Ballymaloe Day 74: At the quack of dawn

Last night I managed to smash a pavlova on the floor, slip on a carpet and skid across the dining room and a dog grabbed one of my bread rolls and ran away (thankfully this was all in my dreams).

My dreams seem to be getting stranger and stranger and with the end in sight, I’m expecting them to end in a climax of crazy emotions.

This morning I was on salad duty, so getting up at the quack of dawn (prepare for duck puns), I headed into the cookery school to meet with Haulie, who’s one of the gardener’s here.

Scooting over the glasshouses, we hopped down and picked and plucked fresh salad leaves from the ground that would happily in our tummies come lunch time.

Heading into the kitchen before nine, it was time to prep for the day ahead which included a lot of duck!

When we get meat to cook here on the course, it’s not as simple as just getting part of the animal and working away with it – we’ve got to dismantle it.

With two large whole ducks plonked in front of me (I just needed the legs), I got to work on cutting away the meat and rendering down the fat. Looks like I had to wing it.

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I forgot to mention that the insides also tend to come with the duck too and I’m glad I’m not squeamish to say the least! (My partner Ian, see lead image, managed to get some action shots).

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(What came inside… mmmmmm)

Hacking away at the duck with a cleaver, it eventually got to the stage where I could pop it into the oven to cook away happily for the next hour.

Time whizzed by and like always I was close to the last person leaving the kitchen, but for the first time this week, I actually felt good about what I produced. Things were looking up.

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(Duck legs with onion and thyme)

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(Celery and toasted cashew nut salad)

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(Tomato fondue with plenty of parsley!)

Today’s demo came with an Asian feel, and with Emer as our host, we flew through and covered so many great things.

I love Asian food, and it was great to see her demo traditional Chinese/Vietnamese spring rolls as well as fresh rolls and Vietnamese dipping sauce – like sushi, I could lash these all up in a heartbeat.

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You mightn’t believe it at this hour, but I’m already in bed and running through notes for the impending final exams next week.

Oh by the way, guess what I’m cooking tomorrow? … Meringue… I’m definitely determined to defeat it this time!

Until tomorrow, slán agus beannacht.

Some random things I learned today:

  • Larger, flat mushrooms are just button mushrooms that have expanded outwards and gotten bigger!
  • Like most products, always check the label. When it comes to things like rosewater, see that it has just two ingredients: rose and water. Otherwise it’s more than likely a poorer substitute for that more natural flavour.
  • I’ve mentioned this before I think but worth remembering that one egg white is about 25g.
  • All rose petals are edible, as long as they haven’t been sprayed.
  • One way to see if a duck leg is done, is to see if the meat is pulling away from the knuckle, or if a skewer has no problem going through the meat.
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