Ballymaloe Day 9: “Recipes are good as a guide – they’re not bible!”

After a relatively good day in the kitchen yesterday, everything collapsed on its head.

What started out as a pretty straightforward order of work, quickly transpired that time was not on anyone’s side.

I started out with four recipes under my belt with a chicken to joint – and ended with six dishes to present.

In all the hustle and bustle, I again forgot to photograph my final dishes but below are two that I managed to rustle together (my first time making white soda bread too!) I was well over the usual 12pm cut-off point but thankfully still managed to get decent marks for my many creations.

photo 1(11)
(Jointed and dismembered!)

photo 2(9)
(Myself and my teacher, Annette, jointing a chicken)

photo 5(8)
(My white soda bread)

photo 3(10)
(Buttered courgettes)

The lovely Rory O’Connell sat next to me for lunch and we chatted about the literary festival which I had the pleasure of reviewing this year!

Rachel Allen was our lecturer today and it was a joy to have her in front of us. Her breezy, light-hearted and sunny manner made the demo seem less like a lesson and more like a friend in the kitchen.

“This is one I prepared earlier” she joked after struggling with a rather bold piece of caramel that wasn’t doing what it was supposed to. “There!”

When it comes to the afternoon lessons, it’s pretty essential that you can work with your sous chef and the teamwork that you could sense today was palpable.

photo 3(11)
(Rachel’s Creme Caramel)

“Recipes are good as a guide – they’re not bible”, one of the teachers, Pat stressed today as he accompanied Rachel in making beautiful Middle Eastern-inspired dishes.

It’s amusing to see what becomes the norm here in the school; the amount of students randomly snacking on carrots is commonplace and it’s not rare at all to see people with radishes dangling from their mouths during demos.

Everything is so wonderfully fresh that you can’t help but sample everything, and though I’m not particularly a fan of tomatoes, the juiciness of the yellow ones is irresistible.

photo 4(10)
(It’s my housemate’s birthday today!)

With the building cabin fever in my stomach, myself and Sophie headed off to Midleton to pick up a few groceries and essentials – Civilisation never looked so sweet.

Wednesday’s are theory days here in Ballymaloe so thankfully, I’ll get a sort of a lie-in in the morning.

Some random things I learned today:

  • Degourging is taking out the bitterness in aubergines using salt – however, Ballymaloe doesn’t do it because these days they’re not very bitter at all.
  • Blanched almonds are basically almonds that are peeled. They last longer when unpeeled.
  • You cook all meats in just two ways really: slow and steady or high and quick. With a sauce it’s much better to cook slowly – you get a more tender result.
  • There’s no need to buy a million different chopping boards – all you need is a decent wooden board that’s about 2 inches thick and have one side for onions and raw meat and the other for cooked and fruit (á la Ballymaloe Cookery School style). It saves on the washing up!
  • You can never have too many plates – the more coloured the better. White is lovely but you can add so much style to your food.

Next: Ballymaloe Day 10

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