Ballymaloe Day 30: “It’s very good for the soul”

I shimmied the saw back and forth, feeling the carcass rocking against the blade. Just another regular day in Ballymaloe!

Irish breakfasts were on the menu today and as a special treat we all got to cook our own breakfasts – I’m also now an expert in segmenting oranges.

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(My friend, Liselotte, juicing oranges!)

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(Annette pouring us a glass of bubbly!)

Each kitchen ran a mini-competition to find out who had the best fry and I was so delighted to be crowned a winner!

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It came as a total surprise and I was so happy to be able to carry my prize – a signed book from Catherine Fulvio – home to the Coach House.

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(Myself, Gary and Oscar enjoying a Bucks Fizz)

With an early lunch cooked and in clean aprons and chef whites, we all headed out for our class photo with Darina – something we’ll receive at the end of the course.

Beginning demo early, we were introduced to Jane Murphy of Ardsallagh Goat Farm, who gave us a great insight into how a simple idea can grow into something huge.

“It’s very good for the soul”, Jane said of making cheese from scratch and from my experiences of looking after Brienne, I can definitely agree. You get such a kick out of making your own cheese that you don’t really get from just cooking alone.

We had the wonderful Rory O’Connell back for demo with us today and he brought a beast of an animal in with him.

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If you’ve ever had a decent bit of monkfish, you’ll know that feeling of tasting an absolutely beautiful bit of fleshy fish.

Rory cooked cheeks and monkfish fillets and the aromas that floated over our heads was exquisite.

Continuing on with the choux pastry theme this week, he also made some rather gorgeous looking profiteroles that were covered in rum-flavoured chocolate. My mouth is watering just thinking about them again.

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But back to the carcass!

We can sign up for a variety of extra-curricular activities and one of them is butchery with Philip Dennhardt.

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Philip comes from a long-line of butchers and is the son of a master butcher. A natural in his field, he’s also Darina’s son-in-law and we’re very lucky to be able to watch him at work.

Brandishing our filleting and boning knives, we lined up in front of the five carcasses and followed his lead as he went through the basic cuts. I’ve never felt so comfortable with a saw – is that worrying?

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In a change from the norm, this week we actually only have three days in the kitchen instead of four.

Tomorrow we’re back to our wine lectures and on Thursday we’re on our school tour – I think I’ll settle with a glass of vino tonight.

Bonne nuit!

Some things that I learned today:

  • A cut portion of monkfish is called a “collop”
  • Like mushrooms, Rory only washes fish if he really needs to – if it’s totally fresh and you know how to fillet it, you shouldn’t need to wash.
  • There’s no such thing as a bargain balsamic vinegar. Strictly speaking, a balsamic needs to age for 12 years and come from Modena in Italy.
  • When butchering, don’t hold your knife with a pencil, it’s not the same as filleting a fish. Give it a good grip and don’t be afraid of the blade.
  • Knife maintenance is so important, especially if you’re using them every day. Take them out for a sharpen little and often.
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2 thoughts on “Ballymaloe Day 30: “It’s very good for the soul””

  1. I loved learning how to fillet and cook monkfish…so much so that it was what I chose for my entrée on my final exam. 🙂 You guys are doing your class picture and class tour so early in the course…I think we did ours in the third or second-to-last week of the course! Enjoy the tour – it’s great to see all of the Irish food artisans and producers at work and in their element! 🙂

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