Friday, 7 August 2009
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
- Lots of visitors - even those who thought I was crazy in my cookery quest came to visit
- A love of meat again - fillet steak is my friend
- A trip mackerel fishing where I scored on two counts - didnt vomit and actually caught some fish (not that I could gut or eat them due to seasickness)!
- Lessons on how to cook lobsters - yum if not entirely scary
- A weeks work experience in Ballymaloe House and Cafe - where I cooked for a Michelin starred chef and made more cheese biscuits than will be needed for the coming 3 months
- Lessons on how to skim a stone - failed this one miserably
- A jump from the cliffs into the sea and many beach swims, with jellyfish - I am your hero
- Many, many cuts and burns on my hands. When I am 90 I will point at some of these scars and have some bloody fantastic tales to tell though
- At least 7 pounds of lard deposited on my body - not bad given that we are meant to consume a pound of butter a week
- A schedule of a good 5 weeks workouts to shift said weight from my body before I next see a beach
- A love for butter, softly whipped cream and herb garnishes and an understanding that it will be difficult to survive in a city without those herb garnishes at hand at all times.
- A desire to never eat sliced pan again - it will be homemade bread all the way
- Chats with the empire building Darina Allen and her husband Tim who are truly inspiring
- One on one bread making classes with the fabulous Tim
- A sourdough starter called Peggy which will no doubt last a lifetime making amazing breads (of whose offspring I am currently eating while typing)
- A new collection of jams, candied peel, stock and kitchen bits and pieces to bring home with me along with 4 over flowing folders of recipes
- The promise of 2 hens to arrive in September for daily fresh eggs
- To insult a famous chef and then eat in his fantastic restaurant and have him apologise however quietly
- A visit to an amazing cheesemaker who makes the cheese that has given me at least one of these pounds on my hips.
- Demonstrations and talks from some very inspiring food producers
- My first A in an exam in years - 89% in my wine exam (which I wasnt planning on taking at all as was feeling like I knew nothing)
- Fear in most of my friends about choice of restaurant and wine!
- To meet and befriend such a varied group of people including a 3 time World Champion and Olympic rower (and yes I got to touch thse medal and god knows youd need to have some neck to be able to carry it), a surfer who surfed for Tahiti, a possible squillionaire eating his way around the world and some very cool wasters like myself.
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
To get that meat out (something that does look like it could be a lot of hassle) you should stick your knife in right at the cross in the middle of his head and cut down towards the front of the head. Then turn the lobster around on the chopping board and chop down in the opposite direction towards the tail. It should look something like the above but dont worry if it looks really green, that just means its not fully cooked - fry it up in a some butter until all the green turns pink. There is quite a bit of meat in the big claws too (dont worry too much about those small ones.
You could also put this into a nice creamy winey mushroom sauce and return to the shells as we did or just eat it from the pot dipping it into melted butter as you go.
For a bloody scary looking (and sounding) creature these were fantastic, well worth a try.
Friday, 10 July 2009
I promise to update next week when I will be hanging around the area with far less homework to do (but some work to do all the same - more on that later). For now I hope you can keep yourself amused with some of the pictures I have taken over these past amazing 12 weeks.
Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Rather than call him anything with the words molecular in it I will refer to him as a food magician going forwards as given the quality and taste of his food creations the word chef just seems far too plain of a word for him. He did say that I am allowed say that he smoked a lot in his youth which may partly have influenced his fantastic food creations and pointed out that he was right to defend his honour as "only the paranoid survive".
Our night for dinner last week happened to coincide with fabulous weather and Martijns birthday. The Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore sits on a stunning part of the coastline which on that evening felt very like the Mediterranean and I would imagine even when the weather is awful is still a very fabulous place to spend a few days.
After a glass or two of prosecco on the terrace we went in for the full 8 course tasting menu which my words are far too inadequate to describe so hopefully the photos and some descriptions will give you an idea.
First off the following three dishes were brought as an Amuse Bouche:
This was a test tube of apple and tarragon gazpacho and a celeriac icecream with ham crumbs and coriander blossom. The bread it was served in wasnt for eating (although we did try).
Next a semi-dried cherry tomato with a pipette of tomato juice, gin and celery salt along with a crostini with broccoli puree and a black olive. Some amusement was to be had as to how exactly we were to ingest the pipette.
Then onto a Helvic Oyster and Guinness - an oyster meringue with gooseberry and hazelnut. Are you beginning to see why I call him a food magician yet? We are still only on the Amuse Bouche! This came with a lovely glass of Gruner Veltiner.Next we had what was described as West Cork Scallops with Green Asparagus Textures and Mizuna. There were at least 4 textures of asparagus here between the deep fried with a scallop roe popcorn, jelly cubes, powder and raw shavings along with the most perfectly cooked scallops to have ever crossed my lips.
Then we had some "Local Suffolk Lamb with Apple Mint, Broad beans and Verjus 8 Brix". Fresh new peas and broad beans have been my absolute favourite veg over the last few months on an organic farm so this course had me beaming and wondering was everyone else drunk enough yet for me to be allowed lick the plate (the answer was no). From this stage on my photos get a bit blurrier due to it getting a bit darker outside and my hands getting a bit shakier.
