Asparagus Lady

What have I learned in the past two months? It’s simple. If in doubt always say ‘YES CHEF!’… even if you have no idea what they need, how to do a task or if they blame you for something that had nothing to do with you. Find out how to complete the task and earn enough respect that the chef may rethink if the mistake was solely yours. That is the best advice I can muster for future commis chefs etc.  With that said, personally I have learned so much about how to organise myself, work clean and follow commands. In the past month I have been on cold section which takes concentration and serious amounts of finesse and patience. Something I don’t have a lot of experience with but I am getting there ❤

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I started off in service with new season green asparagus with salted plums and blackcurrant shoots drenched in a live Fjord shrimp broth. With no experience in service, only as a waitress I was super nervous but it was a kind transition to learning the expedition of food process and needing to be quick in service. Simply, it was the symmetrical placing of asparagus on top of each other in a perfect circle. Easy. Needless to say after 2/3 weeks with my tweezers in my hand I was happy to say adios to asparagus. I was sadly mistaken, my relationship with asparagus was about to reach new heights.

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I then welcomed our white asparagus pillow filled with grated white asparagus, almond oil and asparagus juice. Now this was a challenge. My fab gal and fellow intern Manu became ‘Asparagus Ladies’, as our head chef Kristian Baumann affectionately liked to call us. Gas in fairness. And he wasn’t wrong. This dish was difficult and in service it took planning and perfect execution otherwise it sadly came back from the pass with a disgruntled look from a sous chef describing it lovingly as ”disgusting”… YES CHEF! The technique constantly needed revision and honing but eventually I got it right and chef stopped service to show everyone my asparagus dish. I went a new shade of pruce. Very unattractive. Hearing this was fab in a way because I finally felt as if I wasn’t an impostor in the kitchen.

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Since then we moved onto a summer salad of greens from 108’s farm and courgette flowers. Foraged flowers are forced by me and a few others into a bouquet shape and we ‘make it beautiful’ like Woody (sous chef) likes to say everyday ❤ This is a very new dish so we and constantly tweaking and adapting to suit the produce from the farm. We have an event this weekend in the restaurant and Manu and I are the flower girls hoping to build 100 perfect bouquets of flowers. Wish me luck yeah?

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KWEEN and I on the other side of the table @108

I realize I have been MIA on the writing front but I work crazy hours and on my days off Copenhagen is just too fun not to explore, see my Instagram for photographic evidence. Tak!

Shauna xoxo

 

Foraging <3

If you said to me this time last year I’d be spending my days on the beach at the tip of Zealand in Denmark foraging for roses, I would tell you to kindly fuck off. Foraging was a concept I had barely even heard of before Ballymaloe. Now I feel like it’s the way forward. Looking and collecting wild foods that are delicious and new is pretty special. I nearly gave my friends a heart attack a month ago at the beach in Ireland when we walked out to sea at low tide and I ate some seaweed that was lying on the seabed. It was basic Dillisk that grows everywhere in Ireland and is super tasty, even if my pals need some convincing. Here in Copenhagen it’s the norm, to the point that some restaurants have full time gardeners that forage for items daily for the menu.

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The kitchen can become a little rough after 60-70 hr weeks so 3 days spent by the sea is fine by me. Right now the rose ‘Rubra’ is almost finished it’s season of bloom so I got to go out and pick as many as we possibly could before the petals were all lost to the wind. This particular rose is like a weed, it goes beside the sea everywhere in Copenhagen. It’s amazingly fragrant, kind of like your Granny’s soap (you know the one I’m talking about!).

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The minute I walked over to the first bushel of roses I stepped in an ant’s nest. Great start. Ants everywhere. Those fuckers are fast. When your Sous Chef pisses himself laughing at your squeals and has to help you get rid of all the ants, you tend to reevaluate your approach. Needless to say I was more careful where I stepped after that.

