Saturday, 28 January 2012

Ballymaloe Day 3, 11th January 2012 - Let loose in the Kitchen

So, it was day 3 here at Ballymaloe (or Ballymaloo as I now know it should be pronounced...). It was our first day proper in the kitchens cooking food ourselves. All the students are paired up with each other and share a section in each of the 4 kitchens. Then every week we all swap round so we work with each other and all the teachers. Kitchen 3 is good, it has a view over the fields and the cows were romping around as ever. Back to the kitchen, it was chaos as we all dived in and tried to start preparing everything. Unfortunately hardly anyone could remember how to work the scales!

I managed to make the syrup for my winter fruit salas with sweet geranium (they are big on sweet geranium here), my first syrup I think, then tackled the mushroom and thyme tart. Pastry on the first day! Lining the tart tins is tricksy, but we get to roll the pastry out on these cool marble slabs which weigh a ton. Somehow, after 3 hours of amateur cookery, my two plates were produced! The fruit salad, which was pouring syrup over a carefully proportioned selection of frozen berries, was good, and the tart was ok and tasty, although the pastry didn't cook very quickly. Overall I was just glad to have survived! There are lots of other things you don't know you have to do though, like serving cream with a dessert and in what state and what proportion, serving dressed salad with a savory tart and what size slice to serve. Plus you need to set out cutlery for your teacher. No one really tells you this stuff and I haven't a clue about presentation or portion size, though I suspect I would err on the generous side of things! Apparently though this is all to do with the difference between profit and loss if you're in business and so on, so I'd better learn fast!

After eating the fruits of our labours for lunch, it was time for the afternoon's demonstration. I went back to the Pink Cottage first to get changed out of my chef's (not so) whites. I think in retrospect I would have spent a bit more on these; I bought the cheapest 100% cotton ones I could find and they are unisex with rubber buttons and not the comfiest. I also bought them online and despite measuring for them they are way too big, I look like a comedy pizza chef. If funds allow I might go into Cork and buy a nice chef's jacket which is a bit more fitted and comfortable.

But back to the afternoon, it was our first demonstration with Rachel Allen. Rachel is even more good looking in real life with great skin and not a scrap of make-up on! But back to the food, she cooked chicken with tarragon and pheasant with calvados whole in a casserole, sprouts, boiled potatoes, a couple of really tasty fruit salads including one with peeled grapes. Even by her admission this can be an effort too far! There were also more winter salads and a great apple and mincemeat tart.

I was exhausted after just day one in the kitchen, and the evening just flies by when you start to look at your order of work for the next day, recipes and the huge information pack you got on arrival. Plus working our where everything is, living with new people in a new place, organising the laundry, getting the internet to work, living far from a cash machine or shops that open late and being flat out here from 8 till 6 mean it is a total change of pace. My own life feels a million miles away rather than just 450!

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