Monday, 17 September 2012

Ballymaloe Week 10 - A Summary

So, nearly six months after I finished the January 12 Week Course at Ballymaloe I am going to summarise the last three weeks and the dishes and adventures during that time. With so much going on, cooking, revision, exams, evening activities and a slow internet connection I just didn't have any time to upload even a few photos and comments on here over the last few weeks. But here in 'brief' is the last quarter of a crazy twelve weeks, can't believe I survived!

Chocolate Meringue
Week Ten began and I was still back in Kitchen 3, in fact I never left! I was making a chocolate meringue with chocolate and rum cream and chocolate wafers, roast jerusalem artichokes, starting a ciabatta and brown yeast bread. The bread was fine, if a little heavy as I added some rye flour to it. Was tasty though. The ciabatta is a two day job, first you make the 'biga' which is a yeast flour and water mixture which you make the day before and leave to rise before incorporating it into the dough the next day. The artichokes weren't bad, a bit past their best but that was due to the lateness of the season. They were easier to deal with than I expected this time, I would definitely cook them next winter. Lastly was the meringue, the rum cream is supposed to be the tricky part but that was relatively easy. The meringue was much more troublesome, I kept stopping the mixer to check the consistency but this causes the meringue to be flat and likely to crack. Until I get more experience though it's hard to hold your nerve and just let it keep whisking.

For the afternoon's demonstration and Tuesday's cooking we were making proper burgers with loads of different toppings.

Tasty Burger

It was a crazy day in the kitchen, everyone in each other's way and to be honest my burger was not the greatest, I never got round to taking a photo. Much more successful were the wild garlic pesto and caramalised onions to go with it and some curried parsnip soup which was amazing:

Wild Garlic Pesto & Caramelised Onions

Parsnip Soup (but too generous a portion)

 I also made made my ciabatta which you mix in the Kenwood for ages till it gets a weird stringy texture. Then you leave it to rise and it gets all light and airy and a really odd, soft dough. Then you try and shape it into loaves on the tray without losing the air ( no kneading!) then leave to rise a bit more and bake. It should come out with lots of air holes in the middle when you cut into it and be quite pale but rustic looking. It's an interesting bread and worth making but needs a bit of practice! Still, I was quite pleased with my first attempt. I also made my puff pastry for using later in the week. It was great to make these things totally from scratch and learn all the techniques. The puff pastry had to made throughout the morning and rolled and folded neatly in the correct order, a challenge for me.

Our afternoon demonstration used the puff pastry in a Tarte Francaise and a Jalousie dessert, cassoulet and live lobsters! There was some excitement when the crustaceans came in, sadly for them they drifted off to sleep in a slowly heated pot of water. Apparently they would be live on Thursday...


Hot Buttered Lobster

Tarte Francaise

Eccles Cakes
 In the evening some of the students went to a wine tasting at the Grainstore at Ballymaloe House with wines from the Vineyards of Merseult featuring a young female winemaker in her 20s. We tried some delicious Burgandian wines for a fiver! Also good revision for the wine exam next week...


It all started out pretty civilised but then we headed off to the Blackbird for a nightcap, not quite the same as quaffing posh wine, was a great but rowdy end to the night!

Wednesday was a long day. The morning was a pastry dough fest, with chelsea buns, danish pastries, baklava, hot cross buns, doughnuts and so on. Yummy but maybe not ideal after ten weeks eating a three course meal, double cream and sugary lemonade every day!

Bun action

In the afternoon we had a talk on Game Birds with Tom who runs the local pheasant shoot and is an expert of all things furred and feathered. He also brought his labrador with him to demonstrate retrieving the birds:


Next was a talk from Cully of Cully and Sully who have built up a business selling soups and other chilled foods in Ireland. He told us about developing the products, the brand, dealing with the supermarkets and so on. Then after that we had a chocolate expert from the English Market in Cork come and speak to us about the different types of chocolate, how it's grown and produced and more. It was great and we got to sample all the different percentages of cocoa solids or cocoa butter but after a full on day and in the middle of a busy week it was pretty hard to take everything in.

The chocolate had some fab packaging
Back in the kitchen on Thursday. Yes, I'm sorry Morrissey but I killed a live lobster, cooked it and ate it. I know, I feel bad and all but it was likely the only chance for some time I would get the chance to do this. It wasn't quite Annie Hall, the lobsters didn't managed to roam the kitchen (I'm surprised none escaped) but they were boiled, simmered, cooked with wine, herbs and veg then mixed with a buttery sauce and served in the shell. Way down at the opposite end of the price spectrum, I did my best to make a salad of lamb's kidneys, mushrooms and pink peppercorns look interesting. Lastly was the Tarte Francaise using my puff pastry. I loved this, looked and tasted great and it was satisfying to use my own pastry which seemed to have gone okay. I somehow found time during this morning to make brown soda bread scones with kibbled wheat and a jug of sugary lemonade using blood oranges and sweet geranium as well!

Live lobsters

Homemade lemonade

My tart francaise

Soda scones

Kidney salad

We finished off the week with our last wine tasting (including champagne!), then the the final day of the week in the kitchen produced a delicious Lamb Korma with lemon rice, some foccacia that swelled to monstrous proportions and a batch of rhubarb and ginger jam which I burnt while trying to roll out puff pastry at the same time...

Lamb Korma (presentation has got better now!)

More bread

Slightly burnt but tasty rhubarb jam

The good news was I got to keep all the jam and it has been happily munched by friends and family back home in Edinburgh. After another busy week it was St Patrick's day that weekend, but  an uncharacteristically sober one for me. After a couple of drinks watching the rugby in Cork and some fish and chips I was home early, conserving my energy for the last two weeks!

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