- Food & Drink
Day 2 at Ballymaloe began with me realising that the thick folder of recipes wasn’t a compendium of everything we were going to make at Ballymaloe in the 12 weeks, it was everything we were going to make this week. I reeled from that shock into the kitchen, where we were going to cook the soup and bread we’d seen demonstrated the afternoon before.
Or, we were going to nervously and labouriously chop vegetables like people who’d never seen knives or onions before, while our teachers magicked them into meals. This was lucky for me because in the minutes it took me to walk from demo theatre to kitchen, I completely forgot how to cook.
I have chopped onions, carrots and potatoes a lot in my 30 something years, but put a short, kindly, smiling woman next to me who says: “Now, how are you getting on there?” and I forget which way is up on a knife. If she was to ask me to demonstrate walking, I’m pretty sure my knees would buckle and my legs would go every which way but forward.
Lunch was therefore a success and in the afternoon Darina demonstrated the meals we’d be cooking the next day. A rota goes up on the board and you check who your cooking partner is, what you’re meant to produce and divide the recipes up between you. I was with Sean and we had beginner’s brown soda bread, French onion tart, potato soup with Gubbeen chorizo and parsley and rhubarb and strawberry compote.
I lucked out and got the soup and compote and I triumphed at them. That’s right, triumphed. If you ignore the fact that I nearly burnt my potatoes and onions while sweating them in a great slab of butter (1st thing you learn at Ballymaloe: eat more butter). I also sort of nearly burnt the soup when reheating it to plate it up.
To be honest, the whole soup making process was a series of stages where I nearly burnt it (and the chorizo) but just managed not to. Would you believe you could burn soup?
The compote was a shade easier. I made stock syrup, cooled it and then added my puckeringly pink chunks of rhubarb to it, brought it back to the boil and then stuck a lid on it so the rhubarb would cook in the residual heat.
I was supposed to serve it at 11.30 for tasting but at 11.10 it was still at body heat. An ice bath and a lot of anxious prodding and swirling resulted in something like a cold compote, which I sliced my strawberries into and plated up with a sweet geranium leaf for decoration.
I got good marks and danced my way out of the kitchen. I made soup and fruit compote and my teacher liked it – sweet, blissful success.