Tag Archives: Exam

Ballymaloe Day 80: Channeling my inner Florrie!

To say I’m exhausted is an understatement – I feel like the blood has been drained from my body and I’m left with a hollow shell of a person.

Today we had our main practical exam, and waking up after a surprisingly good sleep, I was anxious to actually just get into the kitchen and start cooking.

My official starting time was 11.30am, so there was a bit of hanging about before I began.

With last minute prep to be done, and a flick through the recipes and order-of-work, I braced myself for a long day’s cooking.

Channeling my inner Florrie – who’s one of our brilliantly supportive teachers here – I gave myself mini-pep talk throughout the morning, and fully aware that I was probably going to go over time, I kept cool.

Despite a brief power failure (just before I was going to put my bread in the oven), and having a battle with palm sugar, all-in-all it went quite smoothly.

This may shock you, but I went about an hour and a half over the designated three hours, but I didn’t mind and I certainly wasn’t the only one. My main goal was to plate up dishes that I was proud of and that I would gladly serve up to anyone.

So here they are, in all their glory!

To start: Spiced Indian Pakoras with Mango Relish


For mains: Chargrilled Squid with Chili and Parsley Oil and Vietnamese Cucumbers


And finally for dessert: Yoghurt and Cardamom Cream with Pomegranate and Rose Blossom Water


I also made a white soda bread, which thankfully seemed to come out well – but we’ll see what Darina thought.

By the way, I got to take Brienne home tonight, and I’m happy to report that she’s a very happy cheese!

The rest of the night I’m just going to chill and probably get to bed early – I’m wrecked. Bonne nuit.


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!


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.

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

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 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 less flavoursome of stocks. If you’re looking to add more flavour it’s better to go for beef or chicken.

Ballymaloe Day 73: Úna dreams of sushi

I yawned so hard this morning that I thought my head would fall off.

Last night in a bid to get all of the last minute wine revision into our system, Sophie, Martha and I blitzed through our notes.

Up at the crack of dawn, we pulled on our chef whites, for formality, and heading into the cookery school for our wine exam.

With an hour to answer 100 questions on wine, I was glad I had studied beforehand. Though there were a few questions that I wasn’t 100% sure about, thankfully I felt quite comfortable going through the whole paper.

With a short break before our official learning day began, I pulled on normal clothes and prepared for a demo of glorious sushi.


Anyone that knows me will probably know that I’m absolute sushi and sashimi fiend, so I was pretty excited to be learning all about how to put this nuggets of rice together.

Though I’ve eaten a monster’s worth of sushi over the years (and easily a kilo of sashimi), I’ve only ever rolled them twice!


(Darina fanning the sushi rice, much to our amusement!)

After my fill of sushi, dolma and lamb – a bizarre but wonderful conglomerate of food – the afternoon demo took a new turn into Christmasland.

Now personally I’m not a huge fan of the sweeter side of Christmas, except mulled wine, but I was still fascinated to see everything come together in a festive array of food.

(Pam working her magic)

(Tracie and Pat rocking the festive look)

Coming up with frosted tangerines, pudding, trifle, mincemeat pies and a yule log, Pam and her team of merry reindeer elves worked hard at making Christmas beautiful.


Feeling a bit under-the-weather, but thankfully not bad yet, tomorrow we’re back in the kitchen where I’ll be cooking duck legs with onion and thyme among other things.


Some random things I learned today:

  • Nori is seaweed that has been roasted and pressed.
  • Wasabi comes from the root of the wasabi plant – yes, it’s a plant!
  • Pickled ginger is meant to be a palate cleanser when you’re eating sushi.
  • When buying rice vinegar, check to see that it’s not flavoured in any way – better to get it as natural as possible.
  • If you’re looking for a gluten-free alternative to soy sauce, try Tamari sauce!

Ballymaloe Day 70: The best bottle on the table is always the empty one

It was a rough start to a Sunday morning. Waking up late to the sound of tweeting birds, I knew that there was only one thing I’d be studying all day: wine.

For those who don’t know, we have a flock of white pigeons that live above our Coach House that like to come down each day for a drink and a feed.

Somewhat soothing, their presence is quite lovely, especially when they let you give them a stroke of their feather – So you can imagine my horror when we saw a fat cat nabbing one!

Rushing out in my pyjamas and wellies, I tried to get to it as fast as I could but he was sadly pulled away. Feeling glum, we gave the rest of the birds a feed and then noticed another bird in distress.

Tossing and turning on the gravel, a small robin red-breast had flown into one of the windows in the courtyard and was in a complete panic – he sadly lost his battle too.

Totally disheartened, the rest of the day pretty much just involving me stuffing my face at regular intervals while on my break from studying wine.

By the way, Colm always stressed that when it came to wine it was all about personal taste and even remarks in our notes that, “the best bottle on the table is always the empty one”. Don’t ever worry if you feel out of your depth when it comes to wine – I certainly once thought that I would never know anything.

Going through styles, regions, varieties and terminology, I think it’s only fair if I treat myself to a glass of Riesling.

Tomorrow marks the start of week 11 and with just two weeks left, I can’t believe that we’ve made it this far.


(My avocado was just perfectly ripe today, hence the proud photo)

Ballymaloe Day 35: Oh sweet cicely!

Oh sweet cicely! I lovage the herbs but I feel like a butterhead beCos I can’t remember them. Lettuce not get too distracted though – we need to dill with it. It doesn’t take a sage to mustard up a recipe list but ain’t nobody got thyme for that!

I’d love to tell you that I had the most riveting Sunday but the pun-filled paragraph above is exactly how my day has been going.

This morning after a glorious nine hours sleep and a dream where I slapped someone comically with a fish, I woke up to a pile of paper that needed to be sifted through.

After an hour of expertly putting paper in folders (I am the sorting queen), I sat down and got my order of work out of the way.

With cabin fever on the mind and studying on the timetable, I pulled on my wellies and headed into the garden for a more practical approach.

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Chewing on fennel, sorrel, oregano and sweet cicely, if someone spotted me in the gardens they may think that I know my stuff but I can safely say that I was just a bit hungry.

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(A shaggy ink cap mushroom)

Next weekend there may or may not be blogposts as it’s the Bank Holiday Weekend and I finally get to see my other half (Plus I may be a bit sad after the exams!)

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But in a bid to fuel your blog intake, I’ll probably backtrack the posts when I’m back in Ballymaloe on the Monday – I couldn’t leave you guys out of the loop, could I??

Tomorrow I’m cooking a caramelized apple tart and homemade noodles. Hard to believe that this is the halfway point in the course.

Now… back to the books.

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