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We picked a lot of flowers and the full time gardener is still going around the coast picking every last petal. The roses that we picked were made into an oil. This oil is super potent. I don’t know if I will be here for when they roll it out on the menu but I hope I’ll get to try the dish. When the oil was infused, I used Noma’s lab to centrifuge the rose sediment which spins it at crazy speeds (4200 spins per minute to be exact) and separates liquid of different weights so the oil comes away from the heavier mass. It’s a pretty surreal experience being in Noma’s lab by yourself using such expensive equipment, where they made so many discovers about food but there you go. Anyone who knows me knows how I am allergic to technology so if I can do this a monkey could probably do it better.

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A basket would have been a cuter receptacle I know

 

Elder flower is the next plant that will be picked by the team of chefs and gardeners. The other night at 11pm after service I was pulled over to Noma to pick 60kg of elder flowers. The smell was absolutely amazing! We are using them as a garnish because they are so beautiful. In Denmark everything is pickled, so needless to say pickled elder flower is actually delicious. I am also making some cordial in my Copenhagen house… hopefully it turns out lovely ❤

Also thanks so much for all the emails from strangers and new friends, it means a lot!

Shauna xoxo

 

 

Intern/Parsley Picker

After a few weeks of living at home and loving the time off to recover from Ballymaloe… I moved to Copenhagen. I’ll be writing about my experiences here, along with fun food spots in Copenhagen and my day to day in the 108 restaurant. I’m here two weeks and I can safely say it’s a fab ole spot for a city break. Or a full on move for anyone who fancies keeping me company ❤

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My new home

Apart from working a few stages in restaurants during the Ballymaloe course, a few summers waitressing in the Hamptons and my obvious love of food, my exposure to kitchen life was fairly limited. Day one I started at 5 am and it went as well as you may expect it did. There was an assault of information mingled with a fuck load of parsley to be picked. While picking the copious amounts of parsley I decided to try not to dwell on my lack of experience but rather my thirst for all this new knowledge. And in fairness if I fuck up royally what is the worst that can happen? I get shouted at. I get fired. I have to move home. And fail at my second career attempt. Gah!

Now when I pick parsley everyday I keep insightful thinking to a minimum. Clever right?

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Ianthi the master baker killing it with her sourdough! 

Apart from all the parsley and watercress we pick to use as garnishes for the salads and for oil infusions, I do get to cook actual food surprisingly enough. As one quarter of the AM team we are in charge of staff lunch and dinner every day. For 45 people. Mainly all chefs. Great craic. My day consists of a lot of prep work like chopping vegetables, preparing salads and reinventing ways to serve shaved apple and beetroot left over from service so that the chefs think I have done something new and different when in fact I have not. We fillet fish (IT’S AMAZING HERE!), joint meat and develop sauces. With so many chefs in the kitchen, it can get stressful but it is a good kind of stress that I think will help me improve on time management, cooking techniques and balancing flavours. I have learned so much from some of the senior chefs in 108 already and it’s only been two weeks. The main thing I have learned is if I think there is enough salt, there isn’t, add more.

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Here is a link to 108’s menu https://108.dk/restaurant/ Some days I stay late to see service and learn to plate dishes. Needless to say my first cucumber accompaniment to the Monkfish on the bone main left a lot of be desired. Junior sous chef Marco basically said he needed me to be better and I think that is fair enough. It’s a one star Michelin restaurant and they let a lemon like me plate a dish. I practiced with his help and now I can plate the cucumber dish pretty fast and with less disgruntled faces. WINNING! I’m super excited to start on service in a few weeks and I feel I will have more of an idea of what I’ll have to achieve day to day. I may just get a smile out of them someday!

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Blurry photo courtesy of 108… I never had enough time to snap

The days are intense, muscles are sore and limbs are tired but my mind is racing and it’s a pretty cool feeling. I’ll keep you updated each week with anything I find inspiring and fun!

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My sister is beyond supportive ❤ 

 

Happy Sunday gang,

Shauna xoxo

Week Eleven: Ballymaloe/Dinner and a show

Final week of cooking. WAHHHHH! An audible sigh can be heard by most of the class, even the sweetest gal Rachel (Allen) welled up during her last demonstration. This lead to a few tears shed and a realisation that we have one cook left, exams and goodbyes. I’m never leaving. OK???

