Tag Archives: ballymaloe

Looking back. Moving Forward.

2015 was a complete whirlwind for me. I started with Ballymaloe in the first week in January. It finished in March, then it was straight back to the day job and the usual school routine.  I was really hoping to get some time cheffing in a kitchen to bed down the skills, but this didn’t materialise, and I made do with the home cooking practice.  Hopefully this year! (offers welcome!)

Thursday 05 March 021

Making Bisque in the Demo Kitchen

In July I started running demonstrations from our kitchen.  These have been so enjoyable for me, and I have had fantastic feedback.  Click here for the latest schedule-  What I enjoy most about them is meeting new people, helping them realise how important good food is, and how easy it is to cook!

Thursday 24 Jul 008

Table set, ready for Demo

My bespoke cake business has also taken off to my delight (and also to the relief of the collective family waistline).  I really love baking.  Of every kind, and this year hope to expand into new avenues and directions.  I regularly supply a cafe in Tramore and love making cakes for people for their special occasions. Here’s a selection- I won’t even say favourites, as every cake I make I love!!!    Monday 28 Sept 2015 031

This tiramisu cake is a favourite, and I know, going forward it will be a winner in 2016 too.

Sugar Plum Cake

This cake was such fun to make!

I just love how this Sugar Plum cake looks and tastes.

Who doesn't look forward in having a tiger to tea?

Who doesn’t look forward in having a tiger to tea?

Cupcakes featured heavily in December- I think I made over 500 one week.  Jords was questioning whether I was cupcaked out!!! But no, I just love baking. My father in law brought me back a mega cupcake baking tray from America.  It certainly makes my life a lot easier.

This year I am going to focus on further selling cakes, and hopefully desserts too.  And bread.  Good bread is very hard to come by, and really is the simplest meal.  My sourdough is going from strength to strength and I look forward to showing and sharing my recipe with others.  They can have some of Sabrina too!

Monday 23 November 2015 064

My beloved sourdough

So looking back I’ve done so much in 12 months.  Looking forward- who knows??? But hopefully much more of the same.  With maybe a small holiday??? Pretty please??

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Best of Luck in Ballymaloe

This is my “letter” to the new students starting the 12 week course in January 2016.  This time last year I was getting ready to start what turned out to be a life changing journey.  I now cook with more of a conscience, and with more adventure.

Here are my tips for making the most out of YOUR journey.

1. Get the coffee into you.  It’s going to be a long day.

Breakfast coffee

Breakfast coffee

2. Make the most of the days, sign up for all the extras- butchery and bread were my favourites.

White Yeast Bread cooling in Kitchen 2

White Yeast Bread cooling in Kitchen 2

3. Take copious notes.  Believe me, you won’t remember everything.

Ballymaloe Salads

All about salad leaves

4. Go to all the lectures, especially towards the end when often students are tempted to stay at home and cram- you’ll miss them when you’re finished.

Darina working her magic

Darina working her magic

5. Go foraging.  It’s great fun, and a chance to get out and about in the (fingers crossed) sunshine.

Foraging

Foraging on Garryvoe Strand

6. Offer to pour the wine. It gives you a chance to stretch your legs- you’ll need it.

WWW= Wine Wielding Wednesday

WWW= Wine Wielding Wednesday

7. Try EVERYTHING.  It’s your opportunity to taste ingredients from all over the world, and more importantly, top quality produce from the doorstep of the school.

Dishes at the End of Vegetarian Demo

Dishes at the End of Vegetarian Demo

8. Spend time with other students.  I now have friends for life from those mere 12 weeks.

friends

9. Take every morsel of knowledge from the encyclopaedia on food that is Darina Allen.  She is my hero.

Darina showing us the Allium Bar

Darina showing us the Allium Bar

10. From the welcome at the door, to every single teacher and member of staff, to the suppliers that speak with such passion about their products.  Every single person is dedicated to the cause.  I miss them all!

Friday 20th March 070

The enigmatic Rachel Allen

Since leaving Ballymaloe I have strived to put into practice all I learnt.  I use my blog to write about what we grow on our farm, and what I cook with those ingredients.  I enjoy more thatnever making cakes, and now sell them weekly, helping the collective family waistline.  I still get to bake what I love, but don’t have to eat it.  Truly a win win!

I hope to expand this in the new year, and already have bookings for my demonstrations.

So best of luck, you’ll love it.  Enjoy every minute of it.  I wish I was coming back to do it all again.

The GROWfest Demo Tent 2015 -Saturday!

