Tag Archives: Exams

Ballymaloe Day 82: The final blogpost

Well it’s over, that’s it, c’est fini. 83 posts altogether including day zero – it’s been a roller coaster of a ride.

It’s hard to describe what how I’m feeling about the written exams right now, but the definite overall feeling that’s running through my veins is exhaustion.

I barely slept last night, and with about four hours under my belt, I headed into our final exams willing the day to just fly by – and that it did.

The exams were by no means easy – in fact they were very, very hard. Everyone I talked to today found them difficult and with three papers to get through, our energy levels plummeted quickly.

It’s hard to believe that we had that many things to learn on the course and to say it’s colossal is an understatement.

But that being said – the exams done and hopefully, though I’m not entirely confident, I did well.

Taking some time out to dance around my bedroom with my roommate Maddie, it’s now time to doll ourselves up and get ready for more nosh.

Tonight we’ve our final farewell dinner hosting by all of the teachers and Darina and Rory – so no doubt a fun-filled evening with food and wine is to be had.

Cheers! We did it! Bonne nuit.

If you’ve any questions about my experience here in Ballymaloe, about the course or your plans, feel feel to drop me an email to unaminh[at]gmail[dot]com.

Ballymaloe Day 79: “There once was a man that ate a motorcar…”

Another uneasy night in bed, I woke up barely before demo and hopped over to the cookery school as quickly as I could.

On the menu for lunch today was venison, oysters and quail, and it was great to have a final lecture with Rory.

(A very small quail!)

Rolling out meat for our beef Carpaccio, Rory told us of a rather intriguing story about a motorcar…

“There once was a man that ate a motorcar – he took it apart and rolled out each piece thinly – it tasted of nothing”, we looked at Rory incredulous, “it’s true! If you roll out your beef too thin it’ll taste of nothing”.

(“Oh crikey, miliky! We’ve enough caul fat here to enrobe the whole class!” – Rory on battling with caul fat)

(One of Rory’s beautiful creations – kind-of looks like a dragon)

“It’s an honour to be able to cook here, and to cook for people like you who love food”, I’ll miss his Roryisms!

A standing ovation for Rory for his excellent tutelage and inspirational food, it was time to eat some lunch but not before Darina drew lots for bread.

With my fingers crossed that I wouldn’t get foccacia, I was delighted to get a white soda bread from the paper heap!

With a gap before my cook ahead, I went back to the Coach House to change into my chef whites and read through my recipe again.


Heading into the kitchen for 3pm, I was a bit nervous and butterflies were building up in my tummy but thankfully it all seemed to go well (I’ll only have 14 minutes docked off my time for tomorrow!).

In a good mood, my next plan of action is to write tomorrow’s order of work and make sure I’m comfortable with what I’m doing – I’d reveal to you what I’m doing but I feel like I’d jinx myself.

Wish me luck?

Some random things I learned today:

  • If you’re making something like beef consommé, it’s perfectly acceptable to use a chicken stock instead! Bear in mind that beef stock tacks about 8 – 12 hours to make, whereas chicken stock will only take you about two hours.
  • Pork caul is pretty handy if you need to wrap burgers, haunch of venison and game. The fat will soak into the meat and make it extra delicious.
  • A rounded tablespoon is equal to one ounce.
  • A perfect curl of Parmesan may actually indicate that the cheese isn’t fully matured.

Ballymaloe Day 65: Drink less, but better wine

I swirled the wine in my glass and moved my nose towards the aroma. I’ve come a long way from Sauvignon Blanc.

With the brightness of day sneaking in the window, I was early for stock duty, which is done every morning by two students.

Feeling jittery at the thought of my rather tedious workload, and with sadly no fellow stock partner, I prepared it as quickly as I could so I could get back into Kitchen 1 and start the day.

As well as the Ballymaloe Buffet to get to grips with, I also had part two of my brioche to complete and also puff pastry to roll out.

Feeling good about my dough, and admiring its golden-yellow tinge, I got to work on rolling it out into brioche balls and into their moulds (which included a rather fetching “s” shape loaf).

Leaving them to rise, I began my puff pastry which gave me the joy of bashing the brains out of a slab of butter, as well as rolling to my heart’s content.

After what seemed like hours and included an amusing mishap with my Cumberland Sauce – don’t worry, it tastes fine; it’s more an “Úna Sauce” – I finally got around to plating up.

(My brioche after it had risen for a decade)

(My devilled eggs are in the middle, I mixed them with wasabi)

I ended up being annoyed with the finish product (my “s” loaf was particularly cranky); they simply didn’t brown or taste as briochy as I would like, I was determined to find some way of trying it again.

