoyed my few hours at the Kempinski hotel and have taken away some ideas from the cooking class which can be applied with my home cooking. Cooking classes are a fun way of learning and a great way of picking up tips from the professionals.