This year, the Harvest Festival in Waterford was all singing and dancing- sometimes in rain.  Nigel and myself volunteered this year to help out in the GROWfest Demo Tent- and what a weekend it was.

The GROWfest Tent

The GROWfest Tent

There were four demos on the Saturday, and three on the Sunday.  So we were quite busy! The demo area was, for the main, set up under the tent in Blackfriars.  And the wash up area was a “little” rustic, but that made it all the more enjoyable.

I helped with the demos in the Ballymaloe Cookery School during the Litfest this year, and just loved seeing all the different chefs/ styles and recipes.  So when the opportunity arose again I just jumped at it.

First up was Pip and Pear, a local company who are passionate about good quality baby food, and teaching parents to involve their children in the process of cooking.  Irene spoke from personal experience about raising children and trying to cook for them in the best possible way.  It was very well received by the audience- no mean feat as many of them were small!

Next up were my teachers, Darina and Rory from Ballymaloe.  I was delighted to see Tracie was their gorgeous assistant, and although expectedly manic, it was a packed house and an amazing atmosphere.

Together again! GROWfest Demo

Together again! GROWfest Demo

Despite the challenging back of kitchen facilities….

The view from the wash up- Demo Tent

The view from the wash up- Demo Tent

I admit I had never heard of Chef Adrian, and he will admit himself he looks rather young to be cheffing at all, but he is so relaxed, prepared and friendly.  He was a complete professional.  And had a very enjoyable way of giving the demo.  His steak was pretty good too.

Demo tent side of stage

Demo tent side of stage

Ros, my demo chef partner was in charge of the Lilly Higgins demo, I was very glad at that stage to be just washing up, and the demo went as smoothly as the others.  We were packed up and home by 18.30hrs, feet a little sorer, but both of us in great spirits.  Mind you, I was very glad I’d put lamb shanks on the timer in my oven as cooking for ourselves might have taken a while!

All the GIY guys are so enthusiastic, it made our volunteering a complete joy.  Karen is a complete breath of fresh air, and we were constantly chatting with Amanda and Shona as we all frantically got everything to run throughout the day!

 

 

My passion for cookbooks

As an avid reader of cookbooks, with a self confessed addiction, it is with GREAT excitement that I am volunteering at the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Litfest this week.  And I get to see Alice Waters.  How exciting is that??? Alice is classed as being one of the most influential food writers of the last 50 years.  Mega. I would love to replicate her model for education on food with children here. #wishlist

I know many people who collect cookbooks, some simply just to salivate over the pictures.  Yet some of the most famous have few pictures, if any at all.  Some of mine are serious- Michael Pollan for example, some are very light, and some are very precious- family heirlooms in fact.

The Family "Manuscript"

The Family “Manuscript” belonging to my husbands grandmother

The Silver Spoon, for example is classed as one of the greatest Italian cook books of all time, even if the timings are a little vague, and there is absolutely no pictorial help.  But it is encyclopaedic in it’s amount of recipes for every class and cut of ingredient.”  Alongside “The Classic Italian Cook Book: The Art of Italian Cooking and the Italian Art of Eating” by Marcella Hazan, they are my go to books for Italian cookery.

The Silver Spoon

The Silver Spoon

My mum in law gave me a Christmas present of the book “How to Eat”, by Nigella Lawson years ago.  I didn’t even open it for about about a year as I was convinced it was a diet book! But as a book to teach people how to cook basic recipes in a very relaxed manner, it succeeds.  Any book that utters “Before you even take off your coat put the chocolate on to melt” is a winner for me!

Some of my cookbooks

Some of my cookbooks

Even before I attended the Ballymaloe Course, I used both the Forbidden and Ballymaloe Cookery Course Books quite extensively, so they are on the frequent flyers list also.

Well used favourites

Well used favourites

I do have some cookbooks that I simply use for stroking and drooling over.  Pure coffee table books.  Mind you anyone goes near them with coffee is dead to me.

And I try and cook at least one or two recipes from each book, and most get a good few airings, some even end up on the favourite list.

Some I really want to cook from, but need about 3 days, an unlimited larder full of exotics, and an unlimited amount of equipment.  (The days I made Heston Blumenthals Mushroom mousse recipe will go down in the annals of longest cooking time to a pâte that lasted 30 seconds.)

"technically" in alphabetical order

“technically” in alphabetical order

The main collection lies in wait on both sides of the stairs.

Then the most recent- but awaiting a re-read section.

