I love experimenting with and learning different cooking techniques, especially if they involve playing with yeast. No Knead Bread? Yes please! Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Made that. Sourdough from my own starter? Still bubbling quietly away in the fridge. But grilled or barbequed pizza? Not yet – that was until I got my hands on a copy of Craig Priebe’s Grilled Pizzas & Piadinas. Craig developed his grilling technique, using a barbeque, when he ran his own pizza restaurant in Atlanta and this book explains it in detail. When we did the pizza day in Ballymaloe, Darina cooked one of her creations on the barbeque outside the demo theatre door but, more fascinated by the wood-fired oven, I didn’t hang around in the rain, instead directing my attentions indoors so I never got to investigate the barbequed pizza properly.
Tagged: Ballymaloe cookery school gardens
Christmas is coming/The goose is getting fat… and it’s more than time to have your Christmas lists made and almost completed. This year, between living out of the city and being completely immersed in the Ballymaloe Cookery Course, it’s almost crept up on me – and I know that I’m not the only one! Here are a few present ideas for your similarly-food orientated friends.
Practical exam over since Wednesday – not very happy with it but delighted that it is over – and two of our three final papers also done. It’s the final countdown to 3.30pm, the end of exams and the end of cooking school. Tonight there’s a class dinner at Ballymaloe House then it’s back to Ballycotton’s Blackbird for the rest of the evening. Just that final exam to get through first…
Yesterday we had our last day of cooking in Kitchen Three. It’s hard to believe that we’re into the final few days of the course already. At least I got to murder my first lobster before we finished up, for yesterday’s Lobster with Cream and Fresh Herb lunch. The other dish I made was a Walnut and Armagnac tart with a really short, biscuity pastry and – of course – another pair of sourdough loaves. Had a bit of a disaster with the bread on Friday, however, as I forgot to put in the salt so it misbehaved and didn’t turn out very well. At least the loaves yesterday were much better, which is a relief as I’m hoping to use the bread toasted under the cheese in my exam starter – A Warm Salad of Ardsallagh Goat’s Cheese with Walnut Oil Dressing. After morning demo today, many of us have Cook Ahead time – my Yoghurt and Cardamom Cream needs to set overnight and at least that will be one less thing to worry about tomorrow although the time will be taken off. It’s nice to think that I might get the whole dinner and bread cooked in three hours but, at this stage, I’m not so pushed about that. I just want to get finished!
Wine exam over – phew! – so it’s now time to get stuck into revision for next week’s theory papers. Meanwhile, we’re treating ourselves very well in the house. I made my second pair of sourdough loaves yesterday and, when I brought them home, the Ranelagh Housemate produced his home-cured bacon so we had the Best Bacon Butties Ever with our homemade bread and bacon, followed by a side order of Homemade Noodles with Chicken Liver Sauce for the Husband, scrounged from school for the Husband.
Congratulations to Anne Kennedy over on Greatfood.ie who has got her new fine food and ingredient gift shop – Greatfood2buy.com – off the ground in perfect time for Christmas. I know she has been cooking and testing for the Greatfood.ie range of chutneys, preserves and jams – Wild Cranberry and Apple Relish sounds especially good and I think I’ll have to pick up a jar of Onion Marmalade with Plums and Port for myself. Living in the countryside, it’s not always easy to get your hands on things like puy lentils, verjuice, organic polenta, lavender honey, quality spices or my favourite argan oil but Anne has put together a great selection of products that can be all yours in the click of a button (if you have the use of a handy credit card…) She also has the award-winning Castle Leslie range of balsamic reductions for sale – a bottle of their Balsamic Reduction with Sherry and Fig has gone down a treat in this house, with spoonfuls being tasted at regular intervals. I have great plans to use it on some pan-fried duck breasts, if it ever makes it all the way to the kitchen. Watch out next week for Greatfood.ie’s Flavour of Italy range, including fine pasta, mostarda gift sets, Italian dolci and wine.
Today everything clicked into place, despite last night being a late one with the Sister at a musical evening in Ballymaloe House and lots of red wine! I was in at 8am on gardening duty with the ever-perky red-socked gardener. The two of us whizzed around the greenhouse or, rather, she whizzed – I plodded along behind at half speed – gathering quantities of parsley, chervil, coriander, kale and Swiss chard, which we then sorted, washed and labelled back at school.
Last week I had a really good time in the kitchen with lots of ideas for my final three-course exam meal. We have to have the menu and a detailed list of ingredients in for Wednesday, alongside the occasion for the meal, the reason for the choice of menu and accompanying wines. I’ve been toying with cooking Shanagary Chicken Casserole but, the closer I get to the deadline, the more I’m veering towards a duck dish, maybe the Pan-Grilled Duck Breast with Spiced Lentils and Caramelised Apples that I made on Friday or the Duck Legs with Onions that we also cooked that morning. We have three courses, along with a bread – allocated by lottery – to be prepared in three hours and we’re penalised if we go over time. Conversations revolve around the pros and cons of different dishes, my head is full of menu permutations and I’m also working on the latest collection of short First Course pieces for Intermezzo magazine. Is it any wonder that I dream of cooking food every night?!