Thursday, 2 February 2012

Week Four and it comes as no surprise that time is flying. In the evenings I usually come home, get a bite to eat and somehow musture up the energy to do some exercise, gotta keep the pounds off, or so I thought!! Being a skinny fella I expected my time in Ballymaloe would help me to put on weight. A three course meal every day, without fail, rich but healthy foods and lots of nibbles would in theory help to pile on the pounds….or so you would think. As strange as it may sound I was driving home to Dublin on Friday evening I was looking forward to getting on the weighing scales, optimistic that I would have put some meat on my bones. Not a chance! Got home, onto the scales and not an ounce heavier. God damn fast metabolism!!! Miche and Stu looks like I will certainly be winning that middle age spread bet, come the ripe old age of 35!!Ha ha!!

Ballycotton Shrimp with Homemade Mayo
Instead of driving back down to Cork on Sunday I decided to leave early Monday morning. As usual I was very excited to get back to a place which is gradually becoming somewhere that feels like home, the kitchen. Driving along the M8 at 6.45 and a song came on the radio. One of my favourites, Green Day “Time of your Life” This song reminds me of a school friend who tragically passed away in 2005. My thoughts moved to my cousin who also tragically passed away 2 years ago under circumstances very close to home. Two young guys with everything to live for! It was this song/moment that made me realise that you have to make the most of life.  Strangely this brought a smile to my face knowing that I had upped sticks from a safe job to follow a passion and it is something everyone should do. Life is too short so make the most of it!!!!! ; )

Same again but with some cucumber & onion pickle

Darina is away in India for a few weeks so Rory and Rachel are running the school. My menu on Monday consisted of roast Guinea Fowl with potatoe and parsnip crisps, gravy and redcurrant sauce. Surprinsgly my mornings cooking went very well and my teacher was very happy with the fruits of my labours. I have to apologise because I bring my phone to class every day with the intention to take a photo of the dishes I have cooked but I am so eager to dig in and try the dishes that I forget. It’s after I have mangled the dish and eaten the majority of the food on the plate and think “Hmm I forgot to take photo’s again, must remember tomorrow!” but I usually never remember. I have a head like a sieve ; )

My Apple Pie from last Friday with whats supposed to be a love heart in the centre. Tasted great!

Wednesday’s morning lecture was given by the sommelier of Ballymaloe House and the head of Australian wines in Ireland John McDonnell. He introduced us to various wines from Australia. As I said in one of my previous blogs my knowledge of wine is terrible, something I really have to brush up on before the exams.  As you do, 10.00am on a Wednesday, sipping away on a sparkling white wine, followed by a selection of other wines from Australia and Germany. I learnt so much about Champagnes and wines, some of which I think I will share. I am sure for the experts in the house this will be a bore but for a beginner like me I was all ears. Considering there is so much wine in the world Australia supply 25% of the wine to the Irish market and produce about 4% of the world’s wine, the same amount as the region of Bordeaux. To some it may seem obvious but I didn’t realise that you can make white wine out of red grapes as long as you omit the skin of the red grape as this is what gives red wines it juicy red colour. The root of grape growing, the vines, have various maturing times. In the first 3 years a vine is at its growing stage and won’t really produce any grapes for wine making. 3 – 10 year old vines and they begin to produce grapes for wine making but the quality of the grape is not that grape, oh I mean great. Gradually over the years the quality gets better but it is not until a vine is 40 years plus that the quality is exceptional. Believe it or not some wines may contain fish eggs. Adding fish eggs to wine is a process called “fining”.  Fish eggs or egg whites are added to the vat of wine which helps to remove sediment and floaties (have not a clue what floaties are) and the fish eggs are heavier than the liquid and therefore sink all the unwanted extra’s to the bottom of the vat thus effectively cleaning the wine.

 Wine is all in a worlds of it’s own but there is always a special occasion that calls for a bottle of bubbly. Champagne can only be produced in the Champagne region in France in order to carry the name, similarly balsamic vinegar can only be called balsamic vinegar so long as it was produced in Modena, Italy. How does champagne get its bubbles I hear you ask! Well wine ferments and then is bottled and a second fermentation is allowed to take place in the bottle which produces CO2 and results in bubbles trapped in the bottle. Next time you decide to buy a bottle of champagne check out the label and see if it says traditional. This was the original method of making champagne where the bottles filled with the bubbly is very very gradually turned,  either by hand or by a a machine called a gyro plate, until the neck of the bottle faces the ground and all the excess sediment has settled in the neck. This process happens from anything between 2-5 years. The neck of the bottle is then put into a brine mixture just below 0 degrees which freezes the sediment. The frozen sediment is then removed, the bottle is topped up with fresh Champagne and then capped. The other method, known as the “Transfer method” involves pouring all the Champagne into a pressurised vat (this keeps all the bubbles in). The sediment sinks to the bottom and then the Champagne is removed via a tap. I sincerely hope I haven’t bored you but I thought it was a very interesting morning topped by a few glasses of wine.

Wednesday afternoons lecture was simply titled “Afternoon Tea”. It consisted of some delicate delights demoed by Rory. Tunisian orange cake, cup cakes and sandwiches were whipped up. Not just any sandwiches but sandwiches made and carved from the inside loaf of bread and served in its own crust. Check out the photo below. I was fascinated by this idea and even more fascinated to find out that, in London, one would expect to pay £60 for such a loaf of bread. A great idea and one that I will certainly try my hand at!! Watch this space.

The chest of Sanwiches

It was announced on Monday that in just two weeks time we will have our first set of exams. They will consist of a identifying various herbs and salad leaves and we will also be required to perfect some techniques such as chopping and sweating an onion, segmenting oranges and making the perfect short crust pastry. I have been practising some of these techniques with the spare few minutes I get in the mornings cooking so I will continue to do so and hope that I can pass with flying colours.

Rory's Whisked Sponge

Blog again soon, going to enjoy my weekend in Dublin and start to prepare for the exams. Happy eating folks!!Nom nom nom nom!!!!!!!!!!! 

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