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Ballycotton’s beautiful self

I have a back injury from my nursing training, it flares up at the oddest of times. This resulted in a fab Paddy’s weekend of physio and bed rest, so on Monday I couldn’t cook. As I missed Monday’s cook I wanted to make sure I packed as much prep for my practical exams as possible. I baked several types of breads on Tuesday, mostly brown yeast and brown soda (apparently the hardest bread to get right). We have to bake a bread (on a lottery basis) as part of our exam so getting practice is key. It was sweet to be back in the kitchen. One of the stand out recipes I made was an arjard salad. Arjard is a cool salad with the basis of red chillis and cucumber with a marinade of sugar, vinegar and water simmered for a few minutes then cooled and poured over the veggies. Honestly look it up… the balance of sweet and sour is just a perfect side to a curry without being starchy.

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Demo Sushi

Wednesday was cool. We spent the morning learning how to prepare and cook sushi and rolls. A few bits of basic trivia… sushi is the name of the rice, not the name of the roll. Sashimi is raw fish sliced thinly and it is only in some sushi rolls. Sushi is generally wrapped in Nori which is seaweed that has been dried and has a really subtle flavour. Dublin’s Zakura on Wexford St is a great example of adapting well with a well balanced menu. Apologies,  I’m getting off the point. Rant over. Thankfully, we ended up getting to roll out the norimaki rolls and californian rolls (rice is on the outside rather then the nori). This was good practice. In a way it is vital to feel the texture of the sushi and how much technique is involved in it’s preparation, from julienne sliced vegetables to toasting the seaweed sheets. Not a quick process but so rewarding. Friends and family of mine… expect ALOT of sushi in the coming month.

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Artwork By Ballymaloe’s resident artist, Gentian Lulani 

On Wednesday evening we went on a tour of Ballymaloe House and were kindly offered afternoon tea. The highlight of the tour for me was visiting the wine cellar. After our wine exam on Wednesday morning (hopefully it went ok!) it was interesting to see the wine labels and actually be able to identify that Tempranillo is the grape variety used in Rioja etc. However, I have a long way to go in my wine education ❤

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Ballymaloe House wine cellar

Thursday brought another cake competition. I had to bake a praline cake. The base was a sponge with two tablespoons of praline added. While the sponge baked I had to make a syrup of water and sugar brought to 115 degrees and poured onto two eggs yokes (already whipped). This mixture was whipped to a mousse consistency in the Kenwood mixer. Butter and four tablespoons of praline was added to the mixture that iced the cake. For decor I melted down sugar to make a caramel for the top of the cake. I was delighted to win a prize for my cake ❤ Pam (our tutor) was really thoughtful and gave me a cook book by Camilla Plum called ‘Cook Scandinavia’ in preparation for my move to Copenhagen. Very sweet.

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On Friyay I rolled sushi for most of the morning. They didn’t last long enough for me to take a picture. Not a bad complaint in fairness.

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Saturday night we had ‘Paella on the Beach’ and it was magical. My roomie Charlie cooked a paella in our house and we finished it on our own bonfire, at sunset, by the sea in Ballycotton. It was a moment we will all remember, super emotional because I only have one more week with so many like minded and talented individuals.

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Nutters by Daniel Callen 

Now for a jam packed week of study!

Happy Sunday,

Shauna xoxo

 

 

Pop Up Dinner & Week Ten Ballymaloe

The pop up dinner was a few weeks in preparation in aid of Slow Food Ireland which will help local schools develop gardens and learn to grow. Our theme was ‘Stepping in to Spring’ which reflected the transition between winter produce and new growth. As budding chefs it seemed very fitting.

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Phoebe and my top knot

Phoebe and I were leading the front of house and creative team and Colm was a very capable head chef. They were the most amazing people to bounce ideas off of and to keep each other sane.

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Starter of Beetroot and Labneh

Setting up a pop up restaurant is daunting but after going through it all I would love to do it again. We were lucky to have the produce available to use on the farm for both the menu and the decor. We used an array of kale flowers, jagged kale, rhubarb and chard to dress the tables and the areas around the lobby. It took our creative team weeks to produce the crepe flowers that hung from the rafters. A lot of long nights were had by all. In the conservatory we changed it into a greenhouse so that our guests’ could plant a seed in egg shells and taste some edible soil and truffles. It was pretty cool if I do say so.

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My 1st Wreath

The pictures were taken by Daniel Callen (Ballymaloe’s resident photographer), I completely forgot to take any pictures because we were running around up to the last second. Thanks Daniel ❤

Thanks to everyone who came and made it all worthwhile ❤

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Daisy our Mascot ❤

I was sick as a dog after the pop up dinner. I crashed hard., resulting in only one cook last week as Paddy’s day we were off. On the Thursday I cooked a warm salad of kidneys, straw potatoes and caramelized onions. With this I baked a foccacia with kalamata olives. I don’t cook kidneys, however I thought it was pretty cool preparing them and now knowing what to do if the situation ever arises again. I have a feeling it might :/

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Shauna xoxo

Week Nine: Ballymaloe

In the run up to our pop up dinner on the upcoming Saturday (11th of April) Phoebe and I were up at the crack of dawn every morning… speaking to gardeners about decor and produce, organizing what days we can start to forage for our greenhouse idea and all that comes with setting up a full pop up restaurant. My focus was primarily on the pop up dinner but we still had a full week of cooking to contend with…

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A taster of our school tour… keep scrolling!

Monday began with middle eastern flavors. I was so skeptical about using prunes as the base for a dessert. I think it is maybe a naive Irish perception but after using prunes in this way I stand firmly corrected. The recipe is called ‘Agen stuffed prunes with rosewater cream’ and half the recipe is enough for four people, as it is so rich. Take 14-16 prunes and remove the stone while keeping the two halves attached. Stuff them with a hazelnut and close over. Simmer with 75mls of both water and red wine until the prunes are nice and tender (keep the lid on). When the prunes are soft and tender to touch just allow everything to cool in the pot. Whip up some cream to soft peaks and add 1/2 a teaspoon of rosewater. Toast a few hazelnuts and chop them roughly, then sprinkle them on top. I literally cant say how delicious this is, it has inspired my final menu ❤

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On Monday I made the brioche dough for Tuesday’s bake, as it needs overnight to solidify the butter. I loved making Brioche. It’s not easy and it has a lot of processes but when the buns come out fully formed and fabulously buttery it’s all worth it. I also made some deviled eggs which reminded me of working Monday night BBQ’s in the Hamptons. Gas.

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On Thursday we had our SCHOOL TOUR ❤ Absolutely gas! I went on the West Cork tour so we firstly walked down the road to Bill Casey’s smoked salmon factory. He explained how he prepares the fish and smokes them. We got a cheeky taster. Delicious. Then we got on the bus to Mahon Point Farmers Market which was super interesting. We met a lot of the suppliers to local Cork areas. The vendors all offered something new and different. There was rye sourdough breads, fermented drinks and street food done really well. I would recommend anyone is the area to go and sample the produce. From there we parted ways with half of the group and went to a cheese making factory called Toons Bridge Dairy which was fascinating. We got to see the full product from milk to cheese. We got to taste mozzarella that was still warm and caciocavallo that had been hung in their cold room. Very cool experience overall. The dairy is located in Macroom and they cook pizzas in the cafe which are supposed to be wonderful.

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From the dairy we went to Macroom Mills, which is the last surviving stone mill in Ireland. Darina wants us all to become an apprentice. I have zero interest but it’s lovely to see a very traditional way of making oats and flour preserved by one man. The last stop on our tour was to Cronin’s Pub in Crosshaven. This pub has a massive selection of gin and whiskey and is without a doubt worth a little jaunt from Cork city to experience it, especially in summer. They serve fab fish in very traditional ways. Really gorg.

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Friday I baked a nine plait white yeast bread. I got the idea from Ross one of the lads on the course. He taught me his wise ways. Now we are upping the anti and going for a 17 plait bread by the end of the course. I’ll keep you posted.

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9 Plait White Yeast Bread

Happy Monday,

Shauna xoxo

 

Week Seven: Ballymaloe

There is a feeling of finality through this week’s cooking. We have four weeks left but it just seems like people are freaking out about what the next step is and figuring out ways to stay in this fascinating bubble. For me, I’m off to Copenhagen for three months to intern in Noma’s sister restaurant 108. The thought of working in one of the best restaurant’s in the world has me pinching myself (GAHHH), beyond excited to continue this adventure!

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Jerusalem Artichokes

My Mammy’s Wednesday night love is a fab steak after three extra long days working. With that in mind, Monday brought steak and chips. Having cooked steak every week for the majority of my life I felt pretty confident in my ability. Cheeky tips that I thought were helpful. Good beef=good steak. Have the pan hot enough that the meat sizzles and if it doesn’t take it off and wait until it does. Don’t oil the pan, oil the meat, this retains the seal and keeps the flavour locked it. Season well with salt and pepper. The trick to know how much you want a steak cooked is pretty simple. On one hand, touch your thumb to your baby finger, this is a well done steak . As you bring your thumb back through your fingers the steak becomes rarer. Alas, the perfect steak.

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On Tuesday  I prepared some rack of lamb various ways. The prep for a rack of lamb is pretty intense but I really enjoyed frenching the bones super clean. Has anyone heard of Sumac? It’s a deep red berry spice from the Middle East, it’s this citrus flavour that seeps into the lamb when it’s rubbed on. It’s delicious and I had no idea it existed but I can’t wait to work with it now. We rubbed the Sumac on the lamb as a crumb coating and roasted it. Fab!

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That evening I spent a few hours learning about fermentation. The internship in 108 centers around foraging and fermentation so this was really valuable for me. We learned about Kefir, Kombucha and made Sauerkraut to ferment. Kefir is a fermented drink that is full of nutrients and probiotics… it is amazing for digestion and a healthy gut. Grains are used that are a starter of yeast for fermentation. It requires sugar and liquid to feed on. Then after three days you flavour it to your liking.  It comes in milk or water Kefir. I prefer water Kefir because fizzy milk is just odd to me and textually weird. I love Kombucha wayyyy more though, it is basically a sweet tea that a colony of bacteria feeds on the sugar you give it and ferments to give a tea/vinegar flavour that is mild and then you add any ingredient you want to flavour it.  Flavours like strawberry and basil or rosemary and lemon are so yum. Kombucha is so good for you and easy to make once you have a colony (SCOBY- Symboitic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) from anyone else. I have SCOBYs if anyone needs one!

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Mr. Sauerkraut looking all fermentating

Vegetarian cookery demo all Wednesday morning. As you can tell by this past Monday I eat meat, and lots of it. However I adore veggies and spices so this was fun. The demo was fairly spicy in nature with lots of curries like squash and spinach. Think dahl, samosas, tabbouleh and hummus and that was our Wednesday. The lunch after the demo was probably the best buffet meal I have had in my life. No meat? No problem obviously. Maybe I’ll give it a go. Sometime. In the future.

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Louise posing for a photo while I carved the whole thing after

Wednesday eve brought another vino class. This time we packed our bags and went to Spain

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The Lobby/PopUp Inspo

Pasta day on Thursday yet again and it was wonderful. I want to make pasta for the rest of my life. Preferably with some wise old Nona in rural Tuscany, but I haven’t really thought about it that much. The ravioli was stuffed with mascapone, ricotta and fresh herbs finely chopped. While the pasta cooks pop on some 50g butter and 20-30 sage leaves, let the butter melt with the leaves. I promise you when you add the pasta to the butter and eat, you will dream about this sauce for the rest of your days. I am going to eat sage butter with everything possible. It’s beyond a good sauce, it’s a perfect balance.

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How Beautiful?

Friday Fish n’Chips in full swing. First I made a cous cous salad with thones of fresh herbs and good quality olive oil. Then I spent most of the day preparing squid for frying. Removing the beak from the squid has to be the craziest thing to do. I can’t say I enjoyed it. Also, I had no idea that Tartar sauce has egg white chopped into it? Weird right?

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Time is going too quick. I need to hit pause right now. Have a lovely week folks!

Happy Sunday,

Shauna xoxo