Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Coming to you later than usual: Ballymaloe Week 10 Highlights!

1. On Monday lots of the students were cooking up racks of lamb so my cooking included a simple side of grilled aubergine topped with various yummy toppings like homemade tomato fondue, pesto and some of Toby Simmonds delicious buffalo mozzarella. Along with making a custard for stage one of a crème brûlée, I also made a little starter of Moules Provençale which is simply cooked mussels topped with a punchy garlic and parsley butter crust and grilled until crispy.

2. That afternoon at demo Darina recreated the infamous Ballymaloe House Buffet held every Sunday supper at the hotel. This encompassed several roasted meats like glazed ham (which I cooked the next day) and Kassler (a cured pork) and a riot of salads and pickles like Oeufs Mimosa, Mushroom and Caramelised Onion Salad and Cucumber and Fennel Pickle. The piece-de-resistance was a beautiful flower filled ice-bowl which held their Praline Ice-cream.

3. In the Tuesday demo, Rory created these fantastic Chocolate Mousses in Chocolate cases with Chocolate Tuilles.

4. At 8am on Wednesday we had our wine exam: hardly a highlight BUT after answering 100 questions ranging from how it (along with champagne and sherry) is made, to where the different grapes are grown and what wine they produce, never again will I point vaguely to a wine at the cheapest end of the menu (which may cause problems with my bank balance, but hey, I now know that the more you pay for a wine, the better value you are getting!).

5. Another semi-highlight was that we had to submit our menu for our practical exam in the final week. With constraints like time (three hours for three courses plus a bread to be drawn the day before), seasonal produce and balancing flavours/colours/and tastes, I found this gave me slight brain-freeze. However, using my summer birthday lunch as the theme I came up with a ‘Mediterranean Feast’:

Panzanella (a Tuscan Sourbread and Tomato Salad)
Pollo al Mattone with Green Beans, Roasted Onions, Sage, Parsley & Garlic Oil and Potato Crisps
Ricotta & Lemon Cake, Italian Fruit Salad, Cream & Spun Sugar

Only after submitting this did I realize it is actually all Italian – you’d never guess what my favourite food was…!

6. That afternoon, weak with tiredness from revision and menu fatigue, we were given a further head spin by the incredibly energetic and inspiring, Arun Kapil of Green Saffron. After quitting a glamorous job in London, he did the course in 2004, stayed in Ireland and began importing totally authentic Indian spices via his cousin in India and selling them, along with various curries and an award-winning Christmas pudding at local markets. Due to this success or more likely, Kapil’s sheer contagious enthusiasm and entrepreneurship, the company has grown hugely and his spices are favoured by numerous top chefs like Raymond Blanc and Heston Blumenthal, are stocked in many specialist food shops and soon will be stocked in major supermarkets like Waitrose.

7. As if we weren’t wine-d out enough, that evening a few of us got glammed-up (the sun was shining at last!) to go to a wine event at Ballmaloe House with Jean Trimbach of Trimbach Wines, Alsace and local food producers followed by a ‘Texan BBQ’ as it was the 4th July. Between Jean’s charismatic discussions we tried various Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Chenin Blanc white wines.

8. Back to cooking on Thursday and I got to prep a squid which I made into this light and refreshing Thai Squid Salad.

9. ‘Tuna: Don’t buy it’ – Rory. Perhaps I’m lucky to be allergic to this endangered fish, as it makes it a little easier to resist considering Rory cooked some delicious-looking seared Tuna on Thursday (for educational purposes of course!). The Tuna Tartare looked especially pretty.

10. On Friday, Rachel cooked up a colourful Indian feast. A refreshing Melon Sorbet to start, Mild Madras Curry with various toppings like Tamarind Chutney with Bananas (served in tasteless bowls – the more garish and gimmicky the better!), Indian Breads and some golden Pears poached in Saffron Syrup and Agen-stuffed Prunes with Rosewater Cream for pudding.

11. That evening, I was surprised (or perhaps not considering her hoarder tendencies!) to find Daniella had brought back five cooked crabs to our cottage which the teachers had been giving away. We got out our knives and proceeded to bash, skewer and pick the crabs (yes, this is our idea of Friday night entertainment!). The next day, Jenn and I made some delicious Thai Crab cakes with the meat, before going to the pub. 

Visiting Lismore Castle on Saturday!
12. Which leads me on to the fantastic Charity Wok Up that some saintly students held at the Blackbird pub on Saturday in aid of the Cork Penny Dinners. After some of their amazingly good Summer Rolls, Pork Buns and Chicken Ramen out on the sunny terrace we had a lovely evening dancing and drinking and they raised 1000euro! 

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