Back in the cottage and briefly online this evening. The Husband and I moved into a house in Ballycotton last night with one of the other students, who had also been commuting from North Cork. After the beds had been made, the fridge stocked and the supper eaten – I used up a large bunch of carrots from last Thursday week’s market in Mitchelstown to make one of Darina’s Carrot Soups at the weekend – we had time for a long walk down through the town, followed by the best night’s sleep I’ve had since I started the course. No worries about waking an hour early to put on the immersion or getting up at 6am to get into Ballymaloe on time. I’ve never been so thankful for an electric shower and physical proximity to the location where I’ll spend my day! In Ballycotton we are also much closer to the Husband’s work place so it’s a winner all round.
Tagged: darina allen
Phew! The first week of the twelve-week course – and, according to everyone who works at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, the longest one – is over. It’s been five days of early mornings and late evenings, our heads a-swim with new techniques, terms and ideas as we try to concentrate on Darina’s afternoon demos, knowing that we will have to cook the dishes ourselves the following morning. After the initial few full-on days, it’s easier to see the course structure: we cook four mornings a week from 8.45/9am to 12pm, lunch on the food that we’ve prepared – normally a three-course meal – start afternoon demonstration at 1.45pm and go straight through until around 5pm-ish. Wednesdays are theory days. For cooking, we are divided into pairs, a teacher to every six students, working in four different kitchens. We cook at least two dishes each and then, at the end of the class, present a taster plate to our teacher for assessment.
A day that starts at 6.30am (with a wake-up at 5.30am to switch on the immersion as its timer has refused to co-operate with its owners) and continues until I step out of the car at the cottage after 7pm is, naturally enough, very tiring. When it’s the first day of the 12-week course at Ballymaloe, it is also incredibly exhilarating. Today was a whistle-stop tour of the large gardens and greenhouses at the cookery school, grabbing an Asian pear and a couple of sun-warmed dusky cherry tomatoes to eat en route, a fabulous lunch of products from local artisans and garden produce and an afternoon crammed full of demonstrations, all helmed by the ever-energetic Darina Allen. There are 58 other students from seven different countries in the class, ranging from gap year students to people looking for a career change but, no matter what you’re there for, there’s one thing certain: days are going to be long. We start at 8.45am, will take turns at collecting the fruit and vegetables needed for the day’s cooking from 8am, can volunteer to milk cows at 7.30am – and that’s before we do any cooking. Tomorrow starts with kitchen tours and, with us cooking in pairs, making our own lunch. Now, it’s time for hot chocolate and bed.
The first time I heard of Peter Gordon – the New Zealand-born, London-based chef of the Providores and Tapa Room – was when the whole Antipodean fusion cookery style was being written about in English newspapers like The Sunday Times during the early 1990s (my newspaper of choice through college although, after discovering Nigel Slater‘s food section in The Observer, I’ve never looked back!). While I lived in New Zealand in 2005, he opened a restaurant in Auckland – dine by Peter Gordon – and as a result was all over the NZ newspapers and food magazines. That’s how I came across his fantastic and much-made (it’s especially good as a Christmas pressie) Tomato and Chilli Jam recipe.
Life – in the form of friends’ weddings, new babies and house buying – has gotten in the way of updates here in the last while but, even though I haven’t been cooking or baking very much recently, it hasn’t stopped me from either eating or investigating interesting new food products. While the Boyfriend and I were down at home in County Cork last weekend, I managed to squeeze in a quick trip to my beloved English Market and Quay Co-op in Cork city and these are a few of the things that I’m trying at the moment:
In London there is a wonderful shop called Books for Cooks. A bookshop, filled with – what else – cookbooks, it is situated at 4 Blenheim Crescent in Notting Hill and is the kind of place that Sunday supplements wax lyrical about. As does anyone who visits the shop. It is small, not so very wide, and has bookshelves from floor to ceiling, crammed with hundreds upon hundreds books of amazing dishes, foods, ingredients, people. There is a cosy, albeit battered, couch in the middle of the floor, right between a piled-high table and a low shelf – just the place to sit and leaf through one of the many books that will take you on a journey to far off lands or reveal more about your own culinary surroundings. All this, and I haven’t yet got to the best bit.
One of the big advantages of being settled back in Dublin, with book shelves once again, is having all my old cookbooks to pore over and rediscover. Although I did manage to build up a fair collection in New Zealand, it couldn’t really compare to my beloved older stacks of books by Nigel Slater, Darina Allen, Tamasin Day-Lewis, Nigella Lawson and my ancient copies of the Paula Daly-written McDonnell’s Cook Books. The first and second books in this series, bought from saving up the tokens on Stork Margarine packets, were two of the first cookbooks owned by my mother.
Seeing as both Darina and Rachel have recently been assuring the readers of their cookery books that it’s become very fashionable to entertain at home instead of going out – that, and the fact that the Boyfriend and I finally have somewhere to call home – we had some friends round last week after work for hot chocolates. It was a bitterly cold evening as I made my way home from work so I decided to supplement the hot chocolates with some soup.