As Rachel Allen sauntered into Kitchen 3, I almost dropped my dough on the floor.

My morning hadn’t started off particularly well, and with an impending sense of doom before I hit the kitchen floor, I wasn’t feeling the best.

Last night I had really struggled with formulating my order of work and all my timings seem to be a bit off. I had a long list of about five things (believe me, that’s long), to get done in our cooking session and gathered my ingredients at snail speed.

Today we were cooking Middle Eastern-style dishes and pitta bread was first on my agenda. Now the problem with pitta is that there’s a lot of kneading, shaping and waiting for them to rise and double in size – so I was quite worried since it was my first time working with yeast.

Lo and behold, as I was kneading my dough and imagining it was my worst enemy, in walks Rachel as cool as can be.

Focussing on my pitta bread, I continued kneading with such gusto that I thought the counter might fall off.

Like a breath of fresh air, Rachel made her way around from station to station, chatting to the students and teachers about what they were doing. By this stage, my pitta was happily settled in a container covered in clingfilm and on the rise.

After continuing and tackling other dishes, one of our teachers Florrie brandished my contained dough and commented on how impressed she was at how it had risen so quickly (I exclaimed a very happy, “Horaay!”)

As I shaped the pitta for the final time, Rachel came over and admired my work – we chatted about what I did before I came to Ballymaloe and stories about Vietnam and she genuinely seemed interested in what we were talking about.

All in all, I scored very well (especially my pitta and moutabal!) and despite the stomach-churning sensation I had in my tummy earlier that morning – I felt pretty content, to say the least.

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After our daily lunch fill, we had the charismatic Rory O’Connell back with us for demo, where he went through how to fillet round fish as well as identifying some of our most common sea wanderers.

“The first raw fish I filleted, I mutilated”, Rory announced, so I felt a bit better about watching him expertly degut the fish in front of him.

Demonstrating about 14 dishes, he managed yet again to make everything look so easy.

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Tomorrow will see the end of week two here in Ballymaloe Cookery School and I’ll be attempting to make a lemon meringue pie where I’ll have to work quickly – “Meringue waits for nobody!” remarks Rory. I’ll also be making stuffed courgette blossoms and beetroot tops. Time flies when you’re having fun!

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(I visited the chicken coup)

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(Belly rubs!)

Some things that I learned today:

  • The common beetroot you normally see in stores is called “ruby beetroot”.
  • The flowers on longer stems on a courgette plant are male flowers, whereas the flowers actually on the courgette are female.
  • If you’re cooking with basil, don’t leave it lying around after it’s chopped. Use it straightaway because it oxidises.
  • Tinfoil is banned here in Ballymaloe Cookery School because Darina believes it’s harmful to store food using it.
  • Hake has a very silvery skin and it’s very long (like a conger eel), and has a few black lines running down its body.
  • Haddock has a black thumbprint on its body (like John Dory), but also has a black line on it and a small goatee under its chin.
  • Whiting looks similar to haddock but has a pink tinge and catches in a goldy light.

Next: Ballymaloe Day 12

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