Ballymaloe Day 26 – Don’t Pity the Fool!

It’s the Monday of Week 6, and Week 6 means that we are officially halfway through the course. Time is flying. It is also the start of exam week, and I am a little bit on edge. I am trying to stay positive though (hard for me sometimes),  as I know that the anticipation is always worse than the real thing. Anyway, I am also in a new kitchen this week – Kitchen 2. I was a little reluctant with changing kitchens again, since I was just in a new kitchen again last week, but it is one of those things you just have to accept. Luckily, my instructor, Debbie, is really good and very honest. She tells it like it is, which can be a little dismaying at first but then you realize that it is to your benefit. On my list for this morning’s cooking included shortbread biscuits, chicken and garlic soup with a final liaison (which sounds kind of foreboding but is just a thickening agent made with eggs added to soups), and a rhubarb fool (a funny name for a dessert of poached rhubarbs in a stock syrup folded into whipped cream). My first batch of shortbread biscuits came out too brown (although I think they had better flavor than the ones that I did correctly…I like the taste of semi-burnt…is that weird?). My rhubarb fool came out fine. I’m really starting to like rhubarb even though I never thought that I did. Does that make me a fool? (Ha Ha…ba-dum-tish…I’ll be here all week.). The chicken and garlic soup was great until I added the final liaison, and then it curdled. Fortunately, it was relatively easy to remedy, as you just strain out my chicken and use an immersion blender to incorporate the ingredients again. I was also able to joint another chicken, which is good practice for the technique exam. I’m still not great at this, as I feel like I need constant guidance so as not to botch it up completely, but I’m getting there slowly….probably not in time for the technique exam, but at least I’m improving. All in all, it was a not-too-bad start to the week.

After afternoon demo, resident sommelier Colm did an evening presentation on sherry. For those in-the-know and those who want to be, sherry is the new “it-wine,” and because sherries have been out-of-fashion for so long, they are some of the best value wines on the market at the the moment. Some can be pretty damn tasty, although I think it is definitely one of those wines that goes better with food…especially fino sherries. Give me some olives or some deep-fried smelts with a glass of fino, and I would be a happy girl…on its own though, I found it to be a bit sharp on the tongue. However, my absolute favorite of the night was a Valdespino “Solera 1842” Oloroso. It was gorgeous from its light chestnut color to its flavor, which was a little bit sweet with flavors of dried plums and caramel but not overly so. Mmm…I want some now as I type this. Fortunately, we are doing another sherry tasting on Wednesday, so I really hope that I get to try that one again.

Later in the evening, after a spontaneous trip to Tesco’s with Oisín, Neil, and Matthew that included yelling “scrubbers” out the window and listening to cheesy music, we all ended up in The Coach House drinking wine (I blame the evening sherry tasting for giving us the thirst to drink more on a Monday night). Jenn and Kait joined us, and we ended up having a great time – alternating between discussing French writers (Balzac and Rimbaud to be exact) and practicing our paper piping bag skills. How ridiculously sophisticated nerdy are we? Don’t answer that.

Les photos, pour vous:

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