“We’re not going to let you make a total mess of what you’re doing, we’ll leave that to the final exam” – Rachel Allen
The halfway point.
Week 6 at Ballymaloe has just finished, bringing with it our first round of exams. A herb and salad leaf recognition test was followed by a technique exam (for this, I was asked to joint a chicken, chop and sweat an onion, make a paper piping bag, melt chocolate and pipe some writing). While these tasks sound simple enough, there is a Ballymaloe method and standard which must be aimed for and adhered to. I felt confident coming out from my exam, I think I did well. Going in, I was worried about the salad leaf recognition but I was pleased with the leaves I was given to identify.
Despite all of the exam scariness and study for Friday, the week itself was wonderful. I was in the ‘Demo Kitchen’ this week. Six of us had the run of the demonstration room with Pam as our teacher. Pam is a brilliant teacher. She is so knowledgeable and is a real people person, she gets on effortlessly with everybody: students, fellow staff and teachers, visitors and especially delivery men! My cooking throughout this week was generally good, culminating in a 10/10 for my Profiteroles with Chantilly Cream and Lemon Curd on Thursday – yet again it’s the desserts I’m shining with. I really relished cooking my two savoury dishes on Tuesday: Hake with Tomato and Fresh Spices and Lambs Liver with Black Pepper. We didn’t spend Friday in the kitchen due to our exam preparation and revision and it was a pity to only get four days in the demo kitchen, I would quite happily spend my entire twelve weeks there!
Rory led most of the afternoon demos this week. On Monday he demonstrated Choux Pastry for classic desserts like Eclairs, Profiteroles etc., while also cooking a beautiful Monkfish Curry and the Hake with Tomato and Fresh Spices dish that I was given to replicate on Tuesday. I love Rory’s style of teaching: concise and clear. He demonstrated some ‘keeper cakes’ on Wednesday and finished with a spectacular Pizza workshop on Friday morning. Rachel’s sessions were right up my street with Chilli con Carne, Bean Stew and Cornbread on Tuesday and her Potted Shrimp and Traditional Irish Stew on Thursday – the stuff of dreams. Pam’s cake demo on Wednesday was so enjoyable too, even if she did cover everything in hearts, time of the year and all that!
On Monday I plucked and gutted again. A duck, pheasant and snipe were my victims this time and I immediately roasted the duck for a delicious supper. I also managed to get my hands on a few lamb hearts and a neck which I quite happily turned into a big ragu – much to the dismay of my housemates!
Thanks to Rachel’s shorter demo on Tuesday, a good number of the students headed to the beach for a walk along the shore. It was a great way to clear the head and is something I want to try to do more often, especially as the evenings are becoming brighter. On Wednesday night I went to Ballymaloe House for work experience in the kitchen. It was great to be there on a quiet night and get chatting to the chefs Jason and Stefan who were so friendly and helpful, giving me great insight and advice.
Quotes of the Week:
“It’s a bit like skinning a fish, well it is skinning a fish….” – Rory on skinning Monkfish
“Good lemon juice is better than bad vinegar and most vinegar is bad” – Rory
“Sulphur only helps to preserve wine that is already dead” – Pascal Rossignol quoting winemaker Thierry Germain
“There was twelve Apostles but Judas was dropped ‘cos he was bold” – Pam, explaining why there is only eleven Apostles on the Simnel Cake
“To avoid things getting lost in your kitchen have more than one of them, or else work in a kitchen on your own” – Rory
“Be un-fadingly seasonal” – Rory