Thursday, 2 February 2012

Ballymaloe Day 9, 19th January - Confessions of a Milkmaid

Yes, I was up early to milk the bovine beasts and at the school for 7.30am. However it was still too dark at that hour so I was told to come back 15 minutes later. What else was there to do but go back to the cottage and put on my make-up instead. Looking a bit better (you never know when one of these eligible farmers they keep talking about might appear) I met Eileen who is in charge of the cows and we herded them out of the field and up to the milking parlour. There are three dairy cows, a Jersey, a Fresian and a cross between the two I think, plus their calves, and two little Dexters, an old Irish breed who aren't used for milk but hang out in the field with them.

We herded them in, and it was even further from Possil than ever, standing in a muddy field in the dawn wielding a big stick. We washed the udders, then put on the milking apparatus (no, I was not milking by hand, sitting on a stool like ye olde milkmaid of yore). The milk goes straight through into the dairy, then into the separator we saw yesterday. The jersey milk gives it a lovely rich colour and the cream is sunny and yellow. Then everything's cleaned down and the cows drift back to the field; they're pretty smart and know they're going to be milked and get grumpy if they have to wait around in the morning.

The separated milk and cream get taken back to the school for use in the day's cooking and that's it. Another crazy experience which is a daily occurance at Ballymaloe!

Then it was back to Kitchen 2, and got on with my Bread and Butter pudding, including nearly a pint of cream and marmalade. Also made tomato fondue, a kind of Ballymaloe in-house tomato sauce. It was all really tasty, I was pleased! I also got to fillet half a flat fish, another huge cod. I enjoyed it though, not bad for a first attempt. I contacted the real world for a few minutes (my stepfather's 75th birthday, I tracked down a mobile phone signal in a supermarket car park in Midleton), only to be asked "did I gut the fish as well?" Thankfully no, as I could fit no more into today's exploits!

The first plates of my food I've phototgraphed (and remembered the camera!)

Well I tell a lie, in the afternoon for the demonstration Darina brought in half a sheep's carcass and went through the cuts of lamb with it. She wielded a saw and took off the leg and shoulder no problem - the things you see here! Tomorrow I am cooking the shoulder, and also roast potatoes, swiss chard and finishing off my marmalade. Lastly a few of us students went to see Tim making a sourdough loaf after class. More detail on the subject of sourdough at a later date but he has a starter which has been going since September. The starter captures the natural yeast in the air, Tim calls it working with ' the elements' which I love, I feel more of a pagan here than ever! He used the starter to create the 'sponge' which you use to rise the loaf. The dough is kneaded and then left to rise overnight ready for the next stage. All the students are excited about starting their own starter, I am hoping to find the time soon!

The starter (in jar) and the dough