Ballymaloe : A Retrospective

I learned a lot at Ballymaloe. I think the real thing I learned was how much I don’t know! But in a nice way. Sometimes the small fish in big ponds have more to learn than big fish in small ponds. Here are some tangible take-aways : Sharpen your knives. Restaurant chefs sharpen their knives…

Day 60 – So Long, Farewell

On Friday we took our final exams. There were three papers, lasting 5 1/2 hours, covering topics like food hygiene, business, recipes, cooking terminology and herb, spice, meat and fish recognition. Recognising joints of meat and fish was the hardest part for me. Kitchen 3 was a house of horrors. We were sent in groups…

Day 59 – Practical

Today was the practical cooking exam. I had three hours in which to make three courses and a loaf of bread. My menu was Indian themed. The main course and dessert were two of my favourite dishes from the whole course so I wanted to make them again, the starter seemed a natural fit. My…

Day 58 – Cook Ahead

(Ballymaloe is a veryΒ beautiful place but myΒ favourite thing to admire is by far the Palais des Poulets and its residents. So gorgeous. I will miss walking past them every morning).Β  Our practical cooking exams began today. We have to make : One starter. One main course. One dessert. And one loaf of bread. The time…

Day 57 – RORY!

This morning we had our last demo of the course with Rory. All of the instructors here are fantastic but Rory is really very special. He is hilarious, knowledgable, observant, calm, glamorous… I could go on! He has a gaggle of fan girls on campus. He demonstrated some classical recipes today. Beef carpaccio, poached salmon,…

Day 56 – Corn on the Cob

Today was our last day of regular cooking. This Thursday I have my practical exam where I have to make a three course meal and one bread. Besides that and maybe a few more loaves of bread I am done in the kitchens here! Just when I was getting the hang of it. I made…

Day 55 – Lobster Vol Au Vent

This morning I was on salad duty. This is one of the more laborious duties – you start an hour early, pick lettuce in the glasshouse and fields, bring it to the kitchen, wash it, remove all the stalks and make dressing. It takes a long time, but I do eat salad every day so…

Day 54 – Pastry

Today I made : Three kinds of pastry. I like pastry but today was a challenge because the kitchen was hot and sweaty. Ideally you want to make pastry in a cold room so the butter doesn’t melt. I did my best. The first was Amaretto Almond and Strawberry tart. The shortcrust pastry was very…

Day 53 – Smorgasbord

I did not make or learn about smorgasbords today, but there were many different activities. This morning started at 8am with a wine exam. 100 multiple choice questions. Can you tell me the three grape varieties permitted in the making of Champagne? Or could you describe the body of a Sauvignon Blanc? I’m not sure…

Day 52 – Crackling

Today I made : Roast Chinese Belly of Pork with Five Spice Powder Crackling and Chinese Greens. This recipe was one of my top three favourites of the whole course. Usually I’m not a fan of rich, fatty meats which can leave me feeling nauseous but the spice rub cuts the richness and makes it…

Day 51 – Sousing and Strawberries

Today I made : Soused mackerel. Sousing – cooking in vinegar – is a method of preservation. Very medieval Scandinavian. Not something I would order myself, but a good way to practise filleting fish, and I think the shiny silver skin is beautiful, like a slinky disco dress. Strawberry tart. I used Friday’s puff pastry…

Day 50 – Rib Rolling

Today I made :Β Tuna Steak with pipperonata and Kalamata olive tapenade. I am not usually a big fan of peppers but pipperonata – pepper, tomato and basil stew – is okay with me. I had concerns about cooking tuna because I have read so much about it being endangered but I was assured this was…