Monday 26 January 2015

Week 3: “We’re only inhibited by our fear of failure”

On my third week of the course I found myself back in Kitchen One. I like this kitchen, even if it’s freezing cold in the morning and slow to warm up. 

Monday flew by in the kitchen, I made melted leeks, a chocolate mousse and almond macaroons (not the fancy macarons), everything went smoothly. On the other hand, Tuesday was my worst day so far. I had a list of straightforward dishes that all required quite a lot of prep. First the frozen tomatoes were very difficult to peel for my chutney and almost gave me frostbite. Then my cannellini beans for my salad and the vegetables for my moussaka took ages to cook so my station quickly became a complete mess. Even a simple béchamel sauce that I make at home without any trouble seemed difficult that day. 

Anyway, I quickly cheered up in the afternoon with Rory’s demo, which included some Middle Eastern food and even one of Ottolenghi’s recipe (I’m such a big fan of Yotam and his cookbooks). After the demo I stayed to listen to Tim Allen revealing how to make sourdough bread, his bread is absolutely delicious and I’m looking forward to making some myself.

The next morning I met James at 7.45 at the school to learn about cow milking. James did the course about 3 years ago and now works as a gardener at the cookery school and on Wednesday morning he showed me the dairy. 

Students can sign up for extra curricular activities such as cow milking, helping to make the Saturday pizzas in the café or spending a few hours in the kitchen of Ballymaloe house. You have to be quick (by sitting in the front row on day one) to make sure you don’t end up on the waiting lists. So anyway I expected to have to milk the Jersey cows by hand but it’s all modernised now and a machine does it for you. I got to see how the cream got separated from the milk in the separator and tasted a fresh glass of still warm milk. Delicious!

Our lecture day was quite intense with Darina starting with a cheese and biscuit lecture. Back in 2013 I was lucky enough to be a judge at the Irish cheese awards alongside Darina Allen. That was the first time I saw her in real life although she probably doesn’t remember me. Anyway, I got a bit emotional when she mentioned the beautiful Irish cheese Glebe Bethan as I absolutely love it. Glebe Bethan was made by cheesemaker David Tiernan who sadly passed away in 2013. It is a beautiful raw cow’s milk cheese that is quite similar to alpine cheeses like Comté and Gruyère. David had bought two Montbéliardes (cows) from a French farmer who was retiring and after tasting Comté he decided to experiment and made his own cheese in 2003, which he went on to win several awards for. Sadly, the last of the cheese David made back in 2012 is fast disappearing and once the remaining stocks are gone then that’s it. Try it if you can, it’s beautiful!

For the rest of the morning Darina and Rory also demonstrated many meaty dishes including a traditional roast of beef and the classic French Cassoulet. The afternoon was all about flavoured oils and vinegars, preserves and pickles.

We also learnt about menu planning and Darina showed us a few menus from several places. She mentioned the Fumbally Café in Dublin saying that she has a “profound respect for all the people involved in the place”, high praise indeed.

We ended the day with food for thought, as Darina spoke about finding a job after the course and knowing what we want to do. I know the word ‘inspiring’ tends to be overused these days but Darina is certainly the most inspiring person I’ve ever met. She’s a doer and she became so successful because she had the courage to make her dreams become reality. As she so rightly said during the lecture “We’re only inhibited by our fear of failure” and if you have an idea “just do it!”. A girl I know who did the course told me that after Ballymaloe I’ll have the confidence to do anything and I hope she’s right. It really got me thinking and I really hope I will find my own path.

On Thursday, after our morning cooking we got out of the school and down to Shanagarry strand to forage for periwinkles and learn a bit about seaweed. Did you know that all the seaweed in Ireland is edible? It was great to get out of the school on a beautiful sunny morning and it energised me for the rest of the day. 

The demo was all about Dublin Bay Prawns, shrimps and delicious homemade mayonnaise. Darina talked about how much Irish seafood is exported to France and other countries and how some people still see some of the shellfish as “famine food”. She also demonstrated some very Irish dishes like bacon and cabbage and scallion champ along with lots of other dishes.

Thursday and Friday went quite well in the kitchen, I loved making Turkish flatbread, cinnamon meringue with plums, brown yeast bread and apple pie. I can definitely say I enjoy baking more than savoury cooking when in Ballymaloe, although at home it’s the other way around. Weird, hey?

Our Friday demo was conducted by Rachel Allen and focused mainly on homemade burgers and scrumptious upside down cakes. Sometimes Rachel visits the kitchen in the morning and the two times she talked to me I got so intimidated and probably blushed. She’s even more beautiful in real life and it feels so weird to get to talk to her after watching her on TV. She did the course when she was 18 and it’s amazing to think that she has been teaching it now for so many years.

When I spent the weekend with Mr. FFID in Cork I couldn’t stop talking about Ballymaloe and telling him all the tips I’ve learnt. I haven’t left the Ballymaloe bubble for three weeks but talking to him I noticed that I’ve learnt so much already and I’m only a quarter of the way through. Roll on week 4!