This morning I started early and milked a cow before I went to the kitchen. I helped resident dairy queen Maria – okay I drank coffee and chatted – with some of the Ballymaloe Jersey cows. No really, I did milk a cow called Peaches. I had envisioned wearing a pair of dungarees and squatting down on a stool but the milking here is done mechanically. You just clean the cow off, attach the sucker thing (didn’t learn the technicalities) and the milk is filtered into a machine that separates the cream from the milk. It’s amazing how something you have been eating and drinking your whole life is so unknown.
A few years ago I thought I was lactose intolerant, and unsuccessfully tried to be a vegan. This lasted three days. Darina and Rory, and many at Ballymaloe, say that sometimes you think you are intolerant to a food when really it’s just that you are eating poor quality products. So much of the dairy we buy is pumped full of anti-biotics, preservatives and E-numbers, it’s no wonder it doesn’t agree with us.
Maria gave me a pint of thick cream that I took up to the kitchen and made butter with. This was so exciting. Again, it amazes me how the process behind something so common can seem like wizardry. To make butter you whip cream in a food mixer until the cream separates from the buttermilk, then you pass it through a sieve, mix it some more, and rinse it in icy cold water. The objective is to remove as much buttermilk as possible because this is what makes the milk go sour. You can find a clearer explanation from Bigger Bolder Baking.
As well as butter I made white soda bread, steamed new potatoes with parsley butter, sautéed baby courgettes and baked cod. The main technical challenge of the morning was filleting the cod. I’m no fishmonger just yet but I’d say I made a decent first attempt.
I learned : Mackerel and herring should be eaten as fresh as possible – the oils start to go rancid five hours after catching.
What a hay box is. Genius!
Food of the day : Bread and butter. This staple is so luxurious when made properly with quality ingredients.
Line of the day : ‘Where other people see weeds, I see dinner.’ Darina is all about foraging. Some of her former students now support themselves by selling boxes of edible flowers and leaves to fancy restaurants in London. She always says there are many ways to make a living through food.