I shovelled the food into me like I hadn’t eaten in days, and as bizarre as it sounds – I hadn’t fed myself properly since I came here.
We were out of the kitchens today and started off our theory day with a few quick demonstrations on how to make quick and sweet tray bake squares.
Keeping in theme with our wine lecture that was to take place in the afternoon, we were soon introduced to Eddie O’Neill of Teagasc who was going to teach us all about making cheese!
“We were a nation of Calvita-eaters!” Darina exclaimed to the chuckling crowd, as Eddie expertly showcased how to make cottage and semi-hard cheese. “Milk is an extraordinary ingredient”.
By the time lunch came around I was absolutely ravenous and gulped, munched and ate like I was starving.
The weird thing about Ballymaloe is that so far you don’t really eat in the evenings at all, your clock is completely out-of-sync, and funnily enough you kind-of get exhausted at looking food all day. Sometimes all you want to do is sleep!
One thing I was looking forward to though, was wine.
Last week we had our first introductory lecture on wine with Colm McCan, Ballymaloe’s consulting sommelier, and despite me being a complete wine novice, I found it absolutely fantastic.
Today he was joined by one of Ballymaloe House’s wine team, Oliver, as well as Peter Corr, a wine consultant who introduced Wolf Blass to the Irish market (and who in fact did the same 12-week course I’m currently on).
We tasted a variety of wines and started off with a lovely glass of Prosecco Corte Alta from Vento in Italy. With a refreshing taste, it left touches of pear upon my tongue (much to my delight!)
Fun fact: did you know that Prosecco is made from Prosecco grapes and in actually in a place called Prosecco?
Towards the end of our lecture Colm produced this absolutely stunning Riedel Eve decanter that looked like a smooth basilisk.
Figuring it cost a fair bob I tried to stay as far away from it as possible – it’s amazing how self-conscious you can get around valuable objects.
With wine glasses in hand and the sun beaming down on us, we headed outside for a spitting lesson as you do (don’t worry, we used water and the plants were well fed!)
As Peter pointed out, “don’t diss the notion of spitting – it’s essential” while Colm added that if you are at a tasting, you should taste and spittoon them all, and then go back for a glass of your favourite.
If there’s anything I’ve learned about wine, it’s that you need to pace yourself when it comes to tasting. If you ever head to a vineyard, the chances are you’re not going to be tasting just one wine, it could be several. You don’t want to end up falling all over the place.
Finally, we sipped on a Shiraz aka Syrah, courtesy of “The Chocolate Block” from South Africa. Smelling like trees and fresh herbs, the wine tasted so wonderful that I was dying to try another glass which amused me because I wouldn’t normally classify myself as a red wine drinker.
By far, the wine lectures have been my most favourite so far, which is simply because despite being fully loaded with information, there’s a lot of exciting things to learn.
Breaking down the barrier of being terrified of wine to knowing that it’s actually quite fun, must be a challenge for Colm but he and his team do it so well – I love the fact that we’re learning about styles and not brands.
Because we’re not scheduled to have another lecture until week five of the course – this announcement saw a wave of “awwwws” from the students – our kind sommelier plans to give us an extra lecture next week as a bonus!
Since my partner, Patricia, is out tomorrow, I get to choose whatever I like to cook and with a list of about six to choose from, as they say: the world is my oyster.
Some things I learned today:
- Goat and sheep cheese is always completely white, unless really infused with herbs.
- Like wine and chilis, there are varying degrees of cream.
- It is not illegal to sell raw milk, just isn’t commonly done across Ireland.
- Flavoured butter is also known as compound butter.
- Ricotta means “recooked” and is traditionally made by reboiling the whey.
- If you’re serving cheese, you should place it on a wooden board – it allows the cheese to breath – it’s best to clean your board with salt and water.
- Some commercially “smoked” cheese you see is actually just covered in liquid smoke. Artisan producers do it the traditional way.
- Never open a bottle of fizz without chilling it – not only will you use a lot of it when it opens but it could pop into someone’s face!
- Cabernet Franc is known as Cabernet Sauvignon’s younger brother, but of course is just as good.
- “Claret”, is wine that comes from Bourdeaux.