Monday, 25 February 2013

A rainbow kind of day

The sun was beaming out on the Irish countryside here at Ballymaloe Cookery School today and although cold with sun beams sparkling off the mornings frost, it was glorious. I can't quite believe the amount of sunshine Ireland has had while I've been here. Don't get me wrong, under no circumstance am I complaining, I love it. I just didn't expect it!

One thing that added even more sun to my day was the multicoloured Blood Orange Tart I was in charge of making.
Have I mentioned how much I get excited when peeling and segmenting a blood orange? The colour is extremely variable, the deep red is for me not blood but more a deep sunset. It just gets me every time. Simple pleasures and all that I suppose.

The other thing that brought nervousness and excitement was the return of mid term exam results! Let's just say that I am one happy bunny.

I haven't done Tips of the Week in a while (sorry about that) but here this very Monday, they are back…

1. When icing a cake, have a jug of hot water next to you. Between smoothing icing, dip your palette knife in to the water and it will help enormously!

2. When baking, don't open the door of the oven for at least the first ⅔ rds of the cooking time

3. Prawns and lobster have claws, shrimps and cray fish don't.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Liebster Award

The sun is shining and the world is a very happy place for me right now. Moving towards week 8 of the course here at Ballymaloe Cookery School it all suddenly seems very real. Now is the time to shine and to make my way (again) in the world. I'm excited.

And what better way to get even more excited than to receive the Liebster Blog Award! A big thank you to Graham Pearson for nominating me. Really, thank you.

It seems that the origins come from the German word 'liebster' which means dearest and it's a way of telling those small blogs that have under 200 followers that they're doing great and keep going. I love the idea and feel chuffed to have been nominated by a fellow blogger.

The rules are pretty simple, I have to post 11 random facts about myself, answer 11 questions asked by the nominee and then nominate 11 other bloggers and ask them 11 questions…

11 Random Facts:

1. My dog is called Rat 
2. I'm a modern day hippie (no dreads, I shower regularly and I believe in doing right by the earth)
3. I speak 3 languages and dream regularly in each language
4. I used to live in Darwin (Australia) and go mud crabbing every weekend
5. I'm currently homeless
6. I hate people that lie and boast
7. I get angsty if I live in one place for more than 3 years
8. I'm addicted to chocolate with salt
9. I'd love to marry a farmer and have goats, pigs and chickens
10. I've never been in love
11. I think now is my time

11 Questions I was asked:

1. What did you dream of becoming when you were growing up?
A sports psychologist

2. More often than not, what is your mantra?

3. Calling you out: What is (one of) your 2013 new year resolution(s)?
To remember that when people get angry it's not always my fault

4. If you find yourself feeling uninspired where do you normally go in hopes of finding it?
A walk, anywhere

5. What is your favourite holiday and aspect of that ritual?
I've never had two holidays the same but I love hot ones. I love going to the airport, the excitement in the air is crackling

6. What era most feels like the time period that suits you?
Right now

7. What is your profession? If you were to chose another career path at this time in your life what could you see yourself doing professionally?
I design and own hotels. Or at least I did before I started training to become a chef

8. What is your favourite trait about yourself?
My sense of adventure

9. If for a moment you could have the council of anyone in history who would you chose and what would you ask them?
It would be my mum. She's always right, no matter what

10. How old were you when you had your fist kiss? Did they instigate?
13 and yes

11. Outside of your blog what is another hobby or creative outlet you pursue?

My 11 Questions to my nominees:

1. What do you do professionally and why?
2. Are you happy?
3. Is your life what you thought it would be and if so why?
4. Who do you turn to
5. Have you ever done something to scare yourself and what was it
6. Best moment of your life
7. Worst moment of your life
8. Favourite food
9. 3 things to take to a desert island
10. Dogs or cats?
11. What is your aim in life?

My 5 nominees for Liebster Blog Award:

2. http;//

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A great start to the week

It's only Wednesday here at Ballymaloe Cookery School and so far, it's been one of those weeks where interesting people just keep popping up.

Monday happened and we were still reeling (or at least I was) from our Dingle weekend away. Then Tuesday popped up and someone reminded us that the wonderful brewers from Eight Degrees Brewing company were coming in to talk to us about their beers and let us taste some amber nectar as part of a Slow Food event.

Caroline and Cameron (Scott missing unfortunately) rocked up with boxes full of their beautiful brew. Oh how wonderful it was to have an evening of craft beer brewed right here in Cork. If you haven't heard of Eight Degrees Brewing, look them up. They are a fabulous combo of an Aussie and a Kiwi working together after moving to Ireland for the women they love and setting up a craft brewery…..just so you know I'm a teensy weeny bit envious of this romantic tale!

