Thursday, October 15, 2009


Yesterday's tea and cake demonstration (the tasting pictured above) inspired everyone this morning to awaken his or her inner baker and whip up all varieties of sweets. Chocolate and coffee buttercream icings, lemon sponge cakes, crystallized flowers and homemade candied peel - you name it, I ate it. I actually did not make a cake, but was the self-proclaimed "taster" of everyone's frosting and/or batter. A couple of my classmate's cakes are pictured below (I won't take the credit)! For my part, I started a batch of strawberry jam (it sits overnight to help the setting process... I'll finish it tomorrow) and made tomatilla salsa (salsa verde) and chilaquiles verdes (I'd be lying if I said this was anything more complicated than a chips and salsa casserole). Because I had extra time, I made some pastry and lined a tart ring for practice (READ: over-achiever).

At lunch, we had our choice of a Thai-Spiced squash soup or a spiced chick pea soup to start. For our main course we ate various chicken salads like a Vietnamese version with shredded chicken, lime juice and mint and a traditional Curried Chicken with mango and cashews. As if we needed dessert after this feast, all the morning's cakes were set out and students went at it!

For our afternoon demonstration, we learned how to make various green soups (watercress soup, spinach soup, kale soup, etc), a "bacon chop" with Irish whiskey sauce (this dish is 100% guaranteed to stop your heart), and an apple and blackberry tart. The bacon chop is cut from a loin of bacon, which comes from the lower back of the pig (not to be confused with our breakfast "streaky bacon" from the lower stomach region). The bacon chop has a consistency more like pork than bacon.

Some bits of information:

- Meat from a freshly slaughtered pig is called pork. It only becomes Ham or Bacon when it is salted.

- Do not poach an egg with vinegar in the boiling water (which supposedly discourages the egg from separating). It completely ruins the flavor. If you are worried about losing a little egg white in the poaching process, get the freshest egg you can lay your hands on and it won't separate nearly as much.

- If you are making any type of green soup, add the green (spinach, kale, etc) as close to serving as possible so that the soup maintains a vibrant green color. The longer a green soup sits, the less vibrant it becomes. Do not cover it, or the steam will further dull the color.

- If you are making meringues and they get a little soft over time, you can always put them back in the oven to crisp up.

- When working with whisked egg whites (for meringues, cakes, mouses, etc), do not whisk your egg whites too far in advance of folding them in, or they will deflate.

- Unlike black tea, make green tea with hot but not boiling water.

- Green tea takes about 2 minutes to steep, while black tea can take up to 5.

- Myrtle Allen, the grande dame of the Ballymaloe House, had to be taught by her husband how to scramble an egg when she returned from her honeymoon. Every great cook has to start somewhere!

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