Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Ballymaloe Day 31, 20th February - A Bout de Soufflé

Argh, we are now in to Week 7 and the course is flying past. I was still in Kitchen 1 for another week, this time I was in a section with a bit more room. I was making the Pâté de Campagne, a Finnochio and Red Onion Salad and the Parmesan and Gruére Cheese Soufflé. The pâté is a terrine made in a small Le Crueset. There was so much meat, minced chicken and pork and bacon and chicken livers, you make up the mixture and fry off a bit to check the seasoning. It took quite a few attempts to get it right, then rolled out rashers of streaky bacon to line the casserole. The minced mixture was then layered up with the livers. I had just folded over the top of the bacon only to remember I had forgotten the pistachios which were lying in a bowl in front of me... That went into the oven sealed with a flour and water paste.

The salad was simple enough but really tasty, then the soufflé. The base of it with the cheese could be made ahead, then you whisk the egg whites at the last minute and fold it in. It took a bit longer in the oven than the recipe suggested, could probably have had another minute or two, it could have done with a bit more colour but it did rise and was sooo tasty!

Finnochio & Onion Salad

Pasty looking Souffle
Vegetarian's Nightmare

In the afternoon we had a demonstration with Rachel, she made some delicate winter salads with bitter leaves, lots of stews, polenta and ahead of Shrove Tuesday crêpes with orange butter and toasted hazlenuts.

The day wasn’t over though as we had another wine evening, this time by Pat Smyth, who used to play rugby for Ireland before he got into wine. He is also an expert on French wine. He has a slightly different approach to some of the other wine people we’ve met, he wasn’t a fan of the spittoon anyway! His philosophy is wine is for drinking and sharing, glug!

Also yesterday I started my sourdough starter. Elements be captured!

Monday, 27 February 2012

Ballymaloe Weekend 6 - 18th/19th February, Spring has sprung!

The gardens at Ballymaloe are bursting into life as spring arrives. It's gorgeous here!!

Lovely colours
The fruit garden

Herb garden

Globe artichoke


Herbaceous borders

Shell house

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Ballymaloe Day 30, 17th February - Pizza and Exams

Exam day loomed. But first we had a huge pizza demonstration, again with Rory and Emer. The school has a wood burning pizza oven from Italy but we also learned the best way to cook them in a domestic oven. The basic dough and tomato sauce were first, the dough includes some rye flour which gives it flavour and texture and looks great as well. Then we ate the pizzas as they cooked. Next were different types of pizzas or pizza type dishes using the dough, including Sfinciuni (like a sort of pie), Calzone, Stromboli (a swiss roll shape) Panzerotte and Sgabei (I’m not making these up!) As ever it was a feast but everyone was pretty nervous over lunch with the exams hanging over us...

The pub!

Luckily I was in the second group so I didn’t have to wait too long. We headed over and all the kitchen doors were papered up so we couldn’t see in. It was like being back at school! The herbs were okay but a couple of the salad leaves I wasn’t sure. I had to also assemble a Magimix, lay a table and pour a glass of wine properly (how could I mess that up I hear you cry!). So far so good but then we were all waiting outside Kitchen 2 for ages waiting to be called in. Rachel was in there as one of the teachers marking us! I went in and it was ok, chopping and sweating an onion, making a paper piping bag, then making short crust pastry and lining a tart tin and cooking glazed carrots. Think it went okay, could have got worse things to do. Just glad it was all over! Got on the wine and headed for the pub…

Ballymaloe Day 29, 16th February - Profiteroles

Back in Kitchen 1 and it was the last chance to practice any techniques with the teachers. Unfortunately I also had bread and lemonade duty to do, another two recipes to fit into 4 hours. I made the Shanagarry Soda Bread we made in the first week, then made the lemonade, a combination of lemon, orange, grapefruit and passion fruit. It was a tasty mixture. There was also some rosemary syrup in the fridge to use, so measured it carefully! That done I managed to make my choux pastry and crème patisserie and get my two trays of profiteroles in the oven fine, then it was onto the techniques. Just wanted to tick off poaching an egg and a couple of other things so once that was done I had to make the chocolate sauce (with a large swig of Grand Marnier) and also a tomato, basil and coconut soup. A busy morning that’s for sure, but everything turned out ok, touch wood. Loved the profiteroles, here's a pic:

For the afternoon’s demonstration it was a menu we wouldn’t be cooking till Monday because of the exams. There were some great centrepieces of paté and terrines, and lots of relishes and chutneys to go with them. Then there was an introduction to flaky pastry and some apple tarts. As if that wasn’t enough there were two soufflés as well, oh the drama! We all enjoyed it but soon enough it was back to the house for some last minute cramming and to sharpen our knives!

Ballymaloe Day 28, February 15th - France vs Spain

Well the exams were nearing ever closer so some of us students went down to the greenhouses to have another look at the salad leaves and the herb garden. At least it's getting light earlier in the mornings now!

The herb garden

The peas we planted a couple of weeks ago!

The greenhouses

In the greenhouses we saw Rocket, Mizuna, Mibuna, Tatsoi, Pakchoi, Butterhead, Cos, Green Mustard, Red Mustard and many more. We have 20 to learn for Friday plus 20 herbs!

Back in for 9am we had a short demonstration of tasty Millionaire’s Shortbread and then Bay Lough Farmhouse Cheeses. Then it was time for the French wine lecture. We were joined by french wine expert Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau wine merchants and shop in Kilkenny.. There was loads of great wine and we went through some of the main wine regions, Burgandy, the Rhone Valley, the Loire and so on. He also explained a bit about the appellation d’origine contrôlée in France.

All these before lunch!

For the afternoon we had a massive Tapas demonstration with Rory and Emer, one of the teachers here. It was brilliant and gave me loads of ideas for a feast when I get home. There was a whole leg of Spanish ham carved from a stand, Manchego cheese, octopus, chorizo, anchovies, small spanish peppers, salted cod and tortilla and so many tasty morsels! Then at the end to go with the tasting plate, Colm McCan came back to talk to us a bit more about Sherry and we tried a couple with the food. Amazing!


Membrillo & Manchego

It was a feast and a half

Back at the cottage we were revising hard memorising our herb recipes and practicing our techniques. We practiced chopping veg and making omlettes all evening, the novelty soon wears off I can tell you. Then we quizzed each other on salad leaves and herbs, fun times! There are 20 techniques to learn and if I ever see a paper piping back again it will be too soon!