Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Closing out

Rosie, Rosie and I celebrating at our leaving dinner
My time at Ballymaloe came to an abrupt end. Abrupt meaning it snuck up on me ... I was driving off the property before it sunk in that i was actually leaving. I think it hit me as I was flying over the Atlantic. Exams were.... well... they were a blur.. I remember something about menu planning, gazing over cuts of meat that to me looked all the same, munching on lettuces leaves I didn't know the names of and smelling herbs till my nose was numb. It was like information overload i can only pray my practical success pulled me over the pass mark :) My pork and profiteroles were a success... or so I thought so and I managed to finish under the 3 hour mark... really by the skin of my teeth. It was tough but exciting. Saying goodbye to friends and house mates was hard and sad. I really made some wonderful friends. I've already been swapping post Ballymaloe cooking stories and swapping ideas for holiday party ideas. Friends are starting cheffing jobs under intense pressure and I'm just so impressed and envious that they had the guts to apply to do something like that. I've learned its a combination of skill and confidence... if you are not confident in what you are doing people won't be confident in you.. and the food you are producing...

Our leaving party was amazing. I was a little sick so i didn't eat much other than the new seasons olive oil.. maybe I was sick because of that.. I was drinking it like it was water.... so delicious.... we all hit the black bird afterwards and danced the night away... even Rory and Darina made an appearance... it was a great night to cap off an incredible 12 weeks.

 I am going to miss Ballymaloe... badly. I'm trying to use my skills so I don't loose them. First thing when I landed in Bermuda was hit the grocery store. I found Chorizo which was a miracle and cream which comes in a tiny carton.. .not like the jugs you find in Ireland. It also cost about twice the price :) TIB (This is Bermuda)

Penne with Chorizo
I made Penne with Spicy Chorizo Sausage and it was a hit. Really delicious. I made some Chicken Satay for a party and tomorrow night I plan to make some millionaire squares and a savory flaky pastry starter for another party. I'm also on Christmas dinner duty.... so i'm trying to figure how to fit the turkey, ham, potatoes and veges into one oven! Where is my order of work sheet...?

Bermuda was lovely when I first landed... its quite stormy now... like hurricane weather. Its still good to be home though. I'm itching to cook cook cook... I want to get jams and chutneys made and start selling them when i'm back in Belfast. I need a job asap... so i'm constantly online looking for anything and anyone who is hiring..

Okay i'll keep you posted on Christmas dinner.... cross fingers its a success... there really isn't any room for error... the pressure is ON! :-)

For anyone who is considering Ballymaloe... DO IT! Its one of the best things you can ever do. The knowledge and even relationships you make there are life lasting. Its really one of these bucket list deals that is totally totally worth ticking off.

If you need convincing send me an e-mail and i'll be happy to get the ball rolling.

Off to make some flaky pastry.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

It's Beginning to Look alot like CHRISTMAS

Bill sleeping in class? Couldn't be!
The cold is getting a little old and chef whites are not exactly warm nor is sleeping in a converted cow barn! I wake up in the morning before the heat kicks in and my face is frozen.. Its officially cold here... In the mornings we turn on all the ovens and open them to heat up the kitchen. I've resorted to wearing my pjs under my chef whites and ear muffs in the kitchen... by the end of the morning i'm just starting to warm up before having to head back out into the cold... Like skiing... my body was just not designed for the cold, nor do i look good this pale... :)

We have 8 or 9 official cooking days left and a lot of exams to look forward to. I just finished a wine exam  and have about 6 more papers to look forward to. I have more herb, spice and lettuce leaf recognition exams followed by fish and cuts of meat recognition with two recipes representing each, not to mention health and safety notes, freezing notes, menu planning.... and the list goes on... I havn't even though about when i'm going to pack and what i'm going to do after this is all over. I think we are all in for a shock :)

Merry Christmas Chocolate Tree
Yesterday was a wonderful Christmas demo. We had Darina demonstrate a fabulous Christmas feast. We had turkey, goose, roast potatoes, chocolate Christmas trees, mince pies, Christmas cake, mulled wine, and a yule log. We all ate like kings that afternoon and I have to admit I still have a food baby belly... yikes..

Today was an interesting day. I made poached Ray. I didn't know you could eat Ray or Skate as they say here... but there he lay on my chopping board starting at me. I sliced of his wings and put them into a saucepan with onions, parsley and a little white wine vinegar. It boiled and sat for 20 minutes and was finished just as the skin was starting to peel from the flesh. The flesh peels off from the little bones quite easily so I slid it onto a hot plate and covered it with black butter. Its was disguting looking to begin with but in the end made an impressive presentation. For dessert I made chocolates which proved to be a pain in the neck but ended up tasting like they belonged in a variety box....I am a bit partial

Tomorrow i'll be making spring rolls and frozen chocolate oranges.... should be interesting.... this is also the last Friday cooking. This weekend, my last in Cork will be spent Christmas shopping, packing, studying and practicing my final meal. Alot to do in not alot of time!! Good night all

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Last Two Weeks

I know you all must be tired of looking at whoopie pies so i'm finally updating. Sorry for the long pause there is much now to catch you up on.

