Thursday 5 February 2015

Week 4: Time Flies When Cooking is Fun

Week four was another week in Kitchen 1, it’s really starting to feel like home at this stage. Monday was a busy day but for some reason Mondays are my best day, maybe because I have lots of energy after the weekend. I made a Swede turnip soup with bacon, frites and buffalo chips as well as a rather delicious sticky toffee pudding. It made me think of Mr. FFID, who would have loved my pudding.

Most afternoons last week we had Rachel Allen doing the demos as Darina and her team were in New York to launch the KerrygoldBallymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine. Unfortunately the launch party had to be postponed due to the snowstorms over there.

Monday’s demo was eggy in nature, as we learnt how to make the perfect French omelette (which should only take 30 seconds to cook) as well as several other omelette variations and frittatas. We were also shown how to make white yeast bread and were introduced to bread kneading for the first time on the course.

Tuesday morning in the kitchen was pretty smooth too and as I didn’t have complicated dishes to execute. Even if I’m French I haven’t quite mastered the French omelette technique just yet, I’ll have to keep practicing! I added the white yeast bread to my order of work to practice.

I was on cheese board duty so I got to make cheese biscuits, I struggled a bit to get them thin enough but was quite happy with the result. I’ve decided I’ll never have to buy them again now that I know the technique. This is what happened when you’re doing the course, you realise how easy some things are to make.

Tuesday’s demo was all about oven roasting, featuring dishes like roast chicken, guinea fowl and some delicious sweet treats. In the evening we had a visit from Caroline Hennessy who I know from the blogging community as she writes the fantastic blog Bibliocook. She’s a food writer and journalist who did the Ballymaloe course back in 2007. She recently co-wrote a book with Kristin Jensen, Sláinte which is the ultimate guide to Irish craft beer and cider. She visited to tell us about Irish craft beer and in particular the 8 DegreesBrewing Company which was founded by her Kiwi husband Scott along with Aussie Cam. We got to taste some of the 8 Degrees beer and Caroline gave us some great food pairing suggestions as well as feeding us some delicious chocolate brownies.

On Wednesday we spent the all day with Darina’s sister Blathnaid Bergi, a restaurant advisor who gave us a lecture about the food business. We had to work in groups and let me tell you that trying to open an imaginary café when no one is from the same country is quite something. I was with a Japanese woman, an Australian living in London, an American and an Irish person, so when it came to deciding on our menu, or even the design of the café, we couldn’t quite agree.  

We were back in the kitchen on Thursday morning and I was quite busy with my winter bean and vegetable soup which required lots for prep, chopping and dicing. I also roasted a guinea fowl and made a delicious stuffing that my teacher found delicious, hurray!

The demo was an interesting mix of dishes made with chicken along with a French Onion Soup (they don’t use white wine in their recipe like the French do) as well as some beautifully decorated cakes.

After class, a group of us went down to the dairy to learn how to make cheese with Clancy. I visited Wicklow farmhouse cheese a while back and also attended a cheese demo by Quinlan Steel from Milleens last year so I did have some understanding of the process but it was interesting to hear how they do it in the school. Also we got to make our very own cheese that should be good to eat by the time we finish the course.

By Friday morning I was wrecked and had an early start as I was on stock duty. We use a huge amount of stock as we make soup pretty much every day. In the kitchen all the scraps go in either to the stock pot, the candied peel pot or the hen’s bucket.

In the kitchen several of us made and decorated cakes. I had to make an orange cake with orange buttercream and orange glacé icing, decorated with candied peel. Baking is definitely what I enjoy doing the most here in the kitchen.

In the afternoon we had a visit from a neighbour, Eileen Cowhig who showed us how to make a St. Brigid’s Cross and the afternoon demo was given by Darina. She was very excited to show us how to cook and present Irish shellfish, make Dingle pies, Carrageen Moss Pudding and several more cakes.

Week 4 went quite smoothly, I think I’m getting used to the rhythm. Some days can be quite long with the extra-activities or when I arrive early to prepare my ingredients, sometimes I spend 10-11 hours in school. I can barely keep my eyes open after 9.30pm and during the night I either dream of the school or wake up thinking about it. We are already one third of the way through the course and I hope the time won’t go too quick. I have to start thinking about what to do with myself after the course finishes!

I went to Dublin last weekend and gave one of my blogging workshops. It was a bit weird to be back in the big city after 4 weeks in the country. Home felt weird and I felt like I was missing things in my own kitchen as I’m so used to the ones in school. It was a little hard to leave Mr. FFID and as I kissed him goodbye tears started to flow. I can’t wait to be back and cook for him all the dishes I’ve learnt.