Bidding farewell to week 3 in Ballymaloe Cookery School. Nestled in my cottage by the stove and a hot cuppa steaming beside me. Downtime at Ballymaloe is so precious and so wonderful. So much happened this week; the focus was definitely all about Shellfish and cheap cuts of meat. Darina Allen spent all of Wednesday demoing how to make use of cheaper (but oh so tasty!) cuts of beef, lamb and pork. I was lucky enough to snag the leftover short ribs to braise on Thursday. Melt in your mouth delicious. Cuts of meat like these cost approx €3-€4 and will happily feed an army of hungry tummies.
Then on Thursday, Rachel Allen treated us to a gorgeous and witty demo on Shellfish. She had Crayfish, Shrimp and Dublin Bay Prawns. All still alive and the shrimp were literally hopping out of the bowl, nearly landing in our lap. On our first day of Cookery School (which feels like so long ago), we were presented with a beautiful lunch which featured some gorgeous little shrimp. Darina encouraged all of us to eat the shrimps brain and roe as well as the rest of the little fellows. So juicy and definitely encouraged me to get over my food fears about Shellfish.
Our weekly demo’s with Colm McCan, Sommelier of Ballymaloe House, are becoming a real highlight. Colm is so lovely and has such a great passion for wine. This week he brought Maurice O’Mahony of Wine Alliance to talk to us about Portuguese wines. They were so delicious and of course I was straight to the shop to pick myself up a bottle
At the end of week 1, I made a Sourdough Starter. Under strict supervision, I really had no idea what I was doing but I could not believe how easy it was. There were a few mishaps over the last 2 weeks, I found mould growing on the side of the jar last Sunday and thought my dreams of Sourdough baking had been dashed. Luckily, Philip the master butcher/pizzaiolo was on hand to assure me that unless the mould is black or red, simply wipe it off and carry on. I did just that, wiped it off and fed it again and then said some really nice things to it to encourage it to come back to life. Within seconds, it was bubbling and becoming active. During last week, myself and some of the girls who had also made starters began to make our Sourdough Sponge. In total it should take about 2-3 days to prove.
This morning we baked our Sourdough. We had meant to bake them last night but were feeling a little lazy and so we left them to prove for one more night in the fridge. This morning, as we tipped our breads onto the baking tray, we noticed they were a little flatter than they should be. So, a lesson definitely learnt. When your Sourdough has proved and is active and ready for the oven. Bake it! We were still absolutely delighted with how they turned out. We ran home with them and proceeded to inhale a third of a loaf each. Still steaming and warm, so delicious! I must say I am so proud of how mine turned out and we have already started a second sponge so will be making some new loaves this week. I think this is definitely the beginning of a beautiful relationship. I love the process behind Sourdough and if you look after your starter, it will be a friend for life.
Whilst our breads were baking in the oven, we took a little gander outside in to the cold but sunny morning light. Millie, the cow, who is almost ready to give birth any day now was there to say hello.
My housemate, Jette, took it as a good opportunity to collect some herbs for tonight’s ‘family’ dinner. We seem to have established a bit of an informal tradition in the Pink Cottage; every Sunday one of of us cooks dinner for the house. There is only 6 of us but there’s usually an extra mouth to feed, which is always a pleasure. There is such a lovely community of foodies being created here at the cottages. People just pop in to say hello, sit down for a chat and this usually evolves in to a glass of wine and some smelly cheese!
As I head into week 4, excitement is building up as I am learning so many new techniques. Absorbing information at such a fast pace, my brain hasn’t worked this hard since the days of Uni back in Dublin. But now, I am studying something I am insanely passionate about. I am surrounded by amazing people who share my interest and don’t think my obsession with smelly cheese is weird!
Till next time….