I cannot believe I have been here a month already. Time is flying by and I just want it to slow down and last forever! The theme of week 4 here at Ballymaloe Cookery School was all about bread. For me, at least! It started off with my adventures into Sourdough the week before and then expanded into the mindful moments of kneading a beautiful yeast dough. I fell head over heels for this bread. I loved making it and watching the end result turn out so beautiful. It was definitely worth those mind boggling sequences. That moment when you cut into a loaf of your own freshly baked bread is magical. Feel the crust crumble under your fingers and the smell of the yeasty dough rise into the air. The advantage of making all of these delicious breads is your teacher will most likely let you bring it home…smothering them in butter with a freshly brewed cup of tea. Completely unnecessary after a day of tastings and 3-4 course lunches but still….fresh bread, could you resist it??
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.
The end of week 2 at Ballymaloe Cookery School is slowly approaching. I cannot believe how fast time is going by. Last week was so busy, I feel like I blinked and it was over. We learned so much this week and our time in the kitchen was so full on. I’m still on the mend from being shot down with a horrible flu that has been doing the rounds on most of the students. It’s hard to stay focused in the kitchen when your body wants to rest and recharge the batteries. I almost didn’t turn up on Friday morning but with a list of recipes as long as my arm to prepare for lunchtime service, I didn’t want to give up so easily. I knew I would have the weekend to relax and take the time to reflect on the week’s cooking, learning, experimenting and what I learned from mistakes made and the sneaky tips and advice offered here and there.
Settling in to my new home for the next 3 months took no time at all and made all the more comfortable by living on the grounds of the Ballymaloe Cookery School. A tranquil oasis full of clucking hens, acres of gorgeous green gardens and beautiful farm animals only too eager to come and say hello. Our first week was so wonderful. Meeting new people and learning, sharing and inspiring so many creative ideas with food. We have had some amazing demo’s from Darina Allen and her brother Rory O’Connell. Simplicity is the key with these two chefs. Simple, honest food without the bells and whistles is what it is all about. After our first day touring the farm with Darina and being introduced to the Ballymaloe teachers, we donned our chef whites on Tuesday morning and set off on an adventure in the kitchen that is only going to get more exciting!
So it has been a pretty big year in Carolanne’s Kitchen. We started 2012 off on a great note with family in Ireland, then back to Perth in January and a surprise move to South Africa in October. Coming home for Christmas this year was a seriously anticipated trip. This was my longest time away from the nest and I have truly embraced every moment of being in Ireland this Christmas. Pints of stout by the fire, hugs from old and new friends, turkey and ham, curling up by the fire, wind and rain, Irish food. All of it, even the little things have made this a truly spectacular time of year for me.
I spent a wonderful 24 hours in Dublin on Friday night and had the privilege of attending the 11th Trailblaze event held in the Grand Masonic Lodge. A stunning setting for the night of the Winter Solstice. We were welcomed into the lodge by the Christmassy smells of mulled wine and festive nibbles from The Cake Café. Such a treat. As we were led upstairs to the room where we would spend the next 3 hours, I couldn’t help but imagine what it was all like back in the 18th century. The Grand Masonic Lodge in Dublin is the second oldest lodge in the world and as you enter the main room upstairs, the walls are adorned with enourmous paintings of the Free Mason Elders. The night began with Brother Morgan telling us the history behind the Free Mason’s and where it all began. Clare and Cathy from Trailblaze then introduced each speaker. The theme of the night was ‘Secrets’, each speaker revealed a secret about themselves, other people, institutions and some even revealing the secrets about life. I was blown away by it all. At the end of the night, Clare Mulvany spoke once again and her words have stuck with me, ‘Ireland has so much potential, but it is up to us to make it happen’. Not a truer word spoken.