Ballymaloe Days 46-50 (Week 10) – Bruschetta, Burgers, and Lobsters, Oh My!

Week 10 came and went, and my partner this week was Luca. Luca also happens to be my housemate, is from Italy, and is really talented in the kitchen. So I was pretty happy all week, as I learned a lot just by observing him work in the kitchen. Anyway, let’s recount what I made this week, shall we?

On Monday, I was assigned a goats cheese and rocket leaf bruschetta with a tomato and chilli jam, roasted turnips, and a lemon meringue gateau with lemon curd. I actually thought that I was going to have a relatively easy day in the kitchen, but it took me forever to do the lemon meringue gateau. In the end, my meringue discs were a little lopsided, so my dessert looked a bit on the droopy side. It still tasted nice, and to me, that is all that really matters. Unless someone is actually paying money for my food (which nobody is…and I can’t see that being the case in the near future), then I don’t mind if it looks a little “rustic.” Roasted turnips came out fine, but in my opinion, roasted turnips are one of those inconsequential side dishes to which nobody really pays much attention. The bruschetta also came out fine, but I make bruschetta a lot, so no big deal for me really.

Tuesday was a funny day in the kitchen and also one of the longest days yet. The days are usually long to begin with, but I basically went from 8 am until about 9 pm straight, as there was so much going on at the school. It started with the usual morning cooking session, which was basically  “learn how to make a burger” day in the kitchens.  I was assigned a burger called “The Great American Beef Burger.” Being American, the name made me laugh because it was supposed to be an authentic American-style way of preparing a burger, but come on, there is no right way to make a burger. In the States, nobody cares what you put on a burger, as long as it tastes good and you like it (just look at the advertising campaign for Burger King – “your way, right away” or the custom burger menu at In-and-Out). The list of so-called American ingredients in the recipe was a little silly to me, and on top of that, the recipe didn’t even call for a slice of cheese on the burger. Tragic! They did, however, have a bottle of French’s mustard in the kitchen that day, which was kind of funny, since I prefer Maille as my mustard of choice (how un-American of me!). Anyway, the interesting thing that we did with the burgers, however, was to wrap them in caul fat before grilling. Caul fat is a thin membrane that surrounds the stomach of hogs, cows, sheep, and pigs. It actually looks like lace (and is strangely very pretty considering it is just a bunch of stomach fat), but the best part is that it makes your burgers taste AMAZING. It seals in the moisture and gives the burger so much more flavor. It probably isn’t the healthiest way to prepare a burger, but if one is eating a burger in the first place, then I’m guessing one isn’t really thinking healthy food options.

On Tuesday afternoon, I had a bit of a culinary crisis when I went to feed my sourdough starter. As I put in my two ounces of strong white flour and water (a.k.a. “food” for sourdough), the Kilner jar suddenly shattered on the side, and most of my starter oozed out the side. I ran to the shop to get a new jar, but of course, they were out of stock. Luckily, I ran into one of the instructors who lent me a jar that she had, and I was able to salvage my starter. I ended up being all flustered when I went back into the afternoon demo, but then I had to laugh at myself. I mean if a shattered jar is the extent of my problems here, then I think that I have it pretty good at the moment!

On Tuesday evening, I went to a sourdough bread session with Tim before heading to The Grainstore at the Ballymaloe House for a wine tasting with a winemaker named Marinette Garnier from Maison Jaffelin, which is located in the heart of Beaune in the Burgundy region of France. We tried eight different wines from the 2009 vintage that night, and I particularly liked the Puligny-Montrachet and the Pommard. Marinette is all of 25 years old, and I chatted with her for a bit after her presentation. It was interesting to hear what it is like to be a young and female in a very male-dominated industry.

After a very long Tuesday, Wednesday came and went with a demonstration on cheddar cheeses, filo pastry, game-keeping and hunting, and a talk from a few different culinary entrepreneurs, including Simon Stenson from Cherry Blossom Bakery (who, incidentally, made the soda bread for President Obama for St. Patrick’s Day this year) and Cullen Allen from the “Cully and Sully” brand.

Thursday was an interesting day in the kitchens, as I was assigned to cook a lobster. I actually felt a little sad putting on the lid on the pot, so my lobster would “go to sleep.” My instructor Ted (and the most Irish-sounding Scandinavian I have ever met) must have seen me looking forlornly at the pot, as he came over to me and said, “It’s okay, Lisa. It’s just part of the cycle of life.” I suppose his words are true, but I still felt sad nevertheless…kind of like Homer Simpson when he accidentally kills Mr. Pinchy. I guess because I was cooking the lobster, I ended up feeling a strange kinship to the creature…but the little guy did taste delicious in the end!


Thursday was also the day that we had to turn in our menus for the practical part of the exam. After much debating and going back and forth on what to choose, I finally nailed down a three-course menu and paired each course with an appropriate wine. We are also going to be assigned a bread as well, and it remains to be seen whether I will be able to pull it all off on exam day within the three-hour time frame. Fingers crossed!

On Friday, I made a pretty tasty Moghlai lamb korma, some rhubarb and ginger jam, and  a gateau pithivier. I was especially proud of the gateau made with puff pastry because it came out exactly the way it should have, and that almost never happens with me and desserts on this course. So yay, go me.

This weekend is St. Paddy’s weekend and a bank holiday. A bunch of us are heading into Cork City to watch the Ireland/England rugby match at a local pub and then to go see a DJ called Mr. Scruff perform a set at The Pavilion. It is kind of a traditional and nontraditional way to celebrate Paddy’s Day, and I’m also hoping to fit in some rest and relaxation on the day off as well.

In the meantime, some pics…

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