Ballymaloe Day 19: “You’re better off putting it on your face”

Rory smashed the dish onto the demo floor and it shattered with a crash.

The Friday feeling was buzzing around the kitchens today, and looking to give ourselves a final push before the weekend we charged forward with the day’s cooking.

Students arrive in the kitchens between 8 – 8.30am and I got in early to make butter, which was one of my duties for the day.

Marvelling how unbelievablely simple it was to literally whip it all together, I shaped my creation using butter hands (how cool do they sound?).

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Also on my agenda for the morning was white yeast bread, which, if anyone has ever tried to make it will know that it takes AGES to rise and prepare.

Abandoning my potential yet totally “not going to happen” almond tart, I cracked on with my pâté and Melba toast while keeping a firm eye on my dough.

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(My chicken livers cooking! Thanks Daniel for the photo)

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(My Melba toast)

Despite my white yeast breads taking about 10 years to come together, they finally popped out of the oven and I burst with pride.

Before I came here I could only image what it was like to make a plaited bread and the closest thing I got was admiring them in bakeries.

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Cradling my white loaves, I bid Kitchen 3, its teachers and my partner Daniel, a fond farewell.

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(Love this! Photobombed by my teacher Florrie on the right)

Next week will see me in Kitchen 2 and finding my bearings there will see me begin with an uphill start.

Demonstration this afternoon was all about eggs, and Rory showcased the Ballymaloe way to make perfect, fluffy, omelettes (my camera automatically hit record for that one).

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(Rory admiring a rather beautiful looking mushroom!)

On spotting a chipped plate, Rory whisked it up and smashed it onto the demo room tiles.

“This is the only way to guarantee that it doesn’t re-enter the kitchen”, he announced, much to our amusement – and if you think about it, he’s absolutely right. Imagine getting your mouth caught on a chipped plate?!

The demonstrations as you can imagine are incredibly varied, and apart from getting to know the humble egg , we also learned how to cure our own pork, make marzipan, frittatas, a Provencal terrine and wild mushroom soup.

Instead of placing oil on the baking tray for his roasted cherry tomatoes, he decanted them into a bowl and tossed them with oil. “You’re better off putting oil on your face”, he remarked of the potential waste.

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(Dates and walnuts filled with marzipan)

Grabbing the chance, I got a lift off one of my fellow students, Alastair, and we made our way back to the Kingdom for the weekend (I was seriously missing my double bed).

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(Bottle of bubbly to greet me!)

I can confirm that Mam has tasted my loganberry jam, apple and mint jelly and white yeast bread and has revealed that it is in fact quite tasty.

Tomorrow we’re heading off to the Dingle Food Festival, so more than likely another early night for me.

It’s good to be home.

Some things that I learned today:

  • Bacon is naturally brown, the salt that they use commercially makes the bacon look pink.
  • Brine a leg of pork and it becomes ham.
  • With almonds, make sure that they’re 100% almonds. Sometimes they’ll have other funny bits listed on packets that shouldn’t be there.
  • When making caramel you’ve got to be brave with the heat, because it’s just essentially burnt sugar. You need a rich brown colour.
  • Mushrooms LOVE black pepper and courgettes LOVE salt because of their high water content.
  • According to Rory, marjoram is a “king among herbs” – give it a go!
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