- Food & Drink
Ballymaloe exam dishes from July
Ballymaloe moment of the month: The 12 weeks at Ballymaloe whizzed by and before I was even a bit prepared, the exams were upon me. There was the wine exam, in which I confused pouilly fumé and pouilly fuissé (the social embarrassment); the written exams, where I had to list types of potato, demonstrate a thorough knowledge of HACCP and fire extinguishers and come up with an emergency menu for dinner with Rory O’Connell; and then there was the practical.
3 hours to cook a 3-course meal and a bread. I spent 5 and 1/4 hours making beetroot and goat’s cheese gratin, paillarde of chicken breast, lemon tart and focaccia. I jointed the chicken incorrectly, chose a chipped plate to present my dessert and still I got my certificate. Now all I need is a downstairs loo to modestly hang it in.
Restaurant of the month: Having got used to the eye-watering cost of eating and drinking out in Ireland, Gilbert’s Restaurant and Town House in Cobh astonished with freshly baked bread, thick slices of smoked salmon and home-made ice cream for a mere €20 a head.
Recipe of the month: Back to London and nostalgic for Ireland, I was soon baking loaves of Standby soda bread. I’d been sick to death of it at Ballymaloe, but back in the UK it was suddenly a very impressive and easy trick to pull out of my culinary sleeve and everyone liked it, much more than any other type of bread I made.
Restaurant of the month: I don’t seem to have eaten out in August, which can’t be right but maybe I was being frugal.
Recipe of the month: Everyone might prefer the soda bread, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try to make other breