Week one in Ballymaloe surpassed every expectation I had. It has been a dream of mine for so many years and the fact that I am here cooking each day has lit up my life. I’ve been so out of sync and lost for so long in a previous career that I forgot what actually being happy and content thinking of the future actually feels like. Ballymaloe in one week has given me so many ideas for the future that I can’t believe it took me so long to get here.
Enough waffling. Sorry. Back to cooking…
Week one in Ballymaloe brought dodgy knife skills, lots of salt and a spot of vino.
Day one we were brought on walks around the grounds with Tim Allen (Darina’s husband). We learned how to essentially ‘Grow Food’ which seemed to be the theme of the day. The 100 acre organic farm is vast with an array of greenhouses, annual and perennial herb gardens. The school is self sufficient in so many ways so we are more aware of our ingredients and where they come from. Not a pesticide in sight, WHEY!
Day two we started off in our chef whites in the kitchen for a quick cooking session. ‘Headless chickens’ is the most apt way to describe the majority of us. We got a knife skills demo from our personal tutors (Finola- you are a star). All fingers still intact. Winning! After that, we made a brown soda bread and a quick salad as a cheeky warm up in our new kitchens. In the evenings demo Darina showed us how to prepare our dishes for the next day which is how the system works so well here.
Day three. I had to make a Gruyere and dill tart with shortcrust pastry. Our tutor broke down the pastry rolling and baking so we could easily replicate her. My tart ended up in the wrong oven but we saved it in the end and it tasted FAB! I made another brown bread just to get some practice which turned out nice and light.
Day four I made vegetarian pasta arrabiata and scones and raspberry jam. The pasta sauce was insanely spicy because I put a whole chilli in the sauce. It was a dried chilli but still packed a punch. In hindsight even if the recipe says one thing, my gut told me something different. Next time I’ll go with my gut. Preferably I won’t blow the mouth off my tutor then. The chefs had to put ‘VERY HOT’ on a label when they were serving it for lunch, MORTO! The scones and jam went pretty swell after I got the jam to set. Tip: don’t put a lid on a saucepan when bringing raspberries (fruit) to the boil because the moisture cannot evaporate quickly enough. This results in the pectin in the fruit (which is the setting agent) not being able to set.
Day five brought a a wine lecture from Col McCan (awarded Sommelier of the Year 2014 by the Food and Wine magazine). He is a legend! He was so funny and engaging. We had a lecture on Chardonnay and learned about the region of Burgundy in France which is ‘ old world’ wine as opposed to South Africa and Australia which produce Chardonnay in a ‘new world’ style. I still know very little but it’s a little more than I knew before Friday. Happy days. I’ll be a Sommelier yet. Open for job interviews currently. Thank you.
In a nutshell this week has been a whirlwind of learning everyone’s stories and where they come from. My housemates are a sound bunch of people from Italy, Ireland, USA and the UK. My housemate Grazia (Grace) said it right when she described our cottage and the grounds as ‘idyllic’.The pub is within walking distance which may prove problematic. Oh well. Lets go week two!