The "waiting to be read" section in my room

The “waiting to be read” section in my room

And then the section beside my bed.  I think when I get my ankle re done and I’m “resting”, I might rest and read, and maybe cook a little….

The "beside my bed" pile

The “beside my bed” pile

And as for my wishlist, there are some heavy hitters;

Elizabeth David, French Provincial Cooking, (1960)

Jane Grigson, Good Things

M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating (Vintage, 1976)

Richard Olney, Simple French Food

Anthony Bourdain, Typhoid Mary

Larry Zuckerman, The Potato: How the Humble Spud Rescued the Western World

Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Alice Waters, Chez Panisse Cooking 

Eliza Acton, Modern Cookery for Private Families, (1845)

Isabella Beeton, Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management

Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy, (1747)

 

Not necessarily in order of preference. Please. Pretty Please.  And for this weekend at least I’ll be happy as the proverbial pig.

 

 

 

Life’s too short not to eat dessert first

And if you can’t…. then may eat something wrapped in pastry.  But in moderation. Mostly.

729 layers of pastry

729 layers of pastry

Puff pastry making isn’t for the faint of heart, or strictly speaking even for those with a weak heart, as the amount of butter in it, well, I’d better not tell you.

Sausage rolls ready for chilling

Sausage rolls ready for chilling

Sausage rolls are a failing of mine.  Love them, but only now and then, as I fully realise how bad they are for me!  But as I was making a batch of puff pastry to hone my Ballymaloe skills, I felt it was a good idea to use some of the puff to make a few nibbles.  That, and Nigel had bought me some sausage meat.

Sausage Rolls ready for eating

Sausage Rolls ready for eating

The next puff pastry item on the agenda was a chicken and ham pie.  I had boiled a ham, and had cooked chicken left over, so I very gently cooked some diced shallots in butter, then made a roux and added milk and then cream to make a rich sauce, to which I added the chopped cooked meat.

Pre-topping Chicken and ham pie

Pre-topping Chicken and ham pie

This then simply went into a dish and was covered in pastry.  And it went down a treat!  and it was gone before the photo got taken.

So what to do with the scraps? Why palmiers of course.  We had made these in class with our left over pastry so I thought it was fitting at home too.  One important thing to note is that normally with scraps of pastry they can be simply worked together and then re-rolled, but with puff pastry, and flaky pastry you need to keep the layers, so the scraps need to be stacked and then rolled out carefully again, you can fold, and then re-fold if necessary.

Some were a little more "caramelised" than others!

Some were a little more “caramelised” than others!

Palmiers are also called palm leaf cookies, elephant ear cookies, french hearts, shoe-soles or glasses, Schweineohren (in German), Palmeritas (in Spanish).  Palmier is the French word for palm tree, and the pastry gets its name from its resemblance to a palm leaf. It is crispy and flaky with tastes of butter and caramelized sugar. It can also be savoury. Although it is not documented who first came up with the recipe of Palmier, but many believe it is invented in the beginning of the 20th century France, suggested by the French name and its recipe.

More Mushrooms Please

One of the first recipes we made in Ballymaloe, actually I think the very first thing we cooked, was mushroom a la crème.  Chopping mushrooms was a technique that we learnt early on, and as I love mushrooms very much, a technique that will stay with me I hope.

Chopped button mushrooms

Chopped button mushrooms

First the onions have to be finely diced, another technique.  One of the things I said I needed to learn was how to correctly slice an onion.  And I haven’t looked back!

Diced onion

Diced onion

Then a knob of butter is melted in a shallow saucepan until foaming.  To this the diced onions are added, and a good seasoning of salt and pepper at this stage starts the symphony of flavours that will make up the final dish.  I turn the heat right down under the pot, and cover the onions with a butter wrapper and a tight fitting lid, leaving them to cook very gently until opaque, not coloured.

Meantime, I chop the mushrooms and cook them over a high heat in a frying pan with a little butter.  I also season each batch of these, with salt, pepper and a small squeeze of lemon juice.  They are cooked in batches to prevent the pan getting too cool, which ends up steaming the mushrooms, not frying them.  They must be cooked until golden in colour, this adds texture to the sauce, and removes all chance of floppy, slimy, tasteless mushrooms.

Mushrooms frying off

Mushrooms frying off

Once all the mushrooms are cooked they are added to the onions, then a generous pour of cream over the whole lot finishes it off.  This is brought to bubbling, and can be served straight away, or kept and reheated later.  As an aside, in the Ballymaloe recipe it says that you can add a little roux to the sauce once the cream is added to thicken it.  I find that if you let the sauce bubble away very very slowly, it comes to a very agreeable consistency all by itself.

