Week three – a new partner and, this time round, a new kitchen. I’m cooking in the demo area this week. Lots of space and, with only eight people working there, a calmer atmosphere. Apart from when I discover, at the last minute on Monday, that I’m on cheeseboard duty and have to throw a batch of Cheese Biscuits together at the last minute!
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.
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.
In the summertime I love to cook quiches and tarts – although I do have to admit that I often cheat and use ready-made frozen pastry. When I’ve time to actually make the pastry as well as the quiche (all too often it becomes a trade-off), I use Susan Loomis‘ short, sumptuous and food processor-friendly recipe but, last Friday, with our Scottish ex-NZ Housemates coming round for dinner, there simply wasn’t time. I ditched the idea of making the pastry but, while talking to our guests from the kitchen and getting some salad together, I did manage to give the onions enough cooking time so that they were meltingly sweet and a really good base for the rest of the flavours – pungent smoked bacon and sharp mature cheddar cheese.
Walnuts in New Zealand are fantastic. Not only can you buy the boutique, high-quality nuts that are widely grown in this country – there’s even a Christchurch-based grower and processor that glories in the name A Cracker of a Nut – but even the imports are of a far better quality than we normally see in Ireland.