Ballymaloe Cookery School Week 9 & 10…Keep Calm and Eat Butter

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The running theme over the last two weeks has certainly been butter based. We have been introduced to the wonders of Brioche, Croissants and Pain au Chocolat, Flaky and Puff Pastry. Our waste lines are feeling it and our appetites are craving it.

More about that later….

During Week 9, we had a very welcome visit from Madeline McKeever from Brown Envelope Seeds. Madeline spoke to us about seed saving and about her 9 varieties of Quinoa that she grows on her farm in Skibereen. Quinoa grown in Ireland…you better believe it!

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My Our obsession with cheese is growing stronger every day. We had a morning cheese demo dedicated to the wondrous Blue Cheeses and in Week 10, Irish Farmhouse Cheese. We also had the pleasure of meeting Dan Hegarty of Hegarty’s Cheddar fame. From the minute he walked in the door he had everyone bent over in belly aching laughter. Aswell as his cheese being some of the best, if not THE best Cheddar that I have ever tasted, he was the funniest man to listen to.

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Every morning, the small herd of Jersey cows are milked here at the cookery school. Students have the opportunity to partake in milking the cows and see how the process is carried out. Sometimes, the freshly squeezed milk is brought up to the kitchens for using in our dishes that day. On one such bleary morning when we were all feeling a little dazed and confused, Tim offered us a glass of still warm raw Jersey milk. Within minutes I had gulped it down and was hopping out of my skin and I wasn’t the only one. All of a sudden the kitchen whizzed into action and we were all banging out some amazing dishes to serve up for lunch.

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I know a picture of a raw leg of lamb is not everyone’s favourite thing to look at. However, one thing that I have truly overcome here at Ballymaloe is my squemishness towards certain foods. I ate shrimps brains on the first day, had perry winkles soon after and am now fully fledged at jointing cuts of meat and poultry. I really believe that we must know where I food comes from and what form it comes in before we serve it in a nice aesthetically pleasing presentation. Being able to deal with food head on, for me, is so important. Especially after all of the recent news highlighted in the past month.

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And so we come to the buttery brioche…the most amazing time of the morning in the kitchen. You know someone is making brioche or croissants because they have made their dough the previous morning. Usually around 10:30 a tray of golden crusted bread rolls tumble out of the oven and onto a section nearby. The air fills with the smells of freshly baked brioche and a teacher shouts out, ‘okay guys, brioche is ready. eat it whilst it’s hot.’ Students scramble to the nearest brioche roll as a bowl of raspberry jam and soft butter magically appear by the steaming hot buns. Pulling the rolls apart and watching as hunger suddenly becomes apparent in everyone’s eyes. As soon as the Brioche disappears, the chopping, blending and kneading resumes. With jam dotted on our cheeks, we our content until the next batch 😉

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At the end of week 9, I was so excited to be heading off to London where I wanted to visit some restaurants and cafes. Drawing on inspiration of what people in this bustling city are doing to show off their amazing food. Whilst there, I may have dabbled in a little vintage homewares and dress shopping. Resulting in me having to wear layers of clothes on the flight home to ensure I was well within my 10kg hand luggage weight 😉

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Week 10 came bustling through the doors like a howling wind. Searching for a comfort to keep us warm and feel protected. Knowing that we have just a short few weeks left at Ballymaloe. Everyone was pretty excited to see Rachel back after a few weeks away. Her demos are always light and fun and so lifted the heavy blanket of worry. This demo involved Lobster which most people were keen to get their hands on. We got a chance to watch classmate Sophie hypnotise a lobster (or Lobster Yoga as I like to call it) in to a very lulled state of mind. Apparently by rubbing their back and bending them over, it breaks the nerve with their brain. Making the impact of being boiled bright pink a little less painful!

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And then I did this…I made bacon. That is all.

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Philip Dennhardt of Saturday Pizzas also carried out a demonstration on making sausages. Debunking myths on chorizo making, showing us traditional Brawn (Head Cheese!) and some common sausages that are often made up for Beerfest.

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Again with the cheese….need I say more!

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The festive weekend of St. Patrick has just passed and I was so lucky we had the Monday off. A perfect excuse to travel that little bit farther and go home. Going home to Sligo always excites me. I rarely get to spend much time there these days, so I make sure to make a treat of it. Eating, drinking and dancing. It’s what I do best….when I’m not cooking :p

A visit to Kate’s Kitchen should be on everybody’s list who intends on passing through Sligo. Just as we had arrived, Beth had planted a freshly baked plate of Chocolate & Hazelnut Cookies on the counter. Could you resist…nobody could!! Kate’s Kitchen really does have the best of everything.

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One of the main events of the Bank Holiday weekend was the album launch of Sligo Band, Rackhouse Pilfer (RHP). I think they completely blew the crowd away. With their support from Sarah Crummy and Those Nervous Animals, the place was packed. Turning people away at an event like this is hard to do but great to see so much interest. Word was spreading that it was the place to be on Saturday night. The minute RHP took to the stage, everybody jolted into huckabilly bluegrass mode.

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One of my favourite things to do when I am home is go to Strandhill. It is pretty much on my doorstep so I can never deny myself the trip. A walk on the beach to shake off the cobwebs, ahem.

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There was a pot of gold nearby….

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Then of course an indulgent and hearty brunch in Shell’s Cafe. Despite tomatoes not being in season at this time of year, I couldn’t go past the tomato and avocado stack with bacon. Always with bacon. How amazing does it look and every mouthful was met with complete and utter glee!

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Before retreating back down the road to Ballymaloe, I found myself wandering the back roads and stumbled upon a pair of gorgeous horses. I didn’t want to leave them.

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And so I am back at Buttermaloe Ballymaloe and we jumped right in there with a demo by Rory on cakes, glorious cakes. There can never be enough cake.

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From Strandhill to Garryvoe Strand. I am so spoilt with beaches to have a jaunt on…

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Excitement and nerves were running a but high this morning bright and early as we faced in to our one hour wine exam. We all got through it and found a gorgeous tray of spices laid out. Revision for the next exams taking place next week. We are in the middle of week 11 already. With just 3 days of kitchen time left before our exams, reality is dawning that the real world looms and do you know what, it doesn’t look too bad!

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6 thoughts on “Ballymaloe Cookery School Week 9 & 10…Keep Calm and Eat Butter

  1. You should do The Meat Course, here in Wales. 2 days on a farm seeing husbandry and playing with animals on day one, then (optional) seeing a sheep slaughtered. Day 2 butchery andmaking charcuterie. Gets you really in touch with where food comes from. Lovely mountainside setting in Monmouthshire and tuition from Ruth, the farmer and board member of the Abergavenny Food Festival, and James from the multi award winning Trealy Farm Charcuterie – think Welsh Gubbeen. Details from @themeatcourse (Ruth).

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