Caroline, (Scotts wife) does lots of food and beer pairings and we were lucky enough to be brought some utterly divine chocolate brownies made with the company's Knockmeal Down Porter. Just so I clarify, when I mean divine. I mean I could eat the whole tray in 10 minutes and no sharing. It's amazing how so many foods go with beers, sometimes better than wine!

Their story is a great one and what they promote is getting  to know your very own local brewery and trying them! Go on, I dare you. (Barefoot Bohemian Pilsner is my fave, what's yours??)

And now it's Wednesday and we had the very interesting Blathnaid Bergin back in to do a costing workshop with us. Food can be so interesting, passionate and let's face it, pretty attractive but you simply can't just be a fantastic cook to succeed if you want to have your own business. You need to understand the business side, learn how to run your business. Not quite so interesting and attractive but very very necessary.

Last Saturday we had decided to have breakie at Idaho Cafe in Cork and guess who popped in to talk to the class? Yep, Richard who owns, with his wife, Idaho Cafe. He and his wife take a very unusual approach, and in my opinion one well worth keeping in mind. They take holidays, they don't work every day of the week, they keep their business small and do what they do excellently. Not a bad plan if after 12 years they are still open and have a massive following.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Exams, Dingle and Ice Cream

On Friday we had our midterm exams. Yes, that's right, I know I've been talking about them but they actually happened. People were worrying whether this leaf is an oak leaf or a butter leaf, a mibuna or mizuna. If it wasn't so serious, it would be funny. Ok, it was a little funny and let's face it, not really worth getting all in a tizz about but, Ballymaloe Cookery School and Darina take lettuce leaves very seriously so we were all revising like mad chefs.

Apart from our exams to look forward to this week, I had set up a nutritional talk with our Ballymaloe Cookery Schools very own nutritionist, Debbie Shaw. A small group of us got together after a long day of lectures and spoke about PCOS (Polyststic Ovarian Syndrome), cholesterol, whole-food diet, blood sugar balancing etc etc. Two hours flew by and we literally could have talked all night. 

As a young woman who has had severe complications with PCOS it was utterly fascinating and a real eye opener. Debbie is a naturopath, not a classic doctor, or a surgeon. She looks at the whole body, the problems AND the symptoms. She looks at what you eat, your lifestyle, the things you worry about. 
It made me take a long hard look at the way I eat. Here at Ballymaloe Cookery School, we are inundated with food. Every day, 3 course meals are put in front of us, then demo tastings then extra work. It's literally food overload and I have to really put my will power in full force to stop myself from tasting all the yummy things. In the coming weeks, I'm going to be looking at PCOS in depth, foods and recipes that help the symptoms. 1 in 15 women have it in the world. That is a big number!

So, because we had worked so hard for our exams, as a little treat to ourselves, some of the girls and I went off to Dingle, stopping off along the way. Have I mentioned how much I'm falling in love with Ireland?! The countryside, the people….We had a great time, walking along Inch Beach, eating Murphy's Ice Cream (twice), enjoying fresh mussles at Ashe's, eating at the Smoke House in Killarney, drinking Guinness in a hardware store (don't ask!) and much more! All in all, a Yummy weekend.

Bring on the next 6 weeks and the future!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Week 6, half way through

Well, well, well. Half way through this 12 month course here at Ballymaloe Cookery School. I know I've said it, and I'm sorry about that but, holy moly. Time is flying by. Work experience is being sorted out, we're having to think about our mid term exams and the future…I think the last time I took an exam was 2007….I am too old!

It was my turn at cheese making on Wednesday. Cleopatra for sure knew what she was talking about when she bathed in milk. After cutting the curds we all had to get our hands deep in the milky goodness. The change of the cut curds is incredible. First it's smooth and soft, like a thick blemange, then as you stir (avoiding hand version of footsie!) it's gets harder and gets clumpy. Finally, after 24hours of compacting becomes a solid block. Just amazing! Not only that but we had the creator, Jane Murphy, of Ardsallagh Goats Cheese come and talk to us in afternoon Demo. What an inspiration and I utterly want goats now. Same as when Noreen and Martin came from Woodside Farm, I wanted pigs.. oh poor future husband.

A good week so far, let's hope the exams go well!

Sunday, 10 February 2013


Pronounced -Wah-say-ling- there are two types. One is the house-visiting type commonly known as carolling. The other is the orchard-visitng type, reciting incantations and singing to the apple trees to promote a good harvest. The second is what we did last night.

It's not known exactly when the practise came into tradition however we know that the word 'wassail' is Old English and more than likely predates the Norman conquest of 1066.