Granary Loaf

For the past couple of weeks I've been working on perfecting my bread making techniques. I've made white and brown yeast breads, white and brown soda breads, Italian, Indian breads and my favorite granary loaf. For our exam we draw a bread from a hat and have to make it. I hope i get a soda bread or anything but the white yeast bread. :) It tastes lovely but it takes all morning to make and when i have a full 3 course meal to make i have no minutes to spare.

I've decided on my final exam three course menu. I will be preparing a feast for a Ladies Night.

Spiced Pumpkin Soup

Main Course:
Pork with Gentle Spices
Orzo with Herbs
Roasted Winter Root Vegetables

Chocolate Profiteroles with pastry cream filling

Cheese and herb Souffle
I have my hands full, but i think i'll be able to pull it off. I have three hours next week to make all these dishes perfectly and present them to a series of judges who will mark my creations. I'm excited but i'm sure on the day i'm going to freak out.

Other things i've been making have been souffles, pan fried salmon with spices, croissants, poached pairs, lamb curry, hamburgers, lots of bread and a delicious French onion soup which is one of the easiest things to make. I sliced 3lbs of onions and dropped them in a saucepan with a little butter and let them cook for about an hour.... almost till they burnt, then added stock and seasoned it.....amazing and easy!

On another topic.... snow has fallen on Ballymaloe. Its officially COLD! I've been spending quite a bit of time in other counties on the weekends and it's been great seeing a bit of Ireland I normally wouldn't have seen. This weekend I was in Limerick and last weekend I was in Wexford. My little Yaris is piling on the miles.

My Snowy Yaris 
Tomorrow i'll be making roast lamb with potatoes. Wednesday December 1st we are having a Christmas demo. Everything from mince pies to the goose will be demoed. I'm really really excited about that. Two weeks left of Ballymaloe.... has it really all come down to two weeks? I made risotto this weekend and it was horrible! I forgot to wash the gains before cooking them and it was so horribly starchy when i finished cooking them. I watched 10 weeks of cookery school go down the drain :) I must redeem myself!

Heres to the next two weeks!!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Week Eight at Ballymaloe

Whoppie Pies
This weekend was wonderful. Friday night was a little stormy so we all spent the night watching movies and keeping warm. Saturday Nick and I ventured out to the Midleton Farmer's market. We just missed a downpour so we were lucky to have the run of the place when we got there.... saying that there was still quite a queue for the pizzas. The pizzas are baked fresh and are absolutely delicious. They were just the ticket on a chilly Saturday morning. We headed to the grocery store and decided to buy ingredients to make whoppie pies. Whoppies are the new cupcake, like a scooter pie but better. Two cakey cookies sandwiched with marsh mellow whip.... home made mash-mellow whip which is a dangerous thing. I spent Saturday night sick having eaten a countless number of whoppies. 

Monday morning I was in the kitchen making bread. I was on brown bread duty and quickly whipped up some brown bread before settling into my mornings schedule. Its kind of exciting to say I can whip up some brown bread but after 8 weeks of making it almost every day I should be able to say that...though I admit I still have my occasional disaster.. :)  I was scheduled to make Roast Pork with crackling, spiced aubergines and parsnip mash. The pork was pretty straight forward besides the fact is was full of HAIR! I guess that is a sign of authentic organic material... but at the same time I thought it was a little nasty.... I quickly scored the flesh, threw on some herbs and salt and shoved it into the oven. The hairs simmered underneath their blanket of herbs and in no time the pork was ready to eat. The crackling with slightly uneatable but the rest of the it was wonderful.

Tuesday's Presentation
Tuesday was a great day. We made ice cream! It was so simple and such a delicious treat. I boiled some sugar and water until it reached the 'thread point' which is as it sounds. The liquid falls off the spoon like a thread and at that moment its ready to be added to the egg yolks. The water and sugar is added to the yolks and whisked to a white stiff perfection. In another bowl I whipped up (way too much) heavy cream. In an excitable moment I measured two liters of cream before it was whipped instead of two liters of whipped cream. I added some vanilla beans and vanilla extract and folded it into the sugary egg mixture. A quick trip to the freezer and a couple hours later I had ice-cream...so easy and so delicious. I also made Brioche. It was a lot of work but well worth the trouble. Its a dough with a lot of butter so its a bit difficult to handle but I managed to get it into the oven and 20 minutes later I had light fluffy beautiful brioche. I will definitely have to make that again.

