Ballymaloe Day 5: “A mouth like the Jack Lynch Tunnel”

C’est fini, our first week at Ballymaloe is complete and we’re all having a well-deserved rest. Too lazy to start the fire, I’m tucked into one of our couches like a proper potato.

I can’t even begin to explain how much information has been handed over to us over the past few days and wondering how on earth I’m going to retain it all is going to be quite the challenge.

Today kicked off at 7.30am when I managed to finally drag myself out of my duvet and prepare for a long morning of cooking.

With three dishes to cook, as well as being on cream whipping duty, it was full steam ahead for me as I ploughed through making loganberry jam, brown bread and spaghetti with zucchini (courgette), ricotta, basil and lemon zest.

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Despite being disgustingly sweaty, destroying beans and having a fight with my pasta, it all came together in the end.

I stupidly forgot to put salt in my bread mix so it tasted pretty bland but apart from that I was satisfied – I’ve definitely learned my lesson with that one. Learn from your cooking and you’ll be fine!

Our Friday afternoon was filled with a demo from Pam, where she cooked dishes that we’ll have to replicate on Monday. From a smooth tomato and spearmint soup to a really tasty crab and coriander tart – I’m excited about getting back into the kitchen and trying again.

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Random tip from Pam, when you’re serving salad to guests, have it at room temperature have the sizes of leaves to be only as big as your mouth – unless you have “a mouth like the Jack Lynch Tunnel!”

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(Just one of Ballymaloe’s store cupboards – it’s beautiful)

Remember my perfectly plucked duck? Well, I cooked him for dinner, but not before degutting him (fascinating, but not recommended for the squeamish). I think I horrified one of the student’s parents who were visiting, when they spotted me in the courtyard with blood wringing from my hands!

Using fresh herbs from the gardens, courtesy of Pam, I toasted him up in the oven at 230°C for 25 minutes and dressed in Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Much to my delight, our little duck friend was delicious, even though I was totally winging it in the process.

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I’m up at 6am tomorrow to prep for working at Midleton Market – come say “hello!”

Some random things I learned today:

  • Don’t use fan ovens for baking – they’ll just dry out the ingredients. Convectional ovens are best but if you only have a fan, add a pan with an inch of water to the bottom of your oven and it should help retain moisture.
  • The scale for ranking the heat in chilis is called the Scoville scale.
  • Never put oil on a griddle pan – you’re not cooking it! Instead put oil directly onto your ingredients.
  • Serve things like Petit Fours in odd numbers. We’re so used to see even that seeing odd confuses you and makes you look more intently at the dish.
  • Below – this is a Wasabi plant!

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