Friday, 24 February 2012

Half Way!!

Half Way

Shorbread biscuits sandwiched with raspberries, fresh cream & dotted with raspberry fool
So we are in week seven now and I know I say it every blog but the time is just flying!! Last week we had exams which created some anxious students, myself included. With the time going so fast I want to press  pause, the friends for life that I have made, all the things I have learned and generally just having the time of my life is leaving me sad that in five weeks time it will all be over L. I am the kind of person to look on life as the glass is half full as opposed to half empty so I am trying not to think about the end, I am just enjoying the journey and making the most of it. Yes I will then start on a new journey in my life, who knows where it will take me,  but I will not have the chance to spend a more fantastic twelve weeks of my life with what I consider to be my extended family down here in Ballymaloe. These short twelve weeks will be a time I will always remember. When I am 70 I will be able to cast my memory back to all the fun times spent in Mrs. Walshes cottage and all the nights in Ballycotton having a few pints in the Blackbird after a stressful week with all the gang, sighing because the short crust was too thick or a complaint of that manor. Time please slow down!!!!!

As I mentioned week six consisted of two types of exams containing a few different elements. In the first exam we had to identify 10 different herbs (submitting 2 recipes we had done for every herb) and 10 different salad leaves by touch,  taste and obviously by looking at them. We then had to present and pour a glass of wine as you would in any good restaurant. This was followed by putting out a place setting specific to the menu, for instance I was asked to set the table for a 3 course meal with soup. Usually you would have 2 knives and 2 forks however because it was a 3 course meal with soup as the starter you omit the salad fork, (small fork) which I did thankfully, and place a soup spoon on the outside of the starter knife.

Valentines Day in Ballymaloe

Potted shrimp with chilli & garlic
After this we waited patiently and we were called into kitchen 2 where the practical side of the exam took place. Techniques such as segmenting a citrus fruit, frying, scrambling and poaching eggs (the Ballymaloe way) filleting a fish, jointing a chicken and various other techniques were expected of us. It was done by complete lottery ,  fortunately my practical consisted of frying an egg, segmenting an orange and every student had to make a paper piping bag and chop and sweat an onion. I was happy with this but I felt slightly cheated that I didn’t have to do something more challenging but I suppose it was the luck of the draw. I had practised jointing a chicken and filleting a fish a couple of times so I was nearly expecting to have to do these techniques but it wasn’t to be. Results came through and I got 88% for my herb and salad identification exam and 100% for the practical so I was happy with that. I knew I had confused a few herbs in the exam so I was not expecting to get full marks but I was very optimistic about the practical results seen as I considered it to be easy.

So back to the food and we have had a few different days in the time since my last blog. Tapas, pizzas and choux pastry were the main events of last week. The pizza demo was on Friday morning and Rory managed to create so many mouth water pizzas and dough related meals. Like most people I love pizza, especially a good one and it is something I would like to possible pursue in the future with regards to a traditional pizzeria in Ireland or wherever I end up? Again I do enjoy the odd tapas and I love the whole experience of a tapas restaurant because you get a little bit of everything. There is nothing more frustrating when you go to a nice restaurant and you would happily order everything on the menu. This is why tapas is so great because you can order a few dishes to share. It is a trend really taking off in Ireland at the moment and London is a particular hotspot with several successful tapas bars popping up.

A choux heart

Raw Ingredients
The Result
Choux pastry = profiteroles and who doesn’t love profiteroles stuffed with cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce!? We learned how to make choux last week and it is surprisingly easy to do but the consistency of the mixture is vital so once you do it right then it’s plain sailing…….famous last words I hope not!! With the watchful eye of my teacher Florie, she guided me to making the perfect profiteroles. I was delighted with them and so was she. More importantly they tasted exactly how they are supposed to, DELICIOUS!!! See the photo's. I thought it would be interesting to take a photo of all the raw ingredients for the choux pastry profiteroles and then to take a photo of the final result. This is what I love about cooking, taking a few fresh ingredients and turning them in to something delicious which most importantly puts a smile on someone’s face. That’s what it is all about in my opinion, cooking food to make people happy. It is a simple as that!! Whether it is beans on toast or a Michelin standard plate of food, if it puts a smile on someones face then you have succeeded J

Darina said on the first day that we will be competent cooks come the end of the course and up until week five I didn’t think I had progressed as much as I had hoped. However come week six, and this week my opinion has changed. I am managing to stick to my order of work each day, getting plated up on time and using the various techniques I have learned in my every day cooking in a competent fashion. Before I came to Ballymaloe I had set it in my head that once the course had finished I would be able to cook anything. I wasn’t na├»ve but I don’t think anything can really prepare you for a commercial, fast paced kitchen. Yes life in Ballymaloe is fast paced, we hardly get a minute to ourselves, but in reality a commercial kitchen is something that has to be experienced by an individual to really get the hang of things. It is here, in Ballymaloe, where I feel that as a student of the school I will come in to my own because I will have learned all the techniques that come with being a chef and I will be able to put them in to practise once I land my first job.

As a person who very much enjoys going out to restaurants I am very much a savoury kind of guy. For a lot of people dessert is the highlight of a meal and that is fine but for me it has got to be savoury. Don’t get me wrong I love a great dessert as much as the next person but give me a great main course any day. Funnily enough since starting in the school and I have learned that in fact I think I prefer to prepare desserts, puddings, biscuits and all things sweet. I find it easier to plate up a delicious apple tart of even a few profiteroles and make it look pretty. I enjoy the presentation side of the food afterall we eat with our eyes first. In demo every afternoon I find myself day dreaming off and thinking of how I could present the dish I will cook the following day? How can I make it look prettier?(It is ok for a guy to use the word prettier when he is talking about food, just putting it out there). My mind runs away with myself and I really look forward to plating up and challenging myself to make my plate of food look incredible. Of course it’s a given that the food must taste as good as it looks but make a plate of food, delicately put it together piece by piece, like a jigsaw that you have done before, to serve up and hopefully put a smile of a face!


I am off to eat my chilli con carne now, I made it last week and portioned it in to plastic containers for evenings like this when I don’t feel like cooking.

Dream Big!!
Meringues anyone?

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