“Wassaile the trees, that they may beare / You many a Plum and many a Peare: / For more or lesse fruits they will bring, / As you do give them Wassailing" is the song that you sing as you dance and weave around the apple trees, banging and clanging anything on hand to ward off the evil spirits. It's really quite fun, especially with a warm cardamon cider in your hand, the stars twinkling down on you and the fire warming you from the outside.

Although you may feel ridiculous doing it, it's exactly the thing I would do if ever I am lucky enough to have apple trees. Imagine every year before the apple growing season starts, gathering your friends for a weekend adventure in the country. Laughing while putting bunting up, kids running between the trunks, a picnic on the ground. A sense of really living and loving the land. Night hits and the stars come out, the fires are lit, last years cider gets warmed up and the excitement for next years crop begins. Magical right?!?

The day was spent at Douglas Farmers Market making crepes. Such good fun and for anyone who is thinking about selling at farmers markets or going. Do. There is such a sense of community. Such as sense of family and living off the land. Go. Enjoy. And eat.

Tips of the week:

1. Juice of citric fruits decreases in intensity very quickly. Always juice last!

2. Roux (mixture of butter and flour) keeps in the fridge for weeks.

3. If you are making Yorkshire Puddings, make sure the tray with a little oil at bottom is hot. 

Friday, 8 February 2013

Our very own veggie whey fermentation experiment

As some of you may know, a couple of weeks ago it was Fermentation Week. Spear-headed by several lovely ladies such as Sarah B from My New Roots and the lovely Green Kitchen Stories family. I thought I'd give Whey Fermentation a go seeing as they have their very own Jersey Cows that they milk here at Ballymaloe Cookery School for yummy things such as milk, cream, butter and cheese making. There is very often whey left over and if you ask very (very) nicely to Tim Allen, you may be lucky enough to receive a golden or should that be white, jar of the stuff.

There has been much debate over using whey to not using whey when fermenting veggies. But I've never done it before and fuelled by my housemate (Carolannes Kitchen) enthusiasm I am taking the Whey Fermentation plunge…excited?!?!

People who are aware of Ballymaloe Cookery School know that they grow lots of yummy organic veggies. Today I am using freshly picked cabbages, leeks, ruby and golden chard as well as purple and green curly kale. Topped with crushed garlic and dried chilli flakes, Maldon salt and 5 soup spoons of whey.

It was a pretty easy process but I will be a good fermenting girlie and resist eating it for a couple of days!

Other news here at Ballymaloe Cookery School is that we have mid term exams next week. Yep, we are all getting a little rattled having to know more than 15 techniques off by heart as well as two recipes for each herb and the names of lots of lettuce leaves! 

This week, week 5, is also known as the 5 week slump. We are definitely feeling it. Afternoon demos seem longer and less organised, we find ourselves forgetting our own names and that one minute its 9am, the next it's 12pm. 
Bring on week 6!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Filleting a fish

I figured that although it's great you hearing about all the fun things we get to cook it might be a great idea to let you in on some of the basic techniques we get taught.

Filleting a fish is one of those things. Let's face it, it's easier for your fish monger to do but you should really know how.
On the 15th Feb we have a 'half term exam' here at Ballymaloe Cookery School and filleting a fish, amongst other things, could be one of our tests.

So, this is Fred the fish, he is a Sea Bass, so known by the silver shiny body and the 'look' of a fast fish. He will be ever so kind as to help me show you how to fillet. Please say 'Thank you Fred'.

I had to gut Fred myself but you can ask the lovely fishmonger to do that for you as well as de-scaling. If you didn't get that done have a look on the belly. Near to the tail there should be a fin and a small 'toilet' hole. Insert your knife in this hole and slice upwards towards the head. 

Once this has been done, there is the pleasant task of taking all the guts etc out. Moving quickly on...
Next, take the knife at a diagonal and cut from beneath the gill area up to the spine. Cut all the way until you meet the back bone.

Repeat on the other side and then break the head away from the body. 

The gills should come away with the head so that's all the stuff you can't eat out the way. If you want to use the head for stock, you will need to remove them as they will make the stock bitter.
Ok, so next step is slicing as close to the back bone as possible starting with the 'head' end and down to the tail. It doesn't have to be a big cut, just to open the flesh.

Next with the tip of your very sharp knife, slowly in little cuts and using your fingers to gently separate the flesh from the bones. Go slow as the less barbaric you can be will make a difference to how your fillet appears and also how much flesh you actually have.

Next thing, if you want to, is to remove the flesh from the skin. Hold the tail end of the fillet and cut down, not all the way through the skin, and then flatten to push it head wards. Gently rather than pushing with your knife, pull the skin towards you and wiggle your knife. The flesh should come away from the skin quite easily.

And then da-dah! Congrats. You did it.

It was great to see Rory O'Connell filleting several fish for us today and seeing how fast we should be able to do filleting with time.