Wednesday was demo and lecture day and probably one of the best lunches I've eaten since being here. It was all vegetarian which was a pleasant surprise. Its amazing how good food can be without meat. It was absolutely some of the best things I've eaten. Lentils, beans, veges, rice it all was scrumptious. If I could eat like that every day i'll happily become vegetarian.... Then again I work up this morning and realized it was......

Hazy Kitchen
STEAK DAY. Its almost speaks for itself but I have to expand. We started out making a couple sauces, French fries, onion rings, coleslaw and ratatouille. Once that was all finished we cut our steaks from the half carcass laying at the front of the room (what do you expect!) and we heated our grill pans to volcanic temperature. I am a medium well lady so I slapped my beef on for four minutes each side. It was perfect and tasted like heaven. I was happy to practice and made a couple more rare and medium steaks. By the end of the grilling we were walking around in a greasy haze. I was happy to get out into the fresh air for lunch and enjoyed a beautiful crisp afternoon. We had a wine lecture this evening which was great. We had a woman come and speak on Chilean wine which was all delicious. 7 o'clock rolled along and it was finally time to go home and relax. We are expecting bad weather tonight so I expect to sleep really well tonight.

Tomorrow we are cooking crepes and souffl├ęs amongst other things. Its Friday already and the end of week eight! Not 

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Pork and Orzo

Its starting to feel like I live in Ireland. The warm sunny (unusual) weather has turned sunless, cold and wet. Its actually kind of nice because it makes you want to be inside behind a stove cooking something warm and delicious. Demos seem to end in the evenings as its so dark out by the time we are walking home. This afternoon I sat with a cup of tea watching Rachel teach as it rain and blew a storm outside. It was so cozy and relaxing.

Pork, Orzo and Green Beans
This morning I made a really delicious pork dish. Pork with gentle spices which included cumin seeds, coriander  and cardamon seeds. I sauted onions coated the pork in the spices then sauted it with the onions. Then I removed the pork and added cream and stock to the sauce and reduced it. Finally I added the pork and the dish was finished. It was really delicious but I think I over cooked the pork slightly. Along with the pork I made orzo which I was really nervous about. The secret is in the timing, I always seem to mess up the simplest things. I stood over the pot of boiling water and watched each grain cook morsel by morsel because I was determined to do it right. My waiting paid off and the orzo was perfect in about 10 minutes. I added some butter and chopped parsely and it was perfection.

I wanted to make something sweet so I decided to make some chocolate toffee squares which judging by the half empty tin this evening, they turned out pretty good :) It's a painful but rewarding process. Starting with a shortcrust base (butter flour and sugar) I baked it in a flat cookie pan for 15 minutes until slightly golden brown. I let that cool and made the toffee. Sugar, condensed milk and butter bubbled away in a pan for over 20 minutes and I stood there stirring it the whole time because it can burn easily. To make sure its done I dropped a bit into cool water and formed a ball with the cool toffee. Then I spread that on the cool shortcrust base and melted chocolate for the finale. Actually the finally was a special secret ingredient.... salt. I sprinkled some maldon sea salt over the chocolate and my chocolate toffee squares were finished and absolutely delightful. I am planning on making money off those some day :)

Tonight was spent filing recipes. Each day we receive about 10 recipes which we have to put in plastic sleeves and file in large binders. I was behind a couple days so I finished quicker than some of my house mates who were behind a couple weeks. :( Its 10:30 and i'm looking forward to bed. Tomorrow I'll be making a chicken casserole, bread and champ.

Before I go something great I learned today....
For over salted dishes, ie soups.... add half a potato and allow it to simmer. The potato will absorb the access salt.... this ti;p has become real handy :)

Looking forward to the weekend. I can't believe its here already! Good night all.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The Stripy Cat....

My Stripy Cat enjoying the view
Yesterday I  raged war on a loaf of bread... the Stripy Cat. The loaf is made as a normal soda bread is made: flour, salt, sour milk, baking soda, sugar, egg and a special ingredient... CHOCOLATE! I made a 'Spotted Dog' which included sultanas and yesterday I decided to make the Stripy Cat. Everything was going well until I added the chocolate.... my fatal error.... I didn't weigh the chocolate, I just threw a handful (or two) into the dough. My bread went in the over and baked and baked and baked.... usually when bread is finished baking its light and sounds hollow when tapped. My Stripy Cat didn't seem to want to bake... it baked for over an hour until I couldn't wait anymore.... to my delight and slight horror there was chocolate everywhere.. I put in way too much and my Stripy Cat nearly became nearly just a Black Cat. It did taste delicious though.

