Tag Archives: 12 Week

Ballymaloe Day 75: A day in the leaba

The last thing you want to happen in cookery school is to be sick on one of the final cooking days…

Over the past few days I’ve felt another wave of sickness hitting me. I don’t know whether it’s something I ate, the cold weather or just a thing that’s going around but anyway, to cut a long story short, I’ve been in bed all day.

I woke up this morning feeling very stuffy and then had a tight stiffness in my upper body, along with a massive headache, so combined I was far from feeling 100%.

Heading back to the house, I pulled on my pyjamas, nabbed a hot drink and water bottle and slept the day away. I didn’t rise until about 5.30pm.

Since then I’ve been battling with a headache that just won’t shift, but thankfully I’m stocking up on plenty of vitamin see (I love you oranges), and water. Food is much needed…

Fingers crossed that tomorrow will see an energy boost and less of a chill…

Ballymaloe Day 44: Stuffed to the brim

“What am I doing to my body?!” I exclaimed in amused exasperation as I gave my dishes up for washing, “I think I’m going to explode”.

Back in the kitchen in Ballymaloe, and into the normal routine of living in a culinary bubble, I was tired but happy to be back.

As well as cooking up my normal list of dishes, I also had to make butter for the dining room – if you ever get the chance to make butter in your life, do!

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It’s so easy and simple to make that you’ll be the envy of all of your friends (though remember that you probably won’t save money if you make your own as cream can cost a fair bit).

After my teacher Sue and I mused about the size of my butter balls, I got started on my swede turnip soup.

Despite my seasoning hiccup and missing out on making a raita, I was over the moon to receive a “10” for my apple fudge cake (see lead image), and I must admit, I did think it was quite tasty!

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Ending today’s cooking on a high, I headed into the dining room where I ate like an absolute king.

Going back for seconds on a glorious Parmesan risotto and having lashings of curry and cheese, I was savouring the flavours.

Worried that I may have to be carted off on a trolley to demo, I hauled myself out of my chair and put my dish away.

Considerably stuffed to the brim and annoyed that I hadn’t worn elasticated pants, I dragged the food baby in my stomach to demo and plonked myself down in a seat.

We had Rachel in with us today and assisted by Pat and Gary she demoed various types of cakes and… BURGERS.

I’m an absolute sucker for good burgers (despite developing slight pseudodysphagia when I nearly lost my life choking on one) – but when I ogled them with hungry eyes, I was actually quite excited.

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(Rachel with pork caul fat)

Bear in mind that I had just eaten less than an hour before and though the food was firmly lodged in my stomach, I truly was a greedy gourmand today.

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By the way, you may have noticed that I haven’t spoken recently of my two children, Brienne the cheese and Alfred the sourdough starter.

Brienne’s doing well and chilling in the dairy and Alfred, well, let’s just say Sophie and I had to resurrect him from the dead today with the help of Tim. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll see him in a loaf of bread…

Tomorrow is lecture day, and though Wine Wednesdays has been moved to Thirsty Thursday, I’m looking forward to learning all about seaside foraging, hot and cold smoking and brunch!

Some random things I learned today:

  • If your fudge sauce starts to get a bit too thick, instead of watering it down with water, use cream instead – it’ll loosen the sauce and add plenty of flavour.
  • If you’re making lots of burgers but don’t want to use them straight away, tray freeze them first. Put parchment paper onto a try and place your burgers on top then freeze. After they’re frozen take them out and slide off the tray and you can store them in batches – this way they don’t stick together.
  • Frying pans are not just for frying! A decent pan can work really well when you’re making something like an upside down cake. Make sure to line it and that you’ve room in your oven and you’re sorted.
  • Seek out a butcher that will sell/give you pork caul, it’s great for wrapping around homemade burgers and making sure that the bits don’t fall off around it.
  • When buying mince for making burgers, make sure that it’s not too lean because you’ll end up with a dry burger. Check it for paler pink bits and white flecks.
  • Lamb burgers will fall apart more easily if you don’t add egg and breadcrumbs to help bind them.

Ballymaloe Day 14: Basking in the Rebel County

If you happened to be in the Cork city, Cloyne and Midleton area today you may have heard two rather enthusiastic ladies belting their hearts out to Avril Lavigne (and for that, we apologise).

After yesterday’s blog, I got a rather lovely surprise from food writer and homecook hero Donal Skehan, who said he had mentioned this very blog in the Irish Independent.

Completely taken aback I hopped onto my bike and cycled as fast as I could to the local in Shanagarry where there was one copy left (I never thought there was such thing as cycle range but I definitely discovered it yesterday).

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With a sudden burst of pride and energy, I challenged myself to joint a chicken solo – And with a very sharp filleting knife in hand I wedged my blade between the flesh and shimmied it around the carcass.

