Ballymaloe Day 9 – Letting the Fairies Out

Is it already Thursday?! The days are absolutely flying by here. It’s hard to keep them straight. Today was a bit intense…although I feel like I’m starting to say that everyday. My partner and I had to complete the following in the span of three hours: make white soda bread, filet and cook a cod, make a Mornay sauce (like a Béchamel sauce but with cheese), whip up some duchesse potatoes (the kind you squirt out of a pastry bag to look all pretty), prepare a salad with Gubbeen bacon and poached egg, bake a bread and butter pudding, and start an orange marmalade. Three hours sounds like loads of time, but it actually goes by so quickly. We managed to get our dishes cooked and plated…well, except for the marmalade because we were using all of our burners the whole time for other things, and the Seville oranges were supposed to simmer for like 2 hours. We will have to fit that in at some stage now, which is kind of annoying. Oh well. Anyway, everything seemed to come out okay in the end. I think I make a pretty decent Caesar dressing, I have to say. Also, I’m glad I took a butchery class before I came here, as I felt more confident with filleting a fish today. Not to say that I filleted it perfectly, but it came out a hell of a lot better than the first time that I tried doing it. Speaking of first times, I made a white soda bread today, and it was super easy and came out really well. The only thing that I didn’t do was cut a cross deep enough in the bread to let the fairies out (apparently, it’s part of Irish folklore or otherwise the fairies get trapped in the loaf…yeah, fiddle dee dee and all that).

Sitting in this afternoon’s demo, I found myself daydreaming a bit and looking out the window a couple of times. It was such an Irish day…the kind of day where it is perfectly sunny and raining at the same time. I love when that happens, and it only happens in Ireland. It is like the rain comes out of thin air…well, I suppose it actually does come out of thin air. Anyway, I guess the weather distracted Darina a little bit too because right in the middle of one of her food demos, she stopped mid-sentence and said, “My God. Look at that gorgeous rainbow!” And sure enough, right outside in the fields was a perfect vertical rainbow. I’m not going to get all Double Rainbow Guy on my blog readers, but it was quite beautiful and very fitting.

After demo today, a few of us stayed on to learn how to make sourdough bread with Tim. It was cool because all sourdough breads are created with just flour and water. Natural yeast combines with it, and the resultant dough is called a starter. A small amount of the resulting dough is then saved to use as starter sour for the next batch, and the next batch, and so on. As long as this starter culture is fed flour and water weekly (just like a little pet…squee!), it can stay at room temperature indefinitely. In fact, some starter doughs can be traced back through multiple generations. Also, I learned this evening that my soon-to-be-hometown of San Francisco is famous for its sourdough, and the San Francisco sourdough variety has remained in continuous production since 1849, with some bakeries being able to trace their starters back to the California Gold Rush period. In fact, the dominant strain of lactobacillus in sourdough starters is actually called Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis! Okay, perhaps I am a little obsessed with sourdough at the moment, so I’ll quit while I am ahead.

Tomorrow should prove to be an interesting one, as I’m making a lamb roast with rosemary and garlic. I’m pretty excited about it actually. Afterwards, a bunch of us will toast the end of week 2 with some much-needed drinks in the local pub. Good night!

Some pics from the day:

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