Aprons on for masterclass with a legendary Michelin star chef
Lauren Taylor teams up with one of the best in the business, Michel Roux Jnr from Le Gavroche, for culinary tips and advice
Two Michelin stars and chef patron at the famous Le Gavroche, chef Michel Roux Jnr comes from classic French training, but his food has become synonymous with Britain.
London hotel The Langham now offers foodies (and Roux Jnr fans) the ultimate experience - a masterclass with the man himself at their cookery school Sauce.
I did a half-day version with the former MasterChef: The Professionals judge, to put my pastry and shellfish skills - and the new Samsung Dual Cook Flex oven and Virtual Flame Hob - to the test.
Here's what I learned...
1. Choux pastry is actually really easy
"I used to eat these as a kid in France, when we got home from school," Roux Jnr says.
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If you always assumed making any sort of pastry is difficult, choux is the place to start. "As a pastry apprentice, it's one of the first things you learn," says the Kent-born chef. "When I was 17, it was part of my exams in Paris (when he was training).
It's simply milk, butter, salt and sugar in a pan, brought to the boil while stirring quickly. "It will burn on a high heat," he warns. "It only takes about a minute - when it comes together, take it off the heat."
2. How to keep the mixture from curdling
Next it's time for the eggs, but the last thing you want is for your pastry mix to curdle.
"Leave it to cool for a tiny bit, beat in the eggs but not when it's too hot, and in three or four goes," Roux Jnr advises.
I forget and put the eggs in too early and panic. Roux Jnr rushes over to help. "It's a bit hot and a bit wet and probably won't take all the eggs now," he says. But it's savable - with a bit of muscle it comes together quickly.
"What you're looking for is a nice elastic," he adds.
3. Keep choux buns small and spread them out
I plop my slightly flawed but basically okay choux mixture in a piping bag. Mess, it seems, is what gets Roux Jnr's goat. "This is where you see a lot of amateurs go wrong, when it's a sticky mess, the bag isn't secure. Make sure it's clean, put it in the fridge," he says.
When the mixture is chilled and firmed up slightly, I pipe small blobs onto a tray.
Roux Jnr left lots of space around his, I did not, and when they come out of the oven some have moulded into a single larger blob.
Egg-glazed and sprinkled with chucks of sugar - although "you can use flaked almonds and cinnamon, or Parmesan and smoked paprika" too - they're still airy and delicious.
4. What to look for in scallops
Buying scallops in their shells really ensures they're fresh. Plus the shells make a lovely way to present them to your guests.
"It's very important they're not dredged," Roux Jnr says. "And ask your fish monger to open them in front of you so you know they aren't soaked in water."
5. How to open a scallop shell:
some will be slightly open already, others - like mine - seem clasped shut
Roux Jnr comes to the rescue, showing me how to slide the knife between the shells, keeping it on the flatter shell and sliding it around to loosen the muscle.
Next, it's important to remove the translucent muscle attached to the scallop, before carefully pulling out the scallop itself. Roux Jnr says to rinse the scallop in cold water.
6. Choux pastry around a scallop shell is a thing
These scallops will have an Asian-twist, with julienne carrots and celery in a soy dressing. "Sweet, sour and salty; spice from ginger; balance flavour with lime - c'est bon!" Roux Jnr exclaims.
The beauty of buying scallops in shells is that you can steam cook them in the shells too. Surprisingly, Roux Jnr stretches a spare section of choux pastry around the outside to close up the shells. "It's just for aesthetics really," he says, smiling. But it does add a certain flair, particularly when, 10 minutes later, the shells are out of the oven (the Samsung Dual allows both the dishes to cook at different temperatures behind one door) and the choux is golden.
There's a French sauce, beurre blanc, to finish. "The butter must be cold and the rest hot," he says. "And often people don't reduce the wine enough."
The choux from the shell mops it all up beautifully.
And a little about him
7. Roux Jnr hates basic confectionery and loves a piece of cheese
"My easy go-to, I suppose, is just cheese and bread. We always have cheese in my house and my wife bakes bread," he says. "I hate cheap confectionery; I'd rather have a piece of really dark chocolate, or some smoked almonds. You don't need the sugar rush - just the pleasure rush from quality ingredients."
Masterclass with Michel Roux Jnr is £995 at Sauce. Book at www.saucebylangham.com