Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Ballymaloe Week 12 Highlights and Two Greedy Girls Eat London

My Cake for the final exam...

1. In the last morning of class on Monday I made Pork en Croute (in homemade puff pastry) with a Duxelle Stuffing and Apple Sauce.

2. That afternoon we had our last demo with Darina which covered boning and stuffing a whole chicken, an effort she pointed out, that always impresses but never tastes as good as chicken roasted on he bone. She also filleted and poached some beautiful Skate and showed us how to butterfly a leg of lamb and joint/cook rabbit into a delicious stew. I always thought I was squeamish, but the sight of a skinned rabbit sans ears, stretched out on the countertop made me appreciate why rabbit isn’t embraced in home kitchens.

3. I loved all the food Rory cooked in his last demo the next morning. In his typical style he showed lots of variations of Beef Carpaccio, some with Parmesan, Rocket & Truffle Oil and others more simply with Olives or Horseradish Mayo and Chives.

4. He also cooked some quail: first roasted in Quail Veronique (a Grape Sauce) and second in a warm salad also with grapes. Then an elegant main of Fillet of Beef with Currants & Armagnac and a Whole Poached Salmon, decorated in his usual just-the –right-side-of-retro flamboyancy.

5. After lots of applause and whooping for the final demo we lunched on the food along with some Prosecco which Christiana had bought for her birthday and this gorgeous cake a teacher had made for her.

Broad beans in the Greenhouse

6. Following on from that, on Wednesday, between revision, the Pink Cottage threw Christiana a birthday breakfast brunch- Aussie Style with Corn Fritters, Bacon, Smashed Avo, Roasted Tomatoes and (left of center) Ali’s Drop Scones with Jam. See her blog for pics: This included yet more Prosecco with Freshly Squeezed Oranges - obviously a cookery students exam fuel of choice!

5. After one and a half days of trying to revise in the hottest weather so far (sod’s law!) at 9am on Thursday morning I had my practical exam. The day before they had drawn bread lots. I had the dreaded White Yeast Rolls. Dreaded as they would take me a lot longer than a soda bread. As I could barely fit all I had to do on my order of work sheet, I was slightly dreading the three-hour time limit! But, considering how the whole thing felt like a race against time – at one point, I was cursing my choice of a boned chicken-thigh dish as I battled, at times elbow-deep (these were monster organic chickens), through filleting two whole chickens, then boning the four thighs as delicately as possible – I crazily enjoyed the whole thing. The resulting dishes were not as neatly plated as I would have liked, as I just didn’t have enough time, but I was pretty proud that I got an epic amount done in a little over the three-hour time limit.

Pollo al Mattone with Sage, Parsley and Garlic Oil,
Green Beans, Roasted Onions and Potato Crisps
Ricotta and Lemon Cake with Italian Fruit
Salad and Crystallised Flowers

6. To my knowledge I have never done 6 hours of written exams back to back, so Friday was like a mini marathon. Whilst a lot of the questions had luckily been covered in my cottage’s huge pile of flash cards there were still lots of enigmas in there such as:  Brioche is a traditional French Christmas Bread – True or False? I still don’t know…answers please?

7. That evening the school threw us a fabulous Farewell Dinner. With fire-lit walkways, great urns of flowers, candles and the terrace draped in Indian fabrics, the school looked far from it’s everyday self. Rory and the teachers cooked up this delicious feast: We had some delicious Strawberry Prosecco and Grilled Tomato Bread for aperetif and then sat down to a meal cooked by Rory and the teachers of Duck & Lentil Broth, Slow-Cooked Lamb with Aioli, Sauce Verde & Green Beans and finished with Peach or Strawberry Popsicles outside.

8. Saturday morning passed in a whirlwind of cleaning, packing and goodbyes. After packing Mr Wou up to the gunnels, complete with bike and my cottage-mate Jenn we sadly left the bucolic foodie paradise to face reality via a week of serious eating in London. 

9. Before hitting London we cooked up a Ballymaloe-style supper for my family: A chicken, jointed, marinaded and bbq-ed served with Roasted cherry tomatoes, a Radish and Cucumber & Mint Salad and a New Potato, Broad Bean, Feta and Toasted Hazlenut Salad. Then Poached Safrron Pears with Cardomom and Yoghurt Creams.

10. With the sun uncharastically beating down, we sacked off London for another day in favour of sailing, swimming and a picnic on East Head Beach with AJ and Rachel. The night before, Jenn and I made my favourite Pain Bagnat which is a small round loaf stuffed with lots of delicious Mediterranean ingredients (olives, peppers, salami, tapenade etc.) and weighed down overnight. The whole loaf was devoured by four hungry sailors in about five minutes!

11. Finally in London and we were faced with a difficult dilemna: where to eat when you have a list as long as your arm and only potentially a handful of meals? First stop was the Ottolenghi in Islington as Jenn had never been. We had a selection of their amazing salads and mains and then shared The Cake i.e. the Apple Cake with Maple Icing which I have made lots of times from their cookbook because it is that good.

12. Even though it wasn’t on our list, the perfect weather drew us to have brunch at Granger & Co. – Bill Granger’s first restaurant/cafĂ© in London on Westbourne Grove. It was perfect for a summery lunch. I had an unusual and refreshing Mint and Rosehip Punch and their infamous Corn Fritters with Roast Tomato, Spinach and Bacon and Jenn’s Crisp Salmon Salad with Coconut and Caramel Dressing was delicious.

With dinner and cocktails at Wahaca and a stroll plus brunch around Maltby Street market on Sunday morning our foodie adventure was finally over. Jenn flew back to America on Sunday leaving me to contemplate what to do next…

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