Cream added to the mushrooms and onions

Cream added to the mushrooms and onions

It seems alot of work for such a simple sounding sauce, but it pays off.  I have two favourite ways of serving it; with lobster and linguine (Thanks Jared), and simply with roasted chicken thighs and some buttery orzo.

Roasted Chicken Thighs

Roasted Chicken Thighs

 

 

 

Spring has well and truly sprung

Even though I have been incredibly lucky to spend three months living the dream on the Ballymaloe Farm, I very much appreciate living on our farm.  At this time of year especially.  All the teachers were so passionate about using locally grown ingredients that I feel its only right to continue my studies in our own garden, this time I was foraging from veggie garden!

 

Looking over the leeks and broccoli

Looking over the leeks and broccoli

As we were hanging out washing on Alan’s line I decided to pick some veggies for dinner and our smoothies.  As the bees have once again taken up residence on the deck, our washing line will have to be relocated, and we haven’t decided where to yet.

 

Veggie picking

Veggie picking

The sea kale is nearly ready under it’s terracotta cap, and the rhubarb is coming up nicely, lovely pink flesh.  This meant we had to postpone the -no puddings during the week – rule, and use the rhubarb to make a triple layered meringue cake.

Rose Blushed Rhubarb

Rose Blushed Rhubarb

I love to gently poach it in lots of caster sugar, and the tiniest spoon of water.

Rhubarb ready for poaching

Rhubarb ready for poaching

Meringue was the chariot of choice for the rhubarb, as I was using the yolks to make carbonara for dinner.

Sea Kale hiding under the terracotta

Sea Kale hiding under the terracotta

The nutribullet is working out well, and when I have perfected a few more smoothies I’ll share my favourites, and it is a great way of injecting the family with fresh veg in seconds.  The purple sprouting broccoli is so addictive, at this time of year I serve it with everything!

Purple Sprouting Broccoli

Purple Sprouting Broccoli

The carbonara was really good, and is a firm family favourite, and is so quick.

Messy, but delicious

Messy, but delicious

And then dessert, don’t mind if I do.

Triple layered rhubarb meringue cake

Triple layered rhubarb meringue cake

 

 

 

 

 

No Pressure

Canapes

Canapés

I had a party for family yesterday for my Dad’s 70th Birthday.  There were 20, including kids, and the pressure was definately on to deliver due to my new found cheffiness.

I wanted to try out so many new recipes, but limited myself to a couple of canapés, and a selection of salads and meats so that everyone could help themselves buffet style.

Close up of pud

Close up of pud

These were a definate favourite, mini yorkshire puddings with homemade horseradish sauce, and thinly sliced fillet of beef.

Smoked Salmon Spirals and Mini Yorkshire puds

Smoked Salmon Spirals and Mini Yorkshire puds

The spirals were delicious and very handy as they were make ahead.

 

A Selection

A Selection

I had two salads made myself, all of my sister in laws contributed to salads and dessert, as did my mum, which makes the whole experience a lot easier, and of course the family were all great sous chefs.

Hard Boiled Quail Eggs with celery salt and EV olive oil

Hard Boiled Quail Eggs with celery salt and EV olive oil

Hazelnuts, roasted toasted and ready to go

Hazelnuts, roasted toasted and ready to go

Although I myself am not nutty about nuts, I made this delicious salad filled with crunchiness and goodness.

Pate de Campagne

Pate de Campagne

This starter is really good with almost everything, and although is quite labour intensive at the start, I was able to make it a couple of weeks ago and freeze it, and then cooked it on the day.

Bouquet Garni

Bouquet Garni

And of course by the time I got to dessert, I had put my phone down somewhere so no pictures of the ice cream meringue cake, or the honeycomb ice cream that went down a treat.

Speaking of pressure… exams next week so I’m heading off to study.

 

 

 

 

School Tour- First in over 25 years!

School tour day dawned bright and very early, well earlier than most for me as I was on cow milking duty. Our first port of call was the Mahon Farmers Market where we all gave in our tickets to our chosen stall to have our “breakfast”.  Steak sandwich at 10 in the morning? Yes please!

Breakfast time

Breakfast time

Then back on the bus (I got a lift in a car which was great, and more comfortable!) down to Durrus.  I always forget how much I love West Cork, and seeing the first lambs in the field really brought a sense of Spring to the day.  Everyone was quite giddy at the day at itinerary ahead, and even the long journey didn’t dampen spirits.

