1. On Monday morning I had to cook Roast Duck with Sage and Onion Stuffing, Roast Potatoes and Gravy. Easy peasy right? But throw in a new kitchen, my decision to also make bread, pesto and Roasted Tomato, Pesto and Ricotta Bruschetta and a cameraman who just always seemed to be in my way (yes, they are filming our course) and I was running around like a stressed chicken. The duck was from Nora Aherne, who supplies Ballymaloe House as I mentioned and it is absolutely delicious, although very expensive at 25euro for a duck that serves five people max. After a fight with my carving knife, I eventually plated a half decent looking dish much to my relief.
2. We started off the week by learning how to smoke salmon. To demonstrate how easy it is, Darina showed us how you could make your own smoker with an old (large) biscuit tin lined with a rack. So on Tuesday I made the Salad of Hot Smoke Salmon, Ruby Beetroot, Horseradish Cream and Watercress which was very pretty and summery. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned but Ballymaloe will only use wild organic salmon which is only available in the summer months so it is such a treat when they do get it (and far better in colour and taste to farmed salmon).
3. That day I also made the Lemon Tart with Lemon Ice-Cream and Candied Julienne of Lemon Peel which involved a LOT of work so I didn’t even have a chance to make my mid-morning tea I am usually desperate for. Unfortunately, due to running around I didn’t notice my rogue oven was hotter than I had expected which meant my filling bubbled rather than poached which resulted in a less smooth filling. It still tasted good though!
4. After Tuesday’s demo I had arranged a chat with Darina to talk jobs. This involves making her tea (loose of course!) and a biscuit or cake. That morning I’d also made a Lemon and Poppyseed traybake, so that was my offering (‘Dee-Licious!’). It was rather a whirlwind chat as I had suspected, but it gave me a little nudge to get my act together.
5. On Wednesday morning we had a fabulous vegetarian demonstration. I will never give up meat (slow cooked stews would never be the same without meat and mmm steak…) but with the exotic spices, produce and foreign cookery techniques now readily available, vegetarian cooking can be just as delicious and possibly more exciting than many meat dishes. I will never forget an amazing meal had at terre á terre, a (veggie) restaurant in Brighton, and this demo reminded me of how much I love wholesome, vegetable based dishes (perhaps accompanied by some marinated and grilled meat). Of the many colourful dishes cooked up for lunch were Skye Gyngells Chickpeas with Chilli, Lime, Tamarind and Coriander, Tabouleh, Herby Quinoa, Daal, Onion Bhajis with Tomato and Chilli Sauce, Chedder Cheese Croquettes (apparently they can’t take these cheesy morsels of the Ballymaloe House Sunday buffet), Vegetarian Chilli (using Soya mince which sounds horrid but you really could not tell the difference) and Cheese Fondue.
Deep-fried Prawns, Haddock, Squid, Mussels &Courgette Flower
Seared Salmon with Hollandaise
Rachel’s Thai Crab Cake with Dipping Sauce
Salsa, Tartare Sauce & Lemon
7. School Trip! On Thursday, dressed in wellies (raining again!) we all piled into a coach for a foodie tour. First stop was Mahon Point farmers market which is held in the rather uninspiring site of Mahon Point Shopping Mall. Interestingly it was set up about a decade ago to increase mid-week shopper traffic at the newly opened mall. Within a couple of weeks numbers had soared. With three gourmet coffee stalls, two fishmongers, a few butchers, vegetable stalls, a rotisserie and lots more, the market functions as a place to do all your food shopping as well as a place to pick up a delicious lunch or snack which keeps it from being a tourist attraction such as Borough Market where the planners have allowed the balance to tip more towards ready food rather than produce stalls.
8. After a delicious steak and mustard mayo baguette (at 11am!), cappuccino and with a hoard of Irish Strawberries, Stuffed Vine Leaves and Humus we set off for Toons Bridge Dairy. A few years back, much to the amusement of the locals, Johnny Lynch and Toby Simmons imported Italian water buffalos into Ireland and began to produce dairy products using their milk. A few years later, their delicious mozzarella, ricotta and feta is in demand and the dairy (plus 60+ buffalo) is now based at Toby and his wife’s home. It was really interesting to see the mozzarella balls being made expertly by Toby and helpers, and tasting the cheese before the salt is added. We also wandered around the gorgeous gardens and vegetable patches created by his wife and it made me laugh how as soon as we arrived, Darina was ordering a stream of cakes and tea urns to be taken from the coach and laid out in the conservatory – never have I had breakfast, lunch and teatime before 1pm!
9. On a separate note, they had just opened a minute little shop from which they sell all their buffalo cheeses, deli products imported from Italy along with local ceramics. It was all beautifully done, see pics.
10. On Friday I made some Fish and Chips with Minted Mushy Peas, along with some Focaccia. One of the things that surprised me at Ballymaloe, is how much they use a deep-fat fryer, but Darina is adamant that it isn’t so bad as long as good olive oil is used and you drain properly so everything is crisp not dripping in oil. Hmmm. Regardless, I got another chance to practice filleting a round fish (Pollock in the case), and the beer batter it was cooked in was incredibly light.
11. That afternoon Pam & Emer demoed working with filo pastry and made some to-die-for Baklava and a ‘Moroccan Snake’. Pam also made beautiful little Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls with Shrimp and a Dipping Sauce.
12. On Saturday two housemates and I went to explore Kinsale – the prettiest seaside town just beyond Cork. Escaping the pelting rain we went to the Perryville Garden Tea Room which was recommended to us by Darina as it is run by a past student. Attached to the Perryville Guest House run by her parents the small café is unexpectantly luxurious and a little French in feel with mismatched china and taupe upholstered seating. Sweet things like a fluffy gooseberry roulade, raspberry and almond squares and a nectarine and almond tart were so pretty and are displayed in glass cases.