Sunday, 31 March 2013

It's been nothing but tears, long drawn out goodbyes and lots of revision this week. Week 12. The end of Ballymaloe January Course 2013.
We had our practical exams (mine not so good considering I dropped my chicken on the floor and cut myself. I can laugh, now!) then our three theory exams (better than the practical!) and now we have left. Before we left however, there was dancing, food (how could we not) and lots of laughter. Our final supper as we called it with the inspirational Rory O'Connell cooking. What a meal.

I have learnt so many things over these last 12 weeks, met some inspirational people and most important to me, is that I have finally found something that I know I want to do, in any context, for ever. I have found my thing. And that makes me so happy.

I could not though, have learnt as much about myself or cooking, succeeded in so many ways without the help and support from the fabulous and talented team of teachers who work at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Unfortunately they weren't all at our farewell supper but I want to say Thank you. Thank you so much.

Finally to Tim and Darina Allen, Rory O'Connell and Rachel Allen. This journey, my fun, wonderful, sometimes heartbreaking journey could not have happened without you all. I can't wait to pass the message on, teach more people how to cook and make you proud. Thank you.

So what next you, those lovely people who have been along on this 12 week journey with me, ask? I have a job! I'll actually be working in Ireland for a family but before that, I am off to work with the talented Sharon Hearne-Smith and Neven Maguire. I am so excited and grateful for this next great opportunity. So keep reading to find out the next chapter. 

See you later Ballymaloe, I'll be back.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Penultimate Week

Last week was our penultimate week at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Nobody can believe it, we've started thinking about our futures (even more seriously), I've started applying for jobs (yeah, crazy!) and I've also started revising. Can't quite believe it.

Sunday was a special family dinner with the girls. Lots of chat about our final menu, what we've learnt and where we are going.

On Wednesday we were lucky enough to have a guided tour around Ballymaloe House and speak to the legend that is Myrtle Allen. Lucky us! We saw some fantastic stuff, the wine cellar with Colm, the Grainstore which is an event space and also these bad boys below!

These are two of my friends here at Ballymaloe Cookery School. I love this image!

Wednesday we also had sushi class and was lucky enough to try this fellow. The Oyster Plant which actually tastes like oysters!

And this beautiful plant is the Wasabi plant.

The atmosphere has changed too, everyone is a little more serious, practise for our practical exam is being sneaked around our daily menus and the are some heart to hearts going on.

It seems every time we have Rachel Allen for demo there is some wonderful animal she has to hold up! This time it was the stunning Thornback Ray.

We finished Fridays demo with an iced lolly. YUM!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

That's right. Everything is green. The pyramids, the houses, the cows even. Everything is green. It's the day of St Patrick, I'm in Ireland and the sun is shinning.

We decided to take a walk high up on the cliff tops overlooking Ballycotton before getting down to some wine revision for our exam on Wednesday. After having our last wine lecture with the wine god that is Colm McCan it got us all into motion. He is a fantastic teacher with such knowledge and passion for wine it's pretty inspiring stuff, not to mention he's a great laugh!

 Nerves are definitely kicking in. Thursday was particularly stressful as we had to hand in our final menu. No changes can be made, if you left an ingredient our of your list you can't go back. With over 200 recipes to decide from it was a pretty tough choice to pick three meals that were cohesive, balanced and showed off our abilities to their best. But, it's handed in now. Nothing to do but practice!

It's all in the hands of the cooking gods now. In the mean time we've had some laughs, a brownie off and recalling some memories. 10 weeks ago we all showed up to this tiny Irish village not knowing who we would meet, the friends we would make or what we would learn. And now, it's almost over. Incredible.

Hope you have had a great weekend celebrating St Paddys and here are some Tips of the Week:

1. Pork is pork until it's cured. Then it's bacon.

2. Egg whites keep covered in the fridge for weeks and make the best meringues.

3. If a recipe calls for self raising flour but you don't have any, just add 1tsp of baking powder

Sunday, 10 March 2013

That time again. In keeping with a fish theme, let's fillet a squid. This is by far, and I really mean that, the easiest thing to fillet. 

First you need to get your hands around the head (between the eyes and the body) and pull. You're looking to pull the head along with all the insides out. Don't be squeamish, get stuck in! Then cut between the tentacles and the eyes, preferably as close to the eyes as you can get.

Next grab a hold of the quill and pull it out (squids are called the 'oceans writers')

Next it's time to peel off the wings and then the skin (that speckledy stuff)

Now all that is left is to give it a wash and chop it up. Pat on the back, you did it!

This was my version of Squid'n'Chips (with sweet chilli sauce)

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Mid-week madness

It's the middle of week 9 at Ballymaloe . That means that I, we, have 3 more weeks here. Exams are looming. Testers are starting to appear and menus keep changing.

I have about 5 ideas of each course of my final practical that I just cannot decide on. Doesn't really help that we have roughly 30 new recipes a day to add to our repertoire.