As we were in the car, we got to Durrus ahead of the bus, and started up the hill to the cheese makers premises.  Narrow twisty lanes didn’t bode well for the 60 seater bus.

The view from the “factory” is incredible.

View from outside the dairy.

View from outside the dairy.

The awards on display outside, there are many more inside!

The Accolades for Durrus Cheese

The Accolades for Durrus Cheese

We got a private tour while waiting for those on the buses.  Eventually the little bus ran students up and down as the bigger bus stayed in Durrus.  It was great to see the bigger version of what we learnt with Clancy back in the dairy.

The ladies making Durrus Cheese

The ladies making Durrus Cheese

The smaller groups suited the visit in the end as we all got to see everything, and the day was so beautiful no-one minded waiting for the bus. We got to taste the produce too, always a plus!

Tasting Durrus Cheese

Tasting Durrus Cheese

Our next stop was back down the road to Durrus and the Good Things Cafe run by the eminently capable Carmel Somers.  Although shut at the moment (Durrus is incredibly seasonal), we moved the “picnic” from the bus into the cafe, and nibbled on our white radishes and pate while Carmel spoke about her journey to this point in time with her cafe, and previous experience.  It was a warts and all journey, and clearly her passion for flavour and excellence have been some of her drivers.

Very cool lights in the Feel Good Cafe

Very cool lights in the Good Things Cafe

John McKenna also dropped in.  I have met John a number of times in The Tannery, but spent quite some time with him while doing the Food Writing Module in UCC last year, and he is someone with whom you could talk all day about food trends and fads, and the disgraces of modern living.  It also helps that he loves one of my favourite restaurants Harry’s, Donal is a visionary that many could model themselves on, as he just knows exactly what he’s doing.  John spoke lovingly about the new Harry’s Shack, and made me want to jump straight in a car and drive to Port Stewart!

Carmel Somers in Good Things Cafe

Carmel Somers in Good Things Cafe

Reluctantly we got back on the bus and headed for Urru in Bandon.

Ruth Healy is a past student, and set up her modern day green grocer in Co Cork.  Ruth talks at a rate of knots about her passion, food.  Urru (Urban- Rural) was established by Ruth in 2003, and she has been an ambassador for producers ever since.  Making the decision early on, that as a sales person, she wanted to spend her time interacting with her clients, there is no kitchen as such in the shop.  The deli counter is spacious and inviting, as she explained herself she seeks out the best soup producers, bread producers while maintaining a coffee counter and the kitchen and book shop.  There were over 60 of us in the shop, but it did not seem too crowded and we all had a look round.

Anthony Creswell from Ummera Smokehouse  also called in to tell us about his produce while we were in Urru.  Not only do they smoke fish, but also chicken, duck and bacon.  He went through some of the challenges of having an artisan food business in Ireland.

With that we had to swap buses as those heading to the Riedel tasting that night in the Grainstore, Ballymaloe, went on the small bus to get back in time.  Already it had been a long day, but we were all still in good spirits.  Traffic was not too bad, and soon we were back in Shanagarry.

Glass Comparison Wine Tasting

Glass Comparison Wine Tasting

John Hinckley from Riedel Glass presented the glass comparison tasting evening, and I have to admit, I was very sceptical about whether I would truly be able to “taste” the difference.  But it was a real eye opener.  I won’t spoil it for anyone, as really this is an event that has to be experienced to be understood, and enjoyed.

What I will tell you is that White Burgundy is my new favourite type of wine.

 

 

 

 

 

Sweetness and light

Today, because they were looking for volunteers, and also because they are yum, I made marshmallows.  I have, I confess made them before, and one of my first posts was on the trials and tribulations of those first attempts.  In short, ones made with agar agar or vegegel just don’t work.  And the enormous amount of washing up all those attempts made, meant I haven’t made them since!

Tin prep is essential
Tin prep is essential

The preparation of the tin is essential as you need to be able to get them out once they have set into their pillows of softness.  Sally, one of our teachers suggested some coconut with my raspberries in the middle.  In short they were fantastically sweet and delicious.

After cutting, and dusting again with cornflour and icing sugar
After cutting, and dusting again with cornflour and icing sugar

And the finished article.

A fellow students beautiful presentation.
A fellow students beautiful presentation.

This time round, with absolutely amazing help (& patience) from Florrie, Sally and Fionnula in K3, the experience was much better, and successful, and the washing up not so daunting.  So I definitely will make them again.