Ballymaloe Cookery Course: Week 8: Sunday
Some days, after the morning’s cooking, you feel on top of the world; others leave you feeling like you never want to set foot in a kitchen again! Thursday was one of those days. I had a simple enough list of things to cook – Pan-grilled Steak with Béarnaise Sauce, Cauliflower Cheese and Pommes Allumettes (matchstick-thin chipped potatoes). I was also on lemonade duty (which reminds me: did that jug of lemonade ever make it to the dining room? I got out of the kitchen so late that I completely forgot about it!) and decided to get another bread ticked off my technique list so made a Stripy Cat, a soda bread flecked with chocolate and, because I love that combination, orange rind.
Everything seemed to take much longer than anticipated. Before long it was 11.45am, I was watching two ovens, trying to put a smoked fish starter plate together (hadn’t taken that one into account, had I!) with one hand while whisking the living daylights out of my Béarnaise with the other. My partner and half the kitchen had already cooked their steaks and, if there’s one thing that makes you feel really behind with things, it’s when the kitchen empties around you while you’re still struggling. I finally managed to get everything done and tasted – the steak was grand, not brilliant, but I was well beyond caring at that stage – and then I discovered our large saucepan was missing. Every day all the items that are supposed to live in each colour-coded section are checked by the teachers and missing things are the bane of our lives. By the time I had traipsed around the other three kitchens (still no sign) and got the ok to leave, lunch was almost cleared away and I was in a right grump.
Sitting with the few that were still lingering over lunch, it seemed that few people had an easy morning. These crises of confidence – I can’t cook, I’m totally disorganised, what on earth am I doing here? – are something that hit us all at different stages, especially when you’ve left your job to do this course! Then it’s good to take a step back, grab a cup of coffee to drink somewhere quiet and calm outside and have some quality chill-out time watching the chickens scratch for beetles under the moss on the steps.
Fortunately, an enjoyable afternoon demo with Rory O’Connor where he efficiently worked his way through an assortment of delicious terrines, crepes and the involved technique for making flaky pastry greatly restored equilibrium, as did some morale-boosting chats with fellow classmates. Although I would have liked the opportunity to make those dishes myself, I walked out of school on Thursday very glad to have the following day off as I was going to a wedding in Killarney. A few days away from the kitchen and I’m gingerly looking forward to getting back there tomorrow. Best start studying those recipes…