Ballymaloe Day 2: No soggy bottoms please!

I think my body clock is learning that it’s time to re-adjust the system. Before the course started I was going to bed at about 3am each night, now I’m going to bed at about 10.30pm.

Today was our first day actually cooking in the kitchen and the eager beaver in me couldn’t wait to put on the whites and hop onto the hob.

The working day kicked off with a demo from Darina about the mastering the art of a decent vegetable and chicken stock and making the classic Ballymaloe garden salad with their signature dressing.

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This week I’m assigned to Kitchen 3 near the front of the cookery school and proudly carrying my knives, I headed down with my group to Florrie – our tutor. (Honestly, if this had been any other setting other than a cookery school, 62 people wielding a set of knives that they’re not used to is a crazy thought).

Cooking in a foreign kitchen can be the most confusing things in the world, and for our first day I was glad that we were all working as a group.

Tears streamed down my face as my knife cut through the onions, and I was worried that Florrie thought that I’d already given up hope. “Thankfully”, another girl across from me was also crying from the vegetable so we both felt the pain.

Soon, the fruits of our labour began to appear with Mushroom a la Crème, Carrot and Coriander Soup and Brown Soda Bread making their way to the dining room.

We finished up our dishes under the watchful and patient eyes of our tutor, we got our dishes out and served for the Kitchen 3 and Demo Room entourage – We even got high-fives from Florrie for managing not to cut ourselves on our knives.

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(Our mushroom dish with pasta and Ballymaloe’s salad – I know it doesn’t look astounding but you should have tasted it!)

Afternoon demo began after we had our luncheon fill and we all scuttled into the classroom with our pens in hand.

Ingredients in Ballymaloe are unbelievably fresh, and as Darina placed basil on the table, the aroma wafted into the front row. The list was long but we managed to cover about 11 dishes, from a blackberry and apple compote with sweet geranium leaves, French onion tart and heirloom tomato salad to tasty fork biscuits.

(Darina emphasized the need to prevent and avoid “soggy bottoms” which I hope to replicate – it sounds dodgier than it is!)

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(Lines of fork biscuits, topped with icing sugar)

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(Blackberry and apple fruit compote)

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(Potato and chorizo soup)

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(Individual mini-quiches)

Come 6pm we were pretty wrecked and trudged back to our cottages with an information overload. (By the way, taking off your shoes after a day in the kitchen is not pretty).

Following a long day of learning and knife-throwing , myself and a few of my fellow food addicts headed off foraging with one of the teachers.

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(Blackberry picking with Julia, Sophie, Rhonda and Emer – our teacher)

It seems like all my evenings are surrounded by sunsets but picking blackberries in the stillness of Cork’s countryside is pretty special.

Tomorrow I’m cooking Ballymaloe’s Quiche Lorraine and a Middle Eastern Salad. I’ve yet to join the blue plaster brigade but given my knife skills so far, I reckon it could be tomorrow!

Some random stuff that I learned today:

  • Quiche Lorraine is named after an area in the north-east of France.
  • Cheddar was named after a place called Cheddar in Somerset where it originated, but now is pretty much made everywhere.
  • Pork is fresh meat from a pig, whereas bacon and ham is cured or salted.
  • When apples are ripe, their pips are brown, when they’re not, they’re white.
  • The French word for stock, “fond”, means foundation – how apt!
  • Often, bought salads are washed in a chlorine solution (ew), try and get it fresh and don’t be afraid of dirt.
  • Don’t add salt to your stocks – it limits its usage – you can always add salt later. Also don’t add liver to a chicken stock because it adds bitterness and beetroot will just make your stock go purple!
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