At Koffmann’s at The Berkeley hotel in Knightsbridge, Leiths School of Food and Wine awarded their top cooks of their Diploma class of 2012 with a celebratory lunch. As an ex student of the school-I attended the Essentials Course in 2001-I could appreciate, at least to a small extent, something of what it must have taken to get to their position. The standard at Leiths, even on the Essentials Course was extraordinarily high. Even when cooking shepherds pie and brownies, perfection was sought if not always achieved.

 
Leiths School of Food and Wine

Speaking to Salima Dhalla, the Laurent-Perrier student of the year, about her plans for the future, she mentioned that her favourite restaurant in London is Roka. With locations on Charlotte Street and in Canary Wharf, as well as a restaurant in Hong Kong, Roka describes itself as ‘contemporary Japanese robatayaki cuisine’. Salima ‘s favourite recipe is for macaroons and here, at Roka, they make a cherry blossom flavoured variety. The menu looks mouthwatering (online) and the pudding in question, ‘black sesame mochi ice crea, cherry blossom macaroons’, demands to be tried.
Joe Coulter, the runner up to the Laurent-Perrier Student of the Year award, is a huge fan of chef Fergus Henderson. Butchery was his favourite part of the course and so it wasn’t a huge surprise when he chose the St John restaurant in Smithfield as his favourite. We all agree that the ‘Roast bone marrow and parsley salad’ is an all time winner of a starter.
At the delicious lunch I sat between Julia Page of House and Garden and Alan Rosenthal of Stewed, the healthy lunch pots company. He is a graduate of Leiths, started his company four years ago and can now be found in Waitrose and online at Ocado.

We shall watch with great interest the careers of this years winners and look forward to eating their food in the not to distant future.

The lunch was generously sponsored by Laurent-Perrier, Louis Latour, Asda and BBC Food magazine.

Leiths Macaroons
Macaroons are particularly good made with freshly ground blanched almonds.
Makes 25
110g/4oz ground almonds
170g/6oz caster sugar
1 teaspoon plain flour
2 egg whites
2 drops of vanilla essence
rice paper for baking

To decorate
Split blanched almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
2. Mix together the ground almonds, sugar and flour.
3. Add the egg whites and vanilla essence. Beat very well. Leave to stand for 5 minutes. Beat again for 1 minute.
4. Line a baking sheet with rice paper or non-stick baking parchment and with a teaspoon put on small heaps of the mixture, well apart.
5. Place a split almond on each macaroon and bake in the preheated oven for 20 mintues. Leave on a wire rack to cool completely.

Notes: To use this recipe for petits fours the mixture must be put out in very tiny blobs on the rice paper. Two macaroons can then be sandwiched together with a little stiff apricot jam and served in petits fours paper cases.

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