Ballymaloe Cookery School Weeks 11 & 12…..so long sweeties!

And so my final post on my time spent at Ballymaloe.

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During Week 11, we were taken on a speial little tour of Ballymaloe House. Over the last 3 months, I never got the chance to go and visit the house so really loved hearing the history and imagining what it was all like back in 1963 when it all began.

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At the very end of our tour, we sat and listened to Myrtle Allen tell us so humbly how Ballymaloe all began. She even went to far as to say that we were all more skilled now than she was when she began. There’s hope!! She spoke like it was just such a natural turn of events in her life. How she just wanted to live in a little cottage but her husband longed to farm. I for one am so glad that Ivan had the want to go on and farm especially after all he had learnt in Shanagarry.

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Back in my chef whites and to the glamorous job of gutting, filleting and cooking these little fellows. Sea Bass set to be cooked in a beautiful salt crust. Definite a new one for the books.

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My love of Sourdough only grew fonder as the weeks went by at Ballymaloe. From my first weekend when I made my starter to being able to produce a beautiful loaf of crusty, tangy bread. Hot from the oven and ready to share with my housmates. Lathered in Kerrygold or if we were really lucky, some of our own homemade raw milk butter. Heaven!

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Just before the last week at Ballymaloe kicked off, a few students and Rory set up an exam revision pub quiz. 5 rounds testing our knowledge on all of the information the good folks at Ballymaloe had packed into 11 weeks. I was surprised at what I learnt that night and hooshed into some intense study sessions for the rest of the week. But first, there needed to be Guinness. Of course…..

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Always taking a chance to wander around the grounds at Ballymaloe. Especially now that Spring has almost passed us by and most things are starting to creep through the surface of the soil. What most excites me know is knowing all of the wild flowers and herbs and just dreaming of what I can put them in.

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AND THEN…..THE EXAMS!!!!

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I must say I was really happy with my exams. I was BEYOND nervous about them. I had practiced my techniques and bread making until I was blue in the face. One thing I was the most worried about was my fish filleting, but going into the exam I knew I just had to take my time. At that stage, I didn’t really mind if I went over time. Of course, I wanted to finish on time but if it meant rushing and not working to my full potential then I was ready to put time limits to the side. In the end, I went over by 20 minutes and was pretty happy with my display of goodies. Immediately afterwards I didn’t feel like I had done enough. Turns out, most of us felt that way. A few hours later though, the practical was at the back of my mind and I was looking toward our theory exam. A glass of wine or three may have helped that along 😉

Going into the practical, I felt I was reading lines of words but nothing was going in. We had studied so much and read so much that by the time the exam came around, our brains were packed and not letting anymore in. I went into the first exam and wrote so fast when I was finished I barely remembered what had just happened. We still had 2 more exams to face into, so it was back to the house for more study and 30 minutes later we were back in the exam hall scribbling away. After a hearty lunch of warming soup on an icy wintry day, we were loaded with fuel for exam number 3. I walked out of my exams with a weight off my shoulder and a lot of lessons learnt. Probably one of the most interesting set of exams I have ever taken in my life. For some parts, I felt like I was back in my Home Economics Days reeming off HACCP standards and food hygiene, bacteria etc….

My last walk on Garryvoe Strand..a place that gave me tranquility, hope, reality checks and rosey cheeks. It was my oasis of calm from a world of butter, cream and learning. One I will definitely never forget.

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Our last night was amazing. It was such a fun night from start to finish. We felt so special walking into the school with fires lit to guide our way. Rory and the teachers pur on a stunning showcase of food. They cooked the most delicious menu and I can still taste Rory’s Chocolate and Caramel Mousse. We danced and laughed the night away like friends who had known each other for years.

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To Darina, Tim, Rachel and Rory and all of the teachers at Ballymaloe….Florrie, Annette, Tracy, Niamh, Debbie, Pam, Emer, Finola, Gary, Sue, Emma, Shermin and Grace. Thank you. Thank you for the life lessons and skills you have taught me, for giving me the opportunity to take my first dip in the Irish Food Industry and giving me the courage to be brave enough to do so.

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