Ballymaloe Day 40: “How to get a well-browned bottom”

I tossed and turned all night, waking up at stupid hours.

Even though I didn’t feel too nervous about my mid-terms, there was still exam fever in the air.

Last night I had gone through a few techniques to keep them fresh in mind but there were definitely a few that I wasn’t 100% comfortable with.

“How to get a well-browned bottom”, Rory announced, “on your pizzas obviously”.

To kickstart the day we had a pizza demo with Rory O’Connell where he went through various doughs, toppings and skills.

Ogling the ingredients in front of him, Rory said that he would keep on making pizzas for us today until we said, “no more!” Challenge accepted.

“Soft, melting, tender, unctuous”, Rory remarked while plating up a slow-roasted shoulder of pork on a pizza, “the perfect piggy”.

By the way, Rory is catering for thousands at the Food Summit this year, which I was invited to but sadly can’t attend!

The Food Summit, which is part of the prestigious Web Summit, is hosted by Good Food Ireland and is the largest ever showcase of Irish food.

“I had to order 275kgs of mozzarella – that’s a lot of balls” he mused of this year’s event.

After checking the list to see who I’m partnered with next week – I’ve the lovely Scotsman, Fraser – we topped off the demo with mountains of pizza, focaccia and strombolli.

Our herb and salad identification exam started at one, and students were able to head into it at anytime.

My technique exam wasn’t scheduled until 4.10pm this afternoon but to ease my mind I headed in early to get part one over and done with.

We had the lovely Annette as our examiner and I was surprised at how everything in there was so relaxed. I came out of the first exam very happy and hoped that I’d be ok for techniques!

The only two things on the list that I didn’t want to get were choux pastry and caramel sauce because I’d never made the sauce before and pastry is my enemy – guess who got caramel?

Rachel Allen was our examiner and it was quite strange to head into a kitchen where everyone was quiet.

A sense of relief came over me when I was done, but it actually wasn’t bad at all – I think I need a bit more faith in my abilities!

This weekend I’m off to Knockadoon where I’ll be finally reunited with himself.

Some random things I learned today:

– Mushrooms love thyme and onions!
– When roasted, garlic is at its mildest, when chopped/crushed, it’s at its strongest.

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