The result thankfully didn’t look too botched and I popped it into the oven to munch on for a night feast.

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But back to the present! Today, and in an attempt not to turn into a couch potato, myself and Sophie made our way to the city.

For those who don’t know, Cork is known as the Rebel County, and we often joke about how Corkonians have this kind-of mentality:

(Image via Media Ireland)

Marvelling at the noticeable increase in human life – seriously, Ballymaloe makes you feel like a hermit – I met up with a good friend of mine, Dave Molloy, who I used to work with at WorldIrish.

Sprinklings of rain fell from the sky and sadly the English Market wasn’t open on Sunday so we comforted ourselves with a tipple at the pub next door – Mutton Lane.

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Come 5pm, the Ballymaloe Bubble began to call us home and myself and Sophie bid adieu to our friends and headed back to campus.

Blaring Beyoncé, David Guetta, Lady Gaga and Imagine Dragons out the window, the contrast between urban and extreme rural life must’ve been quite the sight!

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(Back on campus looking out to the Pink Cottage)

We’re drifting back into the kitchens again tomorrow where I’ll be rustling up an Irish traditional salad (who knew?), glazed carrots, rustic potatoes, brown soda bread and mangoes with lime syrup.

Wish me luck?

Some more random things I learned last week:

  • “Lamb” is a young sheep that’s under 12 months old that doesn’t have any permanent teeth, hogget is a young sheep that’s between one to two years old and mutton is a sheep that’s over two years old. Mutton has less tender meat.
  • When you’re boiling an egg, remember to put salt in the water because eggs are porous and they’ll happily soak up the flavour.
  • Try to buy your fish whole because when you’re buying it as fillets you don’t really know how fresh it is. Buying whole, you can check the smell (fresh fish doesn’t smell like fish), the glaze in its eyes (they should be clear).
  • When you’re boiling beetroot, it’s cooked when the skin peels off easily and for those who’re concerned about the dye getting on them, simply wear rubber gloves to peel them right off!
  • If a recipe asks for you to peel tomatoes, all you need is boiling water! Strike an “X” on top of the tomato and in a dish, pour the boiling water over it. Count to ten, take the tomato out, run it under a cold tap and the skin should come off easily.

Ballymaloe Day 5: “A mouth like the Jack Lynch Tunnel”

C’est fini, our first week at Ballymaloe is complete and we’re all having a well-deserved rest. Too lazy to start the fire, I’m tucked into one of our couches like a proper potato.

I can’t even begin to explain how much information has been handed over to us over the past few days and wondering how on earth I’m going to retain it all is going to be quite the challenge.

Today kicked off at 7.30am when I managed to finally drag myself out of my duvet and prepare for a long morning of cooking.

With three dishes to cook, as well as being on cream whipping duty, it was full steam ahead for me as I ploughed through making loganberry jam, brown bread and spaghetti with zucchini (courgette), ricotta, basil and lemon zest.

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Despite being disgustingly sweaty, destroying beans and having a fight with my pasta, it all came together in the end.

I stupidly forgot to put salt in my bread mix so it tasted pretty bland but apart from that I was satisfied – I’ve definitely learned my lesson with that one. Learn from your cooking and you’ll be fine!

Our Friday afternoon was filled with a demo from Pam, where she cooked dishes that we’ll have to replicate on Monday. From a smooth tomato and spearmint soup to a really tasty crab and coriander tart – I’m excited about getting back into the kitchen and trying again.

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Random tip from Pam, when you’re serving salad to guests, have it at room temperature have the sizes of leaves to be only as big as your mouth – unless you have “a mouth like the Jack Lynch Tunnel!”

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(Just one of Ballymaloe’s store cupboards – it’s beautiful)

Remember my perfectly plucked duck? Well, I cooked him for dinner, but not before degutting him (fascinating, but not recommended for the squeamish). I think I horrified one of the student’s parents who were visiting, when they spotted me in the courtyard with blood wringing from my hands!

Using fresh herbs from the gardens, courtesy of Pam, I toasted him up in the oven at 230°C for 25 minutes and dressed in Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Much to my delight, our little duck friend was delicious, even though I was totally winging it in the process.

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I’m up at 6am tomorrow to prep for working at Midleton Market – come say “hello!”

Some random things I learned today:

  • Don’t use fan ovens for baking – they’ll just dry out the ingredients. Convectional ovens are best but if you only have a fan, add a pan with an inch of water to the bottom of your oven and it should help retain moisture.
  • The scale for ranking the heat in chilis is called the Scoville scale.
  • Never put oil on a griddle pan – you’re not cooking it! Instead put oil directly onto your ingredients.
  • Serve things like Petit Fours in odd numbers. We’re so used to see even that seeing odd confuses you and makes you look more intently at the dish.
  • Below – this is a Wasabi plant!

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