Peasant Soup
Besides the Stripy Cat I made a Peasant Soup. Bacon, onions, potatoes, garlic, chicken stock and tomatoes. It turned out tasting horrible... like a chunky bland tomato soup. It is amazing what time and a lot of salt does to a soup. I left it simmering for a while and added pinches and pinches and pinches of salt until I could finally taste everything in the soup besides the tomatoes. It was a totally different soup in the end and turned out to be kind of tasty. I finished off the morning cutting and frying French Fries. :-)

Today was lecture day and we had a gentleman come and speak to us about spices. He has his own business called Green Saffron. He imports delicious fresh spices direct from the farms in India. He sells them raw and also mixes them and provides recipe ideas. It's such a simple business idea and he does so well. Its amazing to see how different spices are when they are fresh and organic. We are so use to what we see in grocery stores we have no idea what real food looks or tastes like anymore. If I've learned anything during my time here its the importance of knowing where my food comes from. Don't trust labels, read ingredients, ask questions, support local farmers and don't assume you don't like something because you've probably gotten used to eating a genetically modified version of it. Its been six weeks and i'm starting to see a change in the way I shop and eat .... I hope when i'm out of the bubble I can maintain a healthy organic lifestyle though I think once you've tasted real food it will be hard to go back to processed.

Kitchen 3

Tomorrow we will be back in the kitchen. I find cooking in the morning really therapeutic. I enjoy slicing dicing and kneading. I need to choose a bread to bake maybe a brown yeast bread again... or sour dough?

Good night!

Monday, 1 November 2010

Enjoying the View

I love Monday's. I was back in Kitchen 3 my favorite of all four locations. Its so calm in there and there is an incredible view which is enjoyable when you are kneading dough. 
Meringue Log
This morning I was feeling ambitions and decided to make a granary loaf and a meringue log on top of my scheduled recipes. The granary loaf turned out really great. It took a long time to prove because the flour was so much heavier but I've learned the longer it proves the lighter the loaf becomes. My hours of waiting paid off around 4pm this afternoon when I was finally able to eat it. 
The meringue log was a different story.

 I needed to work on my meringue technique so I volunteered to make this log. Basically you whip egg whites with sugar until the meringue becomes quite stiff. I struggled with this concept and after being sent back to the mixer numerous times I finally came away with stiff meringue. I laid it onto a small rectangle dish lined with tinfoil and oil and baked it for 15 minutes. I allowed it to cool while I whipped the cream... another technique i'm yet to master. I seem to always over whip the cream which probably explains why I was so nervous whipping the meringue. I was just stating to make butter from the cream when I realized I over whipped it ...again!  After the meringue cooled I spread on some (rescued) cream and covered it in fresh strawberries. It was all perfect until it was time to roll it. I ended up rolling it way to tight all the filling oozed out. It was a disaster! I unrolled it redid it and in the end if you didn't see the whole process you'd have though I was a genius! :) 
Seafood Platter
Besides those two things I cooked and served a plate of seaweed, clams, muscles, periwinkles and oysters. After nearly loosing a limb opening the oyster I tossed everything else in a frying pan and watched them pop open. The seaweed was  thrown into boiling water and turned a beautiful green color. My plate looked great and I tried my best getting everything down. I may live by the sea but I don't like eating from it. 

Finally I made a parsnip cake. Grated parsnip and apple with maple syrup, pecans, sugar, flour etc etc. It was moist and delicious. I love baking and decorating cakes. 

Lecture today included pasta making. I remember doing a course at home where we made pasta, i'm going to take a crack at it again tomorrow. Gillian tossed it in a pan with butter, chopped herbs and a little of the pasta water... simple and delicious! Darina made a peasant's soups, poached Monk fish, French fries (believe it or not!) and deep fried cabbage (delicious) We had a couple guest speakers who demonstrated how to make olive and ciabatta bread along with a 'how to make prosciutto' It was great. 

Parsnip and Apple Cake

Tonight my house mate nick treated me to a lovely salad (and yes I identified all the salad leaves) and now i'm going to file and get ready for tomorrow's cooking! Tomorrow we find out our exam scores... I may share about them tomorrow .. :)

A quick shout out to a fellow Ballymaloe blogger... Bill. He featured me on his blog and I was so excited. He was my cooking partner a couple weeks ago and was fabulous. His blog is absolutely fantastic... a must read. You can follow him on http://www.billsballymaloeblog.blogspot.com/

Until tomorrow... happy cooking!