Ballymaloe Day 6 – Newly Garnished

Well, it was hard getting into the kitchen this morning, being it a Monday and all. Not to mention that I was a bit apprehensive about starting in a new kitchen with a new partner and instructor. Thankfully, I was given a swift kick of perspective from my new pal, JB. He took one look at me first thing when I arrived in the kitchen and said, “Look. It could be a lot worse. We could be sitting at our desks at our old jobs on this Monday morning.” And he was absolutely right…I basically have no right to complain about Mondays on this course. We are cooking delicious food, for Christ’s sake….and enjoying ourselves and living in one of the most beautiful locations I have ever had the pleasure of living. So after I was put back in check, I quickly got my day started and gathered my ingredients. However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing after that…I made quite the rookie mistake at the beginning of not checking the portion I was assigned and gathered a double portion for one of my recipes when I only had to make half. Luckily, I had gotten into the kitchen early that morning and didn’t lose too much time when I went back to the storeroom to reweigh my ingredients. I was assigned to make white scones, raspberry jam, and penne with tomatoes, spicy sausage, and cream. I have to say that I was quite proud of my dishes today. The penne came out amazing…chorizo is the new bacon in my estimation. You can’t go wrong with adding chorizo and a dash of cream to any dish..and apparently, I cooked my pasta to the correct al dente style. As I learned from watching Sophia on The Golden Girls, you know the pasta is done when you throw it against a wall, and it sticks. I was pretty discreet about throwing my pasta against the kitchen wall, but I can now say with authority that that little tip actually works…oh, and tasting also helps to determine it too…but I have to say it’s more fun to throw your pasta! My raspberry jam and scones were pretty good too. I had no idea how easy it was to make jam! Now I feel totally foolish about buying jams/jellies for basically my entire life…if only I knew that it takes less than 15 minutes to make a huge jar of it. Oh well! I guess that’s the point of going on this course, right? One quick funny story regarding the plating of my food (what is it with me and plating?!)  – when my instructor, Pat, finally finished tasting the food that I had prepared, he turned and looked at my garnish on my fresh whipped cream and said in a completely nonchalant way, “Oh, by the way, you actually garnished your whipped cream with parsley not mint.” I was SO embarrassed but at the same time, it was pretty funny, especially the way he said it so matter-of-factly and then tried to make me feel better by telling me about unusual ingredient pairings. Again, I’m still learning…I guess I really need to brush up on my herbs, especially considering parsley and mint look nothing alike! Oops!

After a very long demonstration this afternoon (it went well past four hours…but again, I can’t really complain about watching a famous chef prepare amazing foods and then getting to taste all the dishes afterwards), I headed up to the dairy barn to turn my cheese. Well, I was in for a bit of a surprise when I arrived and found Tim there in the middle of making a huge batch of yogurt. He was happy to see me and quickly recruited me to help him finish the process. We had to bottle the huge vat of yogurt he had made that afternoon with the fresh cow’s milk but not before scorching the glass jars and tops to ensure that they were sterilized. It was a long enough process…and I may have slightly burned off my fingertips, but it was nice getting to do something worthwhile and having a chat with Tim along the way. Once I got back to my cottage, I sat around with my housemates while we put together our respective orders of work. I am pretty sure that I don’t need to write out such detailed and thorough work orders, but I can’t help myself. It’s the Type A personality in me coming out to say hi.

Tomorrow should prove to be interesting. Our recipes for the day include a number of Mexican dishes. Darina also made a shout out to Rick Bayless during demo today….and some of his recipes feature in tomorrow’s cooking. I wanted to be tell her that I have eaten in all of his restaurants in Chicago, but I suppose it would be a little obnoxious to say that…and in reality, they were right down the street from my old apartment, so it was pretty convenient. Anyway, here’s to another day of practicing my cooking and time management skills…Olé!

As per usual, here’s a few shots from the day, including my plated dishes, the herb epazote (which smells exactly like turpentine but is used in black bean dishes…also commonly used to prevent flatulence caused by eating beans and is therefore used to season them! Thanks Wiki!), and the afternoon demo dishes. Unfortunately, I did not take any photos of the yogurt-making process…but it was just putting a milky-like substance into glass jars and tightening lids on them and then submerging them in a water bath (or a bain-marie, as they call it here and in France).

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