- Food & Drink
Readers, I burnt the potatoes.
I knew that it’d be the simple things that’d fox me at Ballymaloe. The things that you stick in a pan or leave in the oven and then slap on a plate at home. Potatoes, rice, pasta – the damn soda bread. And so it came to pass.
To make boiled potatoes (with their skins on) the Ballymaloe way, you scrub them, boil them for about 15 minutes in salty water, then drain, leaving some water in the pan, return to a low heat and steam until tender. Easy, right? But do you know which element of that I forgot about? Returning the pan to a low heat. I stuck it over my largest hob and carefully steamed all the water out of the pan until it began to blacken and look like a washing up nightmare.
Cue Darina coming into the demo kitchen and saying: “What’s burning? It smells like burnt potatoes.” By then I knew what I’d done and I had to put up my hand and I admit that I was the student who burnt the boiled potatoes. “Never mind! It happens to everyone!” My teacher took a similarly sympathetic view and we decided to draw a veil over the entire episode.
Darina also caught me out when I was cooking the sweet chilli chicken wings. The morning hadn’t gone to plan – my order of work said “Joint chicken” at 9am, we jointed it at 10am. And I hadn’t factored in segmenting grapefruits at all. So I was running very late (eventually plating up my food at 12.30pm, a full hour after tasting is supposed to take place) and I was a bit panicked. I grabbed the first large baking tray I could see, slapped the sweet chilli chicken wings on it and stuck them in the oven.
Darina reappeared just as I was hauling them out and sloshing soy sauce over everything. Waste is the one thing we do not countenance at Ballymaloe and I was pouring out soy sauce like it was rain water. The students were gathered round so they could see what I’d done – used the wrong size baking tray, which meant too much soy sauce was being used and getting burnt on the tray.
The nice thing about Darina is she always says: “Now this is a good example of….” so you feel less like a cretin and more like a useful demonstration. A boon to cookery students and lessons everywhere. Nevertheless, I switched my chicken thighs to a smaller baking tray pretty damn fast.
The result was some sticky-good chicken wings, alongside a plate of chicken breasts with mushrooms and rosemary (nice) and melted spring onions (tasty, but cold). A week and a half into Ballymaloe and I think I’m beginning to establish that my future doesn’t lie in a busy restaurant as part of a brigade.