Okay, my dear readers, I got a bit lax this week with my daily posts. Please forgive me. It has been hella busy here (well, it always is busy here), so the best I can do is the following post, which will be a stream-of-conscious bullet-point list of all the things that I got up to this week.
- I started off the week on Monday by making a pork, spinach, and herb terrine. I always thought that the word ‘terrine’ sounded so fancy, and truth be told, I never really knew exactly what a terrine was. Well, it turns out that it is basically a glorified meatloaf and similar in both shape and consistency. I will now drop the word ‘meatloaf’ from my culinary vocabulary and start calling everything ‘terrines.’ It just sounds so much more impressive. I also made a celeriac remoulade, which is the equivalent of cole slaw but sounds way better. So now all my cole slaws will be called ‘remoulade,’ etc. You get the drift.
- I made a ton of different breads this week. My instructor Sue told me that I needed to challenge myself by preparing a bread every day when I first get into the kitchen, despite the fact that I hate adding things to my order of work, as I start to get panicky and stressed out that I’ll have to rush through everything else. It is also kind of a pain because if it’s a yeast-based bread, then you have to knead the dough for a good amount of time, wait for it to rise, and then keep your eye on the oven, while also trying to do the myriad of other things that you have been assigned. Yet, I didn’t want to appear like I couldn’t rise to the challenge (rise to the challenge, get it? like dough rising…nevermind), so I did a different bread everyday this week. I was glad that I did because the results were quite successful. I ended up making a brown soda bread (because I love soda breads, and they are relatively easy to make once you get the hang of it), a granary loaf (a bread made with malted wheat and rye…perfect for toasted sandwiches), and a bread made with a butter and milk dough (a white yeast bread that is lighter in consistency and has a lovely glossy finish to it).
- On Monday evening, I attended a wine lecture given by Pat Smith who turned out to have one of the most interesting stories that I have ever heard. Pat was originally a professionally rugby player in the 1970s. He started off playing for Leinster and later was transferred to Toulouse. When he got to France, he needed a job but didn’t speak a word of French. Fortunately, his rugby ties landed him a job in a winery and four years later, he became the chief winemaker at the winery! He now imports wines from the Rhône Valley into Ireland and also works as a wine consultant. His knowledge of wine was endless, and it was obvious from the way he spoke about wine that it was his true passion. He also had such a relaxed approach to wine, which I loved. His basic philosophy was that sharing wine with others is the best experience one can have. I couldn’t agree more! We ended up drinking the following wines, which were all pretty incredible:
- a 2009 Terra Monti La Perrine (a blend of Viognier and Chardonnay from the Languedoc-Rousillon region of France…and funnily enough, the chief winemaker of this producer is an Irishman originally from Sligo);
- a 2008 Priess Zimmer Pinot Gris from the Alsace, which, coincidentally, is where I want to go on my next holiday;
- a 2007 E. Guigal Côtes Du Rhône (Pat’s favorite house wine and described by the French locals as “like an angel doing pee pee in your mouth.” I’m guessing it sounds better when said in French.);
- a 2009 Pierre Amadieu Gigondas (a Grenache/Syrah blend from the southern Rhône…seen as Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s second cousin but usually ends up being better than a C-du-P and better value too);
- a 2008 Terra Monti Brion (another Syrah/Grenache blend but this time from the Languedoc-Rousillon); a 2007 Phillippe Guigal Crozes-Hermitage (a very tannic 100% Syrah wine);
- finally a Guigal Lieu-Dit-Saint-Joseph (a gorgeous Syrah from the northern Rhône).
- Also on Monday evening after the very long but worthwhile wine lecture, we were able to continue our Mexican feasting from the weekend’s leftovers and invited both the White and Pink Cottages over for dinner.
- I had the longest day in the kitchen on Tuesday and never ended up having time to eat lunch. It was bound to happen at some point on the course, but I just hope I don’t have too many days like that.
- I received my results from my technique exams on Tuesday evening. I was so nervous, as we all had to queue in line and go into the office one-by-one to get our grades. It definitely felt like I was in school again. Fortunately, I did a lot better than I thought and miraculously managed to pull off an A average!
- I made crepes/pancakes for lunch on Pancake Tuesday and had them again for dinner as well. Pancake Tuesday is so much more dignified than Fat Tuesday. I am not giving up anything for Lent this year because I am surrounded by culinary delights that I am expected to taste on a daily basis. I’m sure I could get some kind of special dispensation from the local bishop like we used to get during prom season in high school. As housemate Matthew said, “I am giving up restraint this Lenten season.” I wholeheartedly agree!
- Wednesday was our last restaurant business lecture with Blathnaid Bergin, which, in turn, inspired Kait, Jenn, and I to come up with our own idea for a restaurant in San Francisco…everything seemed to fall into place with our ideas, and if it actually worked out that two of my favorite people on the course came out to join me in SF, I would be one incredibly happy girl
- We continued our weekly movie night with showings of ‘A Midnight in Paris’ and ‘Drive’ – two very good movies indeed…due mainly to extended screen time viewing of both Paris in the 1920s and Ryan Gosling.
- On Thursday, I made the best lunch ever: a pan-grilled steak with a Béarnaise sauce and homemade frites and pommes allumettes (again fancy names for fries/chips) and a cauliflower casserole baked in a Mornay sauce (a Mornay sauce is a Béchamel sauce with grated cheese.).
- I made some flaky pastry on Tuesday that I used to make a rhubard tart on Friday. It took forever to make the flaky pastry – it should be called pain-in-the-ass pastry. I’m beginning to realize that I don’t have the patience in the kitchen for certain things – rolling out dough, sticking nobs of butter in said dough, folding up dough into some weird origami-like shape only to re-roll it out again, and repeating the process at least three times does not excite me in any way. I’m also realizing that I do not have a sweet tooth in the slightest, and if I’m going to spend extensive amounts of time with my rolling pin and copious amounts of flour, I’d rather be making savoury pastries like a chorizo and cheddar tart or something along those lines. Fortunately, my Friday menu meant that I also got to deep-fry some spring rolls with mushrooms, pork, and crab meat and make a thai dipping sauce, so it made up for all of the sweet stuff.
- I managed to take walks/jogs down to the beach two more times this week. I am well proud of myself, and I hope that I can keep up this exercise routine now that the days are getting warmer and longer.
- Peter Ward from Country Choice Delicatessen & Coffee Bar in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary came to talk to us about Parmesan cheese on Thursday afternoon, and he turned out to be quite the motivational speaker. He suggested that when we leave Ballymaloe that we should put a mark on our kitchen walls to remind us of our respective goals and of where we are going each day (“not left of the mark nor to the right of it but dead center on your mark)”. He also proposed that once we leave the school that we always ensure that our food comes from ethical and sustainable origins and not bow to the temptation of buying food of unknown provenance for the sake of convenience. He rightly stated that if we deviate from the principles and education that we receive from Ballymaloe that we no longer can use the proverbial Ballymaloe flag in our careers. His words might seem quite harsh, but I thought he was dead right to say exactly what he did.
- Incidentally, I also learned that there are 1200 pints of milk in a wheel of Parmesan cheese! Cheese also contains all the necessary vitamins with the exception of C and is the ultimate hit of high energy (better than sugar or protein, as cheese can be metabolized in the body is less than thirty minutes). I knew there was a reason that I liked cheese so much!
Well, that’s it for this week. I am looking forward to a very relaxing weekend. Here’s to getting back on track!
Some photographic images of the week for your enjoyment: