Sunday, 25 March 2012

Ballymaloe Weekend 9 - Pizzas and Party

It was the weekend but I was back in the kitchen like an idiot ‘helping’ out at the Saturday pizzas they sell here at the café in the school. The pizza dough is made up in a huge batch on Friday and left to rise overnight. Then it’s shaped and cooked to order on Saturday with lots of delicious local seasonal toppings such as Gubbeen cheese and bacon, black pudding, fennel, herb mayonnaise, rocket and so on. They make the pizzas out of this Italian 00 flour which comes in this huge cool looking bag, it also makes a really tasty dough more to the point:

Italian Flour

I was shaping the pizzas, they got better after the first few attempts, honest! It wasn’t too busy but I felt like I’d done loads. I also chopped some herbs for gremolata to sprinkle on the pizzas and for mayonnaise. The pizzas get cooked in the Italian wood fired oven so they are really authentic and crispy.

Pizzas shaped by me
 After a bit of a rest this evening we had a party and food in the courtyard cooked up by Ted of Wildside Catering. He made lots of asian style food including deep fried wantons with crab, a spicy duck soup full of fresh coriander and really fresh noodles with chicken and cucumber. There were also lots of cocktails to wash it down and we had a fire and stuff, it was cool.

Me in front of the cottage

Me on the balcony

Ballymaloe Day 45, March 10th - Fish Fest

Last day of the week here in Kitchen 3. Before I had any time to dwell on another week over I had Brioche to roll out and put into tins to rise again, soda bread to bake, then filleting a flat fish, one of my favourite things to do here, this time I tackled a plaice. I made some mushy peas as well to go with the fish, not my favourite veg but cooked this way and blended in the food processor with butter and mint they were really tasty. I also turned out one of my yoghurt creams from yesterday which had by now set in its mold. I garnished it with pink sweet geranium leaves, looked amazing! The kitchen was chaos today with everyone frying fish and chips, there were fish everywhere, cod, plaice, monkfish, they came in on a trolly and we were all given one to fillet, batter and fry up for lunch. It's great to have these ingredients fresh out the sea for us to use. I also found the time to make a spiced Moroccan lentil soup, not sure how that happened!

Plaice before...

My cardamom cream

My White Soda Bread

My Mushy Peas

My Spiced Moroccan Soup

Plaice after!

My Brioche!

For the afternoon we were shown some more meringue recipes, including a chocolate and rum cream one, then lots of different bruschetta and crostinis. The main course was roast duck. I for one am just desperate for a rest but no sign of that anytime soon…

Ballymaloe Day 44, March 9th - Goaty and Fish and Chips

In the kitchen today I began stage 1 of making Brioche, like many things here it is a two day affair. You have to hover over the food mixer adding one cube of butter at a time for half an hour till it is all incorporated into the dough. While the mixer was on I also made some cheese biscuits. I was cooking dessert today, a delicious cardamom yoghurt cream served with a pomegranate and rosewater. Again using gelatine, it hadn’t quite set in a couple of hours, so I will turn out the rest tomorrow. I was also looking after the cheese board, setting out the goat’s cheeses on parchment paper on a board and making the little signs for them. I also added a small posy of herbs and flowers; if I could have got my hands on a toy plastic goat or two that would that would have been perfect! I got a few compliments on it too, sadly I have only one not so great picture of it:

My Goat's Cheese board
 More importantly the cheese and the biscuits were delicious!

My Cardamom & Pomegranate Cream

In the afternoon's demonstration Rachel made fish and chips and some orange and white chocolate mousses. She also made some chocolate cups and decorations from melted chocolate. Then in the evening we had a wine revision lecture, wrote loads of notes but also had a great English sparking rose wine, it was very quaffable. There is really no let up here, and good though it is to be immersed in all these things it's also very tiring. Literally the best bit of the day is when I collapse into my cosy bed at night!

Rachel's White Chocolate Mousse

and Tangerine Mousse

Fish and Chips

Fish Canapes

Ballymaloe Day 43, March 8th - Canapé Capers

Middle of the week and there was loads on today. First off the cheeseboard, which this week was Goats’ Cheese, then the canapé demonstration which was an epic affair with both Rory and Darina showing us how to prepare dainty little morsels for any occasion. There were quails eggs, smoked salmon, fish kebabs, anchovy straws, marinated feta, lamb on rosemary skewers, tiny Yorkshire puddings with roast beef and horseradish, meatballs and more. Top tips for presenting the food in a quirky fashion were foraging for an old birds nest (??!) and an antique dormouse grill if you happen to have one. It would certainly start the conversation among your guests if the Prosecco hadn’t done the trick!

