Saturday, 28 January 2012

Ballymaloe Day 4, 12th January 2012 - Tarragon Chicken and a moonlit taxi ride

Second day proper in Kitchen 3. I was up and about early as one of our duties as students is to go out to the greenhouses with the gardeners and pick the salad, herbs and vegetables for the day's cooking. Myself and another student got in a van with the gardener and drove across the farm to the greenhouse in the dark. There was not a soul to be seen or heard, very strange to me who is is used to the sound of the expressway by 7am. There were no lights in there and I didn't use my torch - the gardener didn't! There are beds of salad leaves which we cut leaving an inch or so so they can grow back; we got mustard, mizuna, mibuna, rocket and herbs such as coriander and chervil. I managed not to look like a wuss when a cheeky slug slimed his way onto my finger! Then we tramped through the mud to get some cabbages and then back to the school.

Just time to get changed and it was back into the kitchen to cook soda bread, tarragon chicken and sprouts. The vegetables we cook here are always what's in season and full of flavour at this time of year, hence the sprouts. Still pretty scared of the kitchen but cooked everything ok. It was the first soda bread I'd ever made and simple but deceptive recipe. Apparently you shouldn't mix the egg with the buttermilk first before you add the liquid, as you may not need all the buttermilk but you do need a whole egg. I will remember that in future! Anyway, it turned out well in my opinion and I served it with some farmhouse butter. The buttermilk is gorgeous stuff in a churn straight from the farm's jersey cows and just one of the top class ingredients we use every day.

Then the chicken. The sauce was tasty but carving the chicken takes a bit of practice. The leg comes off pretty well once it's cooked but the breast and wing needs practice. Also you need to make sure everyone has a mixture of white meat, brown meat and bone, its all about proportion, proportion, proportion! After lunch our demonstration was by Rory O'Connell, Darina's brother and co-founder of the school. His demonstration was fab and included two really tasty pasta sauces, goat's cheese salad, scones and an amazing chocolate and hazelnut tart. His presentation and attention to detail is incredible, and everyone was really impressed. The scones were brushed in egg wash and dipped in sugar and the tart was so, so good. I am making this and the goat's cheese on Monday, can't wait.

Again another day completely overwhelmed by all the information and experiences we are exposed to. Also the quality of the ingredients is just the best and each one is sourced with care. It is such a privilege to be able to use them day in, day out. After three days in the kitchen Friday is the theory day so plenty of students congregated in the Blackbird pub in the pretty village of Ballycotton across the bay. I had a few glasses of wine but ended up sharing a taxi home with some of the locals me and my housemates met in the pub. Of course they can spot the students a mile off! Everyone was in good spirits but as the taxi raced along the country lanes with a view of the black sea and the red flash of the lighthouse all set under the waning moon, I thought how on earth did I get here? And not for the first time!

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