Aylsham cooks up an apple dash
Dangling delicately, coated only with spots of dew in a tranquil orchard, the Bramley and Cox apples awaited their fate unwittingly.Grabbed suddenly by young hands, barely an hour and a half later they had been chopped, sweated in butter, encased in pastry, cooked with cinnamon and raisins - and presented to a Michelin starred chef and his discerning palate.
Dangling delicately, coated only with spots of dew in a tranquil orchard, the Bramley and Cox apples awaited their fate unwittingly.
Grabbed suddenly by young hands, barely an hour and a half later they had been chopped, sweated in butter, encased in pastry, cooked with cinnamon and raisins - and presented to a Michelin starred chef and his discerning palate.
On Monday, youngsters from Aylsham High School were competing in the latest version of an 'apple dash' - an established National Trust challenge with a twist.
It wasn't simply a race to see which professional chef could produce the fastest apple pie, as on previous occasions, but part of a learning process designed to teach the students a range of culinary skills.
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The teams of three started the challenge by racing from the hall's kitchens to the orchard yesterday morning, racing back, and then carefully following a recipe for apple and cheddar crust pie.
The winning outfit were the team called Pie Princesses and made up of Year 10 catering students Anna-May Follas-Shell, Willow Harrold and Katie Skipper.
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Renowned chef Galton Blackiston, of Morston Hall, made the final judgement: “I was very impressed with them all and there was literally only a hair's breadth between the teams, which made it a very difficult decision.
“I was looking not only at the taste, especially the correct amount of sweetness from using the two different types of apple and the right amount of spice, but also the presentation and method.
“It's clear that Aylsham as a school is very forward thinking in how they teach cooking and it was a pleasure to see such enthusiasm both from the students and the staff.”
Jill Willis, head of food at the school, said the apple dash had been organised by the school and the National Trust to tie in with British Food Fortnight.
“We have spent three weeks getting ready for this, bringing them to Blickling to show them the kitchen and the orchard, practical sessions in the kitchen back at school and letting them practice the recipe.
“It is about boosting confidence and self esteem, linking with the catering industry, working with professional chefs, using fresh food and building a link with the National Trust and Blickling, which is something we hope to extend.”
Mrs Willis said catering was one of the best 'value added' subjects at the school, meaning the improvement in the run up to GCSE examination was extremely high.
Another set of Aylsham students at Blickling yesterday were practicing their table setting skills in preparation for an event on Friday when they will help produce a dinner at their school to launch this year's Aylsham Food Festival.
Blickling Hall's catering business manager Graham Edgar said he was keen to see the school link up maintained and the apple dash become an annual event.
“This event fits in well with the trust's policy of local and regional food sourcing,” said Mr Edgar.
“It is great to see the youngsters so enthusiastic while they get an insight into a working kitchen.”
All the children taking part in the apple dash received a range of prizes and certificates, while the winning team was presented with the Golden Apple trophy, which will be engraved and then feature as an annual prize.