- Food & Drink
A thunderstorm killed the internet in the cottages this weekend, so I’ve been cut off from the outside world. No lol cleggz, no Scrabble, no online arguments about the price of fish to keep me entertained and no way to update G&C. So this is a round-up of the last 3 days at Ballymaloe, before the weather got in the way.
Wednesdays are demo days and on Tuesday evenings everyone is relaxed and smiling, because there are no orders of work to worry about and we don’t need to wake up early to get the vegetable chopping underway. By the end of Wednesday, we stagger out of the demo theatre like extras from Night Of The Living Dead, minds bowed and a little broken under the weight of information we’ve taken in.
This Wednesday Eddie the Dairy Man demonstrated milk separating, cheesemaking and yogurt making, followed by Darina whisking up butter and buttermilk while he took question after question from cheese struck students. When he asked if anyone wanted to come up and run a knife through the curds and whey he’d separated with rennet, I shyly sprinted to the front. It’s like stroking semi-set silk and hopefully next week I will get the first Gin and Crumpets cheese underway.
In the afternoon, The Man From Bollinger came and gave us an hour-long lecture on Bollinger followed by a tutored tasting. We tried Champagne Montvilliers Brut NV, a champagne for the on trade, which was light, fresh and apply – exactly how you’d expect a house champagne to taste (not that I have many expectations on that front).
That was followed by the Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut – much more interesting, with toasted biscuits, creamy lemons, pastry and Marmite all bubbling away in the glass. The last tasting was Bollinger Brut Rosé, a new venture for them and my least favourite. It has that crushed apple blossom smell I associate with champagne, but I found it a bit weak, as if it couldn’t quite work up the energy to get out of the glass. Nevertheless, I’m convinced and it’s nothing but Bollinger for me from now on.
On Thursday, I boldly went back into the bread making fray, tackling white soda bread. Yet again my mixture was too wet and we had to shake in extra flour to stop it running off the counter edges. I was mystified – am I really so inept that electronic scales are beyond me?
My teacher took a look at my crumpled face while she rescued my bread and had a suggestion: use the imperial measurements. The recipes were originally written in imperial, metric conversions can be variable. A few grammes here and there can end up in floury slop. So I’m putting my pre-decimalisation head on for my next baking session.
Having failed at flour again, I turned my attention to offal. I was down for the sweetbread salad: pan-fried sweetbreads and walnuts with mixed salad leaves and walnut oil dressing. Naturally, after the soda bread, this was a walk in the park.
I soaked the soft, wobbly glands in a bowl of water for a couple of hours and then gently poached them until they firmed up to the right side of rubbery. I dipped them in flour and egg, fried them in slices and served them with a green salad and a little too much dressing. The other warm salad that day was kidney and these were our starters for lunch. Strangely, there were many people watching their weight and just having a main course.
On Friday, I was a cooking machine. Sweet white scones baked (a little overbrowned but I saw someone run off with a bag filled with them, damn them. I haven’t had a scone for 4 days!), one side of a haddock filleted (expertly at first and then like a four-year-old with a spoon for the final section), cheesy haddock gratin made (what’s not to like?), buttered leeks fried (I am a dab hand at frying green vegetables in butter) and beautiful almond tartlets assembled and splodged with cream, which were entirely wrong.
My main lesson for Friday was that you never slice raspberries or blueberries because they bleed and make your pastry collapse. I’d spent half an hour carefully slicing the fruit so it didn’t roll off the tartlets and litter the floor like a pick-your-own massacre and all the time I had been committing crimes against patisserie. I was ashamed (tasted nice though).