“All you have to do when you leave here is keep the faith” – Darina Allen
Four weeks complete, a third of the way through this wonderful course. Time is flying, I can’t believe how much we’re learning each day. But the real world is starting to call again and it’s time to start the job hunt – wish me luck!
I started Week 4 with enthusiasm and excitement; I feel more confident in the kitchen with each passing day. During the Monday demo, we were handed two sheets on what to expect during our six week exams. It doesn’t look too bad but I really need to start working on my leaf recognition; it’s time to start visiting the greenhouses more often. Monday’s demo was an enjoyable one with Darina focusing on omelettes, fritatas and all things egg. I’ve never been great with omelettes but now realise my two big errors: the pan needs to be REALLY hot and don’t overcook the bloody thing! On Tuesday, Rachel brought Tom Duane in to talk about game birds. He showed us how to pluck and gut the birds and gave practical advice on hanging. We were then joined by his beautiful labrador Benny to demonstrate how important a good dog is on the shoot. When they were leaving, Benny didn’t want to walk on the tiles to the door and it was lovely to see Tracie and the other teachers lay out a mat for him.
Theory Day consisted of a lecture on the business of food by Darina’s sister Blathnaid Bergin (The Restaurant Advisor). It was great to see all we have learned considered from a business perspective and I learned a lot about starting up and running a business successfully. Pam’s cake demo on Thursday was the stuff of dreams – not really my dreams at first but the longer I’m in Ballymaloe, the more I’m enjoying mastering desserts. Pam’s cakes looked and tasted amazing and I got a chance to make the Coffee Cake on Friday morning. My personal lesson of the week: make the cake but get somebody else to decorate it! Maybe I should just practice, who knows?!
Week 4 was another good week for me in the kitchen. Kitchen 3 is definitely my favourite space to work in; easy going and with less students using the weigh-up area, it’s far more civilised. I kicked off the week with Spiced Lamb Burgers, suitable accompaniments and a simple Yeast Bread. Tuesday was another try of the cursed Brown Soda Bread and…..another fail! Worse than any of the others. The other dishes I prepared were a success though; a delicious Mushroom Soup, Marzipan-Stuffed Baked Apples, a classic Omelette and my new favourite nibble: Marzipan-Stuffed Dates. Thursday was a triumph, my soda bread came out of the oven looking beautiful; success at last! My Traditional Roast Stuffed Chicken took longer to cook than any of us thought but it was delicious, even if I did forget to take the wishbone out first. The accompaniments also turned out well and resulted in a really tasty lunch. Friday was Cake Day – I wasn’t nervous but I had never really baked cakes before. All of my recipes worked out great but I always seem to make things look ‘rustic’ – I need to work on my decorating skills. Still my Coffee Cake was delicious served with Disaronno Cream, there was none left for me to take home, surely a good sign.
My favourite session of the week was Tim’s Sourdough Class on Wednesday evening. I’ve always loved sourdough but have been put off by the long process. Tim completely demystified it and this coming Tuesday I will bake my first loaf. I really enjoyed working in the kitchen this week with Florrie as my teacher. All of the teachers here are excellent, each with their own style and personality. They are encouraging and patient but you can also have the craic with them; an important aspect on such a demanding course.
Quotes of the Week:
“You could live your life without a corer but a corer is handy when you want to get the core out (of an apple)” – Darina
“I’d say he was close to a heart attack anyway if I didn’t shoot him” – Tom, looking at the heart he had just taken from a pheasant
“Benny is also a professional thief – he robbed a pound of sausages, hid the plate under his bed and told me that he didn’t do it” – Tom talking about his dog Benny
“It’s a waste of milk….and breadcrumbs…..and onions” – Pat on his hatred of Bread Sauce
“Sugar is the nicotine of the 21st Century” – Blathnaid Bergin
“Imagine yourself eating it in front of a mirror” – Pam on how to eat cake
“That’s one less farmer for us to fight over which we’re not too happy about….they’re few and far between” – Pam on former student and teacher, Rosemary Kearney, moving away with a local farmer