Thursday, October 8, 2009


Day Nineteen at the Ballymaloe Cookery School was all that it was cracked up to be. I got in early to weigh my ingredients in peace with a hot cup of tea. I was on "biscuit duty", which meant that, in addition to my other assigned dishes, I had to make a batch of my choice of biscuits for the student lunch (I chose chocolate chip cookies, obviously). I got started quickly on my apple jelly, moved onto strawberry sorbet, hand-rolled my hand-made flour tortillas, and then finished with some Parmesan and cayenne pepper chips. The jelly was fantastic (or "grand" as they say over here), the sorbet was easy (thanks to the ice cream machine), and the flour tortillas were neither fantastic, nor grand, nor easy. It's not that the technique is all that difficult. It is that, after 2 or 3 hand rolled bits of dough, you are ready to throw in your sombrero and buy some tortillas at the grocery store (after all, life is short). I would happily pour my heart into them for a romantic dinner for two (just to show off), but I wouldn't suggest sweating over hundreds for a large crowd.

Lunch was delicious. Along with the things I prepared, we ate quesadillas, homemade salsa and guacamole, a delicious black eyed bean side dish, fresh green salad, and various sorbet flavors for desert (including coconut!). It was fun to have a true Mexican feast, making me feel slightly closer to home. After a quick break (where I managed to reserve a rental car to host my American visitors this weekend!), the afternoon demonstration started. Rory showed us how to make almond tarts or tartlets with various fresh fruit (see below), chicken liver pate with melba toast (I am trying my hardest to acquire a taste for pate), and white yeast bread (which he braided and knotted into all sorts of fun shapes and loaves!). We also poached some cod in milk and then used the milk to make a mornay sauce to go with the fish. A mornay sauce is basically a bechamel sauce (your basic white sauce), but with cheese added.

After class and some yoga, I (along with some others) took advantage of a Thursday night and hit the local pub! Cork has a couple of local stout brewers, most notably Beamish and Murphy's. I've been "buying local" recently, and they give Guinness a run for its money!

Since it's late (and I'm tired!), I'll cut to the chase!

- Serve pate slightly chilled (not at room temp, and definitely not heated!)

- "If you cut down on the butter when making pate, it will not be as good" - Rory. That being said, he proceeded to add enough butter to make the Jolly Green Giant's heart stop.

- When you freeze something (for example, ice cream), the chill dulls the flavor. Keep this in mind when seasoning a dish before it is frozen. Ice creams and sorbets will always taste sweeter (too sweet!) in their liquid state.

- When working with roux to thicken a sauce, always whisk the roux into sauce that is boiling. This will ensure that the roux gets evenly incorporated into the whole sauce.

- When buying ground almonds, check the label to make sure that the only ingredient is almonds (sometimes producers add breadcrumbs to the mix because they are cheaper). Unlike a lot of the spices I've been ranting about, ground almonds are actually better to buy pre-ground. If you try to grind them yourself, you won't be able to grind them finely enough.

- When glazing a fruit tart (which, by the way, is not an essential step), use apricot glaze (basically watered down apricot jam) for tarts containing yellow, white or green fruit. Use redcurrant glaze (thinned redcurrant jelly) for tarts with red, blue or purple fruit.

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