Tucking into lunch (which included ox tongue – delicious!), I was feeling like worn-out ragdoll that needed to get some shut eye.

(Pat slicing up the ox tongue – it actually tastes of corned beef)

With 62 tired faces to be seen, it was understandable that we were all feeling quite restless when it came to demo.

At the beginning of demo, Emer came in to chat to us about the final examinations and what our practical entailed.

My mind immediately jumped to the mountains of information that has been swirling around my head. Sometimes I wish I could just shove the worry to one side.

(Rachel demonstrating how to do a butcher’s knot)

Despite our drained bodies, our energy levels took a dip upwards upon the wine lecture at 6pm!

Sadly, today saw our final wine lecture with sommelier-extraordinaire Colm, who was on top form as always.

With Riedel glasses in hand, we sipped on our wine and had a quick crash-revision course for the impending wine exam next week.

Though a bit sketchy on a few of the details, I was happy that I had already read over everything he went through – the hope is that I can retain it all because I absolutely want to.


Throughout this course, I’ve found myself embracing so many styles, aromas and tastes that I never thought I could like. It’s like food, it’s an adventure. Cheers!

Tonight I’m battling between the decision to writing out my order of work for my final menu or writing out my order of work for Thursday.

Some random things I revised today:

  • The characteristic flavours of…
    Muscat – Actually tastes like grapes
    Sauvignon Blanc – Citrus fruits
    Pinot Noir – Red fruits
    Merlot – Plum
  • Wine is made by yeast converting the natural sugars in the grape to alcohol and carbon dioxide.
  • Chablis HAS to be made from Chardonnay grapes, so if you like Chablis and say you don’t like Chardonnay, well, you’re in for a surprise!
  • Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé from the Loire Valley are made from Sauvignon Blanc (Pouilly-Fumé not to be confused with Pouilly-Fuissé which is made from Chardonnay from the Macon region of Burgundy)
  • Beaujolais Nouveau is made by carbonic maceration (whole bunch fermentation), and the new wine is released on the third week of November – it’s a wine that you should consume immediately and not hide in your wine cellar).
  • White Burgundy is made from Chardonnay.
  • Rosé is made by having the juice in contact with the grape skins for a short time.

Ballymaloe Day 40: “How to get a well-browned bottom”

I tossed and turned all night, waking up at stupid hours.

Even though I didn’t feel too nervous about my mid-terms, there was still exam fever in the air.

Last night I had gone through a few techniques to keep them fresh in mind but there were definitely a few that I wasn’t 100% comfortable with.


“How to get a well-browned bottom”, Rory announced, “on your pizzas obviously”.

To kickstart the day we had a pizza demo with Rory O’Connell where he went through various doughs, toppings and skills.

Ogling the ingredients in front of him, Rory said that he would keep on making pizzas for us today until we said, “no more!” Challenge accepted.


“Soft, melting, tender, unctuous”, Rory remarked while plating up a slow-roasted shoulder of pork on a pizza, “the perfect piggy”.

By the way, Rory is catering for thousands at the Food Summit this year, which I was invited to but sadly can’t attend!

The Food Summit, which is part of the prestigious Web Summit, is hosted by Good Food Ireland and is the largest ever showcase of Irish food.

“I had to order 275kgs of mozzarella – that’s a lot of balls” he mused of this year’s event.

After checking the list to see who I’m partnered with next week – I’ve the lovely Scotsman, Fraser – we topped off the demo with mountains of pizza, focaccia and strombolli.


Our herb and salad identification exam started at one, and students were able to head into it at anytime.

My technique exam wasn’t scheduled until 4.10pm this afternoon but to ease my mind I headed in early to get part one over and done with.

We had the lovely Annette as our examiner and I was surprised at how everything in there was so relaxed. I came out of the first exam very happy and hoped that I’d be ok for techniques!

The only two things on the list that I didn’t want to get were choux pastry and caramel sauce because I’d never made the sauce before and pastry is my enemy – guess who got caramel?

Rachel Allen was our examiner and it was quite strange to head into a kitchen where everyone was quiet.

A sense of relief came over me when I was done, but it actually wasn’t bad at all – I think I need a bit more faith in my abilities!

This weekend I’m off to Knockadoon where I’ll be finally reunited with himself.

Some random things I learned today:

– Mushrooms love thyme and onions!
– When roasted, garlic is at its mildest, when chopped/crushed, it’s at its strongest.