Ballymaloe Day 78: “That absolute slap-across-the-face flavour”

The alarm went off at 7.30am, but I didn’t haul myself out of bed until 8am…

After a turbulent night’s sleep, I eventually managed to drag myself out into humanity with my chef whites on and knife bag under my arm.

Though shattered, it was actually a lovely morning in the kitchen, with an air of calm floating around each station. You’d never guess that we had exams starting tomorrow.

On the menu today was a lamb tagine with dates and couscous, along with melted leeks and as I started on my lamb, I found myself once again in that therapeutic trance-state while trimming off the fat.

The tagine was happily bubbling away in the background and I got to work on my other dishes.

Today also saw us cooking lobster and I couldn’t help but feel a little bit sad as they went into the pot waving their claws!

(My lamb tagine – the sauce was rich with dates and spices)

With a breezy morning under my belt and finishing way earlier than my usual self, it was sad to think that this was the last day that we’d be cooking as a group.

We had the charismatic Rory in with us for demo today, and it was a delight to have him back teaching us for the final hurrah (we thankfully have him tomorrow morning too!).

Going through an ar-RAY of dishes (see what I did there?), he cooked up sweetbreads, lamb kidneys, chocolate puddings and niblets, as well as cooking ray fish.

By the way, ray and skate love a good tickle and I used to love heading to the aquarium in Dingle and giving their backs and bellies a rub – this said in all seriousness!

One thing that I’ve definitely learned while here is the value of less is more and focusing in on one thing that could just stop people in their tracks. As Rory puts it; “that absolute slap-across-the-face flavour”.

Home and already comfortably in bed surrounded by notes, I’m prepping for my cook ahead that’s on tomorrow. Basically the cook ahead allows you to prepare anything that might need more time to make like ice cream, panna cotta, pastry and things like that.

Incidentally, tomorrow is also our last demo of the course and it looks like we’re in for a treat – wish me luck?

Some random things I learned today:

  • You should store ray or skate separately to other fish because the ammonia in it will release onto your fish.
  • If you use unsalted butter you’ll have a more continental flavour but if you’ve salted butter it reflects more the flavours of these shores.
  • If you’re cooking lobster, you may need to put a weight down on the lid of the saucepan because they, understandably, start to lash out and sometimes try to get out.
  • Sweetbreads apparently taste better when bought during Easter! (Rory cooked ours and they were pretty delicious).
  • Lamb stock is probably the least flavoursome of stocks. If you’re looking to add more flavour it’s better to go for beef or chicken.

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