Ballymaloe Day 52: A “toolbox of flavours”

The top layer of cheese on the flan was bubbling silently like a golden orb of oozing joy. It was inviting me to eat it.

Today was all about vegetarian food and with a list of rather intriguing dishes in front of her, Darina went through what she planned to showcase for the day.

“If you’re a low-fat milk person – out of the house!” Darina announced during demo, “it’s not good for you”.

According to our headmistress, she believes that low-fat milk is missing a lot of the key nutrients that we need and being at Buttermaloe, I’ve definitely learned that full-fat is the way to go.

I think that many misguided people often think that vegetarian food is limited and bland, but honestly, if you saw the dishes that were revealed in front of us, that impression would be shot out the window.

Demonstrating a chickpea chilli with tamarind and coriander by chef Skye Gyngell, Darina said that her friend had a “toolbox of flavours”, and was just so good at coming up with some fascinating and beautiful combinations on a plate.

I can safely say, that today’s lunch was definitely one of the best so far, and was actually one of the few that I went up for seconds because of the freshness and lightness of the dishes (the aubergine flan which I was describing at the start of this blog post was particularly fabulous).

Easing myself off the dining room chair, I toddled into the afternoon lectures smacking my lips. The wine lecture, as usual, was hosted by Colm McCan and he was joined again by Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau in Kilkenny.

Going on a few plane journeys from Kerry “International” Airport (yes, we have an airport), we did a whirlwind trip to the Rhone Valley, Spain and Italy, and tasted some pretty super wines.

Learning about the Rhone Valley was particularly apt today as it’s Rhone Wine Week, with various events taking place across the country for wine enthusiasts and those who have just embarked on their wine journey – like me.

By the way, it’s worth mentioning that before this course, I had pretty minimal experience of wine, but because of Colm’s enthusiasm (as well as his guests), I’ve developed a fondness and love for it.

The same goes for Caroline Hennessy and Kristin Jensen’s love of craft beer – I have got an immense appreciation for them both and am looking forward to learning more.

Zipping through the various wines, I found myself becoming more confident with smells and tastes and was relieved when Colm eased our minds about the impending wine exam.

An exam with 100 questions on wine and sherry, not meant to catch you out but see what you know.

Finishing early I headed back to the house, saying hello to our growing chicks who have been having a lot of fun jumping around and swinging in the coop.

Tomorrow I’m on stock duty, which means I’ve to be in the kitchen at 8am and with a busy day of cooking ahead of that, I won’t be surprised if I’m in bed by 10pm.

Au revoir et bonne chance!

Some random things I learned today:

  • If you see Crozes-Hermitage/Hermitage/St-Joseph and Cornas on a bottle of wine, it means that it’s made from Syrah grapes.
  • The red wine Cote-Rotie is made from syrah too but is blended with a small amount of Viognier grapes.
  • The white wine Condrieu is made from 100% Viognier.
  • In the Rhone Valley, there are no rows of grapevines because it’s so steep and working machinery there would be too dangerous. The vines are individual and all work is done manually.
  • There are around 350 (or more) different growers in Châteauneuf-du-Pape – so if you see a low-priced bottle, it’s probably not from the top producer and it might have varying quality.
  • There are 13 grape varieties that are allowed to be in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
  • Penedes in Spain is the heartland of the delicious sparkling wine Cava, whereas Prosecco is from the Veneto region in Italy.
  • Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the same grape variety.

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