Foraged bird's nest!

Quail's eggs, shrimps
Darina and Rory

Anchovy straws at the front
Field mice grill centre!

Canapes on artisan tiles
It gave me loads and loads of ideas for when I get back!After a short lecture on freezing and one on spices we all trooped off to Ballymaloe House Hotel a few miles down the road. I had already been to the kitchen to chop cabbages and to the shop and café a few times (warning, the shop is full of cool kitchenware you’d be tempted to buy) but this time we had a tour round the dining room, kitchen, wine cellar and bedrooms. The wine cellar down in the basement has some old stone walls from the remains of the original castle. We also went out to see the Grainstore, a converted barn they use for events which is a fabulous space, and the onsite coffee roastery. Yes, they really do have everything here! It was a gorgeous sunny day and afterwards we had some afternoon tea in the conservatory, all cakes we have cooked ourselves of course! The Allen family told us a bit about the history of the house and how Myrtle Allen first established the restaurant back in the 1960s, cooking country house family food with ingredients from her garden.

Ballymaloe House

The grounds

The wine cellar

The kitchens

Coffee Roastery, The Golden Bean

The Grainstore

The Coffee Roaster

Another thing I managed to fit in to today was the infamous sourdough. The trouble with this sourdough has been the second rising, it has risen fine but it's over risen and sunk a bit the second time. Mainly because its been rising in the middle of the night and would have been perfect to cook at 4 in the morning! Well they had sunk a little but still looked good so I baked then in the morning, here they are:
My sourdough

Monday, 19 March 2012

Ballymaloe Day 42, March 7th - Eggs 70s

Week 9, Day 2 and I was cooking the Cumberland Sauce, Bacon with a sugary pineapple glaze and Eggs Mayonnaise. I also practiced another brown soda bread. As ever easier than it sounds, the bacon took forever to cook as it simmered on the hob. It only goes into the oven to brown up but by the end of it I was getting sick of the dish. The Cumberland Sauce too took a long time and just didn’t go very well, too watery, then too overcooked, tricky to master. The Eggs Mayonnaise involved boiling 10 eggs (double the recipe) which I also failed to master, then making mayonnaise in the food processor and adding that to the sieved egg yolk. You then put it with some chives back into the halved egg whites and serve with a garnish. Easy, no? I swear this will be coming back into fashion if it hasn’t already! I also made some vanilla ice cream today, made by the method of pouring syrup onto the egg mixture. It was really sweet and tasty!

My Bacon and Cumberland Sauce, and a garnished Egg Mayonnaise

My Eggs Mayonnaise, 70s revival on the cards
The demonstration today was good, there was a spectacular ciabatta bread which is a two day job, a lamb curry and accompaniments, melon cocktail, sorbets, stuffed dates and a cardamom cream with pomegranates. It was a great feast; the blood orange sorbet was especially good and had an amazing flavour.

Tomorrow we have plenty on, a canapé demonstration, a talk on spices and freezing (not freezing spices) and then a visit up the road to Ballymaloe House.

Ballymaloe Day 41, March 6th - Duck, Panna Cotta, Buffet

Well this week (Week 9!) I was back in Kitchen 3, trying to remember where everything was. On the menu was pan grilled duck breast with Puy lentils and caramel panna cotta. I also practiced my brown soda bread to try and see some improvement on last week's.

The lentils are cooked up with some sacrificial vegetables and mixed with lots of herbs. The duck itself was simple but needs to be cooked on the skin side till the fat is nice and crispy, not flabby! Cooking the duck on both sides takes about 20 minutes, longer than you'd think. The panna cotta was my first time here using gelatine; they make it using the leaf gelatine to the milk, cream, sugar and vanilla. They don't bake it in the oven here, instead it sets in the fridge after adding the gelatine. The caramel sauce was the perfect addition, just the right side of bitter to balance out the sweet cream. The panna cotta itself tasted good but then it would, given the sum of its parts!

No pictures though today, but the afternoon's demonstration was the Ballymaloe House Buffet and there were huge platters of salads and roast meats. It was all pretty old school, but delicious nonetheless. It also included the rather wonderful Ballymaloe House Ice Bowl, which they use to keep ice cream cold. The ice bowl can be made with flowers and leaves and looks amazing, definitely one to try!

The Ballymaloe House Buffet

Roast meats

Buffet dishes

The Ice Bowl

Onions Moniegasque