The next course arrived like this to a very much stunned hush despite the fact that we had all seen the word smoke on the description in the menu (Organic Clare Island Salmon, Carrot, Marsh Samphire and Smoke)
Once the domes were removed there was a rush of smoke (unphotographable at this stage of the night) followed be a view of salmon presented in a number of different ways from a lollipop to an iced mouse and the most perfect eggs which werent eggs at all but salmon juice magically conjured into eggs using a calcium chloride bath. These little eggs had the whole table purring with delight.As our final savoury course we had "Skeaghanore Duck with Beetroot, Sweet Potato and Amaranth Spinach". The meat once again was perfect along with the few different types of beetroot -gel, chip and boiled (and how lovely it is to see beetroot on menus when its in season). Surprisingly it was still too early in the night for me to be licking my plate despite the fact that at this stage we were onto Wine number 4 if not further along.
Next onto the Pre Dessert of a Lemon Verbena tea sorbet and a lovely white chocolate with lemon peel and pop rock which was so fantastic that there wasnt one left on the table by the time my camera was at the ready.
Should I ever get to chose a last meal then I will have at least a pre-dessert and 2 desserts to follow so these few remaining courses were very much my cup of tea. This "Strawberry Collection 2009" comprised of a sorbet, a strawberry dipped in caramel, a coulis, powder, a consomme infused with elderflower, an infusion with verjus and a honey custard made of soya milk (not pictured). To say that Martijn got every possible last bit out of the strawberries is a massive understatement.
Finally then we had what was described as "Dark Chocolate 70%, Coffee Ice, Olive Oil and Sea Salt" which comprised of a mousse in a chocolate curl, some white coffee ice cream, a white chocolate parfait with a popping mini malteaser and some olive oil dehydrated with tapioca flour.
The quality of the local produce (some even sourced from the hotel gardens) and the work that goes into putting this food together is well worth every penny you pay for this menu, even if the service, atmosphere and view were not all as impeccable as they are. Despite the fact that Martijn wont be giving me a job any time soon for my misuse of a certain term I really enjoyed my meal and am looking forward to his forthcoming book and hopefully another trip to visit!
PS. Thanks to the lovely Charlotte J who was wise enough to bring a pen and write down some of the descriptions of the foods!
Monday, 8 June 2009
Thursday, 21 May 2009
The weather has been completely unpredictable for the last few weeks but most mornings I have walked to school which is such a massive change from sitting for half an hour on the M50 that I cant even complain too much when I get caught in a shower. Theres me in the mirror outside the farm between my house and the school
4 mornings a week we are in the kitchens cooking the food that was demonstrated to us the afternoon before. Most people make it in for around 8:30 when we start weighing ingredients for that mornings cooking. The students are divided out between 4 different kitchens and we move stations, sometimes kitchen and change cooking partner every week. There is one teacher to every six of us in the kitchen who keeps an eye on how we are getting on and marks us at the end of the morning.
Yesterday I made caramel eclairs, a provencale bean stew and filleted a flat fish. We present the foods to the teachers at 11:30 with the goal of then sitting down to eat by 12. Mostly we are doing well if we are eating by 12:30
Depending on how the mornings cooking went we have a nice leisurely lunch or barely get to sit down before going in to watch the demonstration for the afternoon at 2. Every day we have either Darina Allen, Rory O'Connel or Rachel Allen demonstrate the foods we will be cooking the following day. All 64 of us sit in rows watching the everything going on through a massive mirror above the workstation and tvs showing the centre of the counter top.
Yesterday afternoon my sourdough bread also had its final rise so I stuck it in for baking while we had a wine tasting of Spanish wines. Normally we have wine lectures and tasting as part of our one theory day a week but for some reason this week we had our tasting after class. Wine tasting would definitely be in my top favourite parts of the course if it wasnt for the thoughts of an exam on wine looming in a few weeks time. Unless this exam asks only one question (whether I like a certain wine or not) I suspect I may be screwed.My sourdough loaves came out beautifully, who would have thought that the above loaves are made only of flour, salt and water?
Thursday, 14 May 2009
For your viewing horror, here are some cakes:
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Duck Liver Pate with Walnut and Raisin toast (not in picture as I ate it)
Roast Ballycotton Turbot with Watercress, Redcurrant and Shallot butter
Hot buttered Castletownbere Oysters on Toast
Pan-fried Ballycotton John Dory with Scallops and Garden Asparagus (Did I mention that Im never coming home again?)
Caramel Ice cream, served with caramel from the Ballymaloe Dessert Trolley
PS - I didnt cook in Ballymaloe house - just sat around, watched, poked at things and took photos
Wednesday, 29 April 2009
- Rosemary will only thrive in a house where the woman wears the pants
- That white bit of the rhubarb that you always cut off is meant to be the sweetest
- Some of the foreign people on our course think that cats are milked in Ireland
- Keep an eye on your oven or people will change the temperature and stick something else in
- You can make a wish on new potatoes
- Darina gets her nails done for the Late Late show
- Rhubarb leaves are poisonous to us but not to hens
- Alcohol levels in wine are rising which is apparently a factor of global warming!
- If you are sick 20 minutes within eating something its an allergy rather than food poisoning
- Them knives there they are sharp, do not be thinking about anything other than the knives when washing them or you will end up with stitches
- The whey from making parmesan cheese is fed to the pigs who produce parma ham
- Fat in meat holds the toxins - a good enough reason to not eat fat or non organic meats
- Turmeric is an antiseptic
- The smaller the potato chips the hotter your oil should be
- The cross in soda bread is to let out the fairies
Tomorrow Im working for the night (as much as one can with only 9 functioning fingers) in Ballymaloe House. Some day soon I will be putting in a night in Arbutus. At the weekend I will be drinking a lot of wine at a wine tasting workshop and walking the beaches and cliffs. It feels like years, not weeks ago that I was sitting in an office!
The photos are adding up here if you want more of an idea what my day looks like.