But in the meantime we have food, friends and laughter. Mistakes in the kitchen can be just as fun as successes, my best sourdough so far made an appearance (did you see it?!?!) and we met the lovely Madeline from Brown Envelope Seeds who, I might add, is growing 7 different types of Quinoa in West Cork. Now I love quinoa. It's a whole protein not to mention it has 13 amino acids and is considered a super food. So to find someone growing it (successfully) in Ireland is fantastic.

So, here are some Tips of the Week:

1. A mix of cream and egg yolk is called a Liaison. Adding this to sauces will thicken and richen. Never add the Liaison to boiling liquid, always add the boiling liquid to the Liaison.

2. In a burger you generally want 10-15% fat. In Pork this would be the shoulder meat, in Lamb the flank and brisket in Beef.

3. If a recipe calls for fresh yeast but you only have dry. Simply half the amount and go with the dry.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Please may I have a Buffalo?

50 students, Darina Allen, 5 local producers and some buffalo. You guessed it, I'm talking about our Ballymaloe Cookery School Trip.

Thursday was the day when we were allowed out into the local population (for better or worse) to meet some producers/business owners who are making a success of it. First was Bill Casey, who is literally a stone's throw away from the school and is the one man band behind the award winning Shanagarry Smoked Salmon.

Second we trundled off to Mahon Farmers Market to witness the various stands and their wares in full force. Foot fall has actually increased in the shopping arcade due to the market and Thursdays are now the busiest of the week. A great plus.

Next we tootled off to West Cork and Toons Bridge Dairy were we met Toby Simmonds and his wife and got to see, in action, the making of the only Irish Buffalo Mozzarella. Very exciting stuff especially as we managed to get up close and personal to the Buffalo shipped in from Italy (my favourite bit).

Down the road was Donal Creedon (Macroom Oatmeal) who is another inspiring example of a one man band producing stone ground oatmeal. Only able to produce 1 tonne of oatmeal a week due to the intricate and delicate process to make this delicious product. It was a wonderful example of people doing something purely for the love, not necessarily the money.

We then visited Urru, a deli-come-cafe run by an ex Ballymaloe Student and then off to the The Poachers Inn for a pint and some tantalising nibbles again, run by ex students.

A great day with a range of different examples of business ideas.

We (friend + I) decided we should explore Ireland a little bit. So on Friday afternoon, after demo we headed to Limerick for some food and Rugby. A great weekend with some wonderful people (Peter from Country Choice was one of them), great atmosphere and far too much food at the Milk Market (surprise surprise!). On the way back we stopped at the largest Stone Circle in Ireland. Talk about atmospheric...

Friday, 1 March 2013

Chocolate Fudge Bite Madness

If only I had a picture of the student stampede that shook through the Ballymaloe Kitchens today due to the the Chocolate Fudge Bite Madness….

Having just joined UK Bloggers it seemed like a fab idea to do a recipe swap blog post. My very very first one (I was and am excited) with the lovely Alyssia and this is what she says….

'Hey there! I'm Alyssia from Ever since I can remember I have always loved baking, but it wasn't really until I came to University that I started messing around with baking. My favourite things to bake are cupcakes, because they are just too cute, and too yummy! When I saw that Jette wanted to do a recipe swap I jumped at the chance. I was seriously pleased with the recipe that she gave me, which you can check out over on my blog! Now for a bit about the recipe I gave her:

I actually got the recipe for Chocolate Fudge Cake Bites from the 'Step-by-step Baking Book' by Caroline Bretherton. (As a side note I think all keen bakers should own this book). Anyway this recipe is one that I have made many times and it always goes down a storm with my friends. So I hope that you enjoy it and maybe give it a go yourself!

Thanks again Jette for organising this swap, it's been really fun!'

So, here goes...
Generally in the kitchens of Ballymaloe Cookery School it's mayhem and madness and if one thing is started on one day, it rarely gets remembered the next to be finished but I managed it. All by myself, no notes or alarms. Proud aren't you?!

The recipe Alyssia sent me seemed a little complicated, especially for a girl (me) who gives up on recipe instructions if they go on and on (sorry Darina) and kind of just makes it up but, I stuck to it. Pat on the back. And oh yes, were they a hit. Within 5 minutes of putting them in the dinning room they had vanished into the tummies of my fellow Ballymaloe students. I did vary size but generally stuck to small so that it didn't feel quite so waist-increasingly-sinful to eat more than one.

The recipe is time consuming but yes, absolutely worth it. I can see it being great for kids parties and then doing some more decadent (add some booze) ones for a dinner party.

Now I did have some several awful moments. One was where my balls had been out of the fridge for quite a while and as I tried to coat them with white chocolate they proceeded to melt into the chocolate. Not a pretty effect but definitely a lesson learned…keep them cool!

All in all though a recipe that is well worth the effort and made one happy girl (me) and plenty of satisfied people in the dining room.