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 menu was very simple, for an occasion like a casual dinner party with friends.
(I was under time pressure when plating up so the pictures were rushed. Embarrassingly, there are smudges on some of the plates. I can assure you I wiped them away before serving my food to the judges (Rory, Rachel and Isaac) but didn’t have time to re-photograph anything.)
Spicy Indian Meatballs with Pomegranate and Coriander Raita.
This recipe was actually a canapé but I made them a bigger to serve as a starter. I garnished with French marigolds (turns out the ones with longer petals are Tunisian, these are French).
Black Eyed Beans with Mushrooms
I made this hearty vegetarian dish early in the course and loved it. I know it’s more normal to do a vegetarian starter and meaty main but I flipped it around. I’m not a huge carnivore and it is kind of Third Plate-esque – less meat for sustainability.
Yoghurt and Cardamom Creams with Mango and Passionfruit Compote.
This dessert was a revelation to me. It encapsulates Ballymaloe – something really simple can taste spectacular when you use good ingredients.
Madhur Jaffrey’s Perky, Pungent Green Salad. A simple arrangement of leaves with a soy-sesame dressing. It’s not Ballymaloe if there aren’t flowers in your salad. I chose a nasturtium blossom and Tunisian Marigold petals.
Brown Yeast Bread
I was in such a rush by the end I forgot to take a picture of it. We were assigned bread at random. Others had to make white yeast bread into individual dinner rolls and plaits which is very time consuming. This one is the quickest there is. Thank you, bread Gods! If I could have chosen my own I would have made something more relevant to the meal like naan or chapati.
I don’t think this meal was the best I produced at Ballymaloe but I was happy enough with it. I may sound like a hippy but I truly believe your energy goes into the food you prepare. I was stressed while cooking this. I didn’t realise how stressed I was until I cut myself washing my knives with 30 minutes to go. It wasn’t a serious cut but my teacher whisked me into the bathroom where I promptly erupted into tears and spent 10 minutes hyperventilating. She kindly stopped the clock and gave me time to take a break to compose myself. It was actually perfect timing, I went in for the final push feeling recharged and refreshed!
Line of the day : ‘Don’t be a sheep!’ Chef Pam counselling me during a moment of self doubt. Everyone around me was doing things that seemed much more technical – I felt like I was the only one not jointing an animal! You just have to be yourself.