Ballymaloe Day 39: Droopy dill and fun-loving fennel

The students erupted into coughs and splutters, as the spice weaved in and out of the chairs. If anyone was looking through the windows of Ballymaloe Cookery School this afternoon, they would have seen a very strange sight!

On my order of work today were two gingerbread loaves, poached quince in syrup, a shared seafood platter and tomato ketchup – by the way, peeling tomatoes is a slow and tedious task and I wouldn’t be surprised if I had a falling out with them while I’m here.

First off on my to-do list was a rich gingerbread. The recipe called for a whopping 350g of treacle and I’d say I managed to get it everywhere but the actually saucepan (Victoria moved some from my nose and Sophie spotted a gloop on my sleeve).

As the end drew near and I plated up my dishes, myself and partner Eilish worked together to put together our seafood platter and we finished on a high (I even got to shuck and eat two oysters!)

Ultimately, though I messed up a few elements of my final dishes – sorry Gary, if you’re reading this – I was happy with the result and it was certainly less stressful than days before it.

photo 2(29)
(My selection of dishes)

Cleaning the larder area with one of the teachers, Tracie, I was quizzed on herbs and was given droopy dill and fun-loving fennel to take away and stare at. I’ll put them under my pillow – osmosis works, right?

Rachel Allen was hosting our demo today and with her help, we took a culinary journey to Italy, Thailand, Lebanon and India.

Cooking a Thai green curry, Rachel took out a paste that brought us all down. As she began to stir-fry the aroma walloped us all in demo and we were all coughing for a good 10 minutes!

It caught in my throat and zoomed up my nose – good curry, eh?

photo 4(20)
(Pam and Pat plating up dishes and a side shot of Julia’s face)

Finishing early at 4.30pm – thank you Rachel! – myself, Sophie and a fellow Oonagh went to Midleton for a quick spin and shop.

In a bid to keep on top of exam techniques, I’m cooking a weird combination of jointed chicken, glazed carrots and a selection of poached, fried and scrambled eggs.

Wish me luck?

Some random things I learned today:

  • I mentioned this before but turmeric is a natural antiseptic and in fact is has the highest level of antiseptic than any other spice.
  • There are seven main types of risotto: Arborio, Carnaroli, Baldo, Maratelli, Padano, Roma and Vialone Nano with Carnaroli Maratelli and Vialone Nano known as being the best.
  • An ideal risotto has a lovely, loose look to it and doesn’t look sticky.
  • Three main types of curry in Thailand, red, green and in the countryside, yellow!
  • If you’ve never shucked oysters before, use a proper shucking knife and cover your hand that’s holding the oyster with a tea towel wrapped around it – you don’t want to lose a hand.
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