Chef Loic Malfait greeted us ahead of our gastronomic feat, treating us to a spice-infused chai shake as we toured the famous facility, and looked on as training chocolatiers created intricate and irresistible chocolate boxes.
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Testing our abilities with an omelette challenge – the trick to the perfect fluffy omelette, according to Chef Loic, is to ensure your eggs are still slightly wet when you plate up – we were soon beaten into shape and prepared for our main course.
Inspired by the new film The Hundred-Foot Journey (in cinemas September 5), starring Dame Helen Mirren, Chef Reginald Loos taught us how to create a French classic with an Indian twist, in this imaginative recipe for curried monkfish mouclade.
The delicious fusion of flavours was apt for the film, which follows culinary ingénue Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal) and his family as they open an Indian restaurant in a quaint village in the south of France – opposite a Michelin starred French restaurant owned by the chilly Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren).
Although it looks fairly complicated, the school's clear instructions (and encouragement to taste everything as you go along) means that no mistake is impossible to salvage, and the end result is a restaurant-ready meal of surprisingly balanced flavours that, by adding more or less curry powder, is adaptable for any taste.
For best results, start preparing the chick pea purée the day before, pair the finished meal with a glass of French mouclat (or, ideally, a German Reisling) to balance the flavours of fish, spices, and mouclade sauce, and follow up with a delicious dessert – in our case a mango tatine created by two talented Le Cordon Bleu students, instructed by Chef Nicolas Belorgey.
Curried Monkfish Mouclade, Baby Vegetables and Chick Pea Purée
Cooking time: about 1 1⁄2 hours
1. Chick pea purée:
Soak 100g dry chick peas for 24 hours in cold water. Drain, then cook in a large pan over a low heat with 2 litres of vegetable stock and 1 bouquet garni. Cook for about 1 hour, until soft. Pass through a blender to obtain a smooth puree, season with salt and pepper to taste and keep warm.
The complicated bit. Toast 30g curry powder in a dry pan for about 2 minutes until aromatic. Heat 200ml dry white wine, 1 finely chopped shallot, 2 thyme sprigs and 1 bay leaf in a stock pot. Add 300g cleaned mussels, cover with lid and steam until all the mussels are fully open (about 1-2 minutes after boiling).
Remove the mussels and set aside. Strain the cooking liquid; add 10g of the roasted curry powder and 120ml double cream. Reduce for about 5 minutes, until the sauce coast the back of a spoon. Adjust curry powder and seasoning to taste.
Pre-heat the oven to 200˚C. Mix together 15g roasted curry powder, 30g coconut flakes and a generous pinch of salt. Roll 4 monkfish steaks (about 180g each, skinless) evenly in the mix until completely coated.
Heat 20ml vegetable oil in a pan and sear the fish on all sides. Transfer to the oven once seared and cook for about 10 minutes, until firm.
4. Baby vegetables:
Season a large pan of water with salt and the remaining roasted curry powder. Bring to the boil and add 12 baby carrots (peeled and halved) and 4 baby fennel (peeled and halved). Simmer for 2 minutes and add 4 baby courgettes (halved) and 4 baby sweet corn (halved), and continue to cook for a further 2 minutes or until all the vegetables are cooked through. Drain and keep warm.
Check the consistency of the purée and adjust if needed by adding curried water from the vegetable pan. Place a spoonful of chick pea purée to one side of the plate, smoothed into a semi circle (or comma) using the back of a spoon.
Carve each steak of monkfish into slices and place on the other side of the plate. Arrange the baby vegetables and mussels in the centre of the place, and spoon the mouclade sauce around the edges. Decorate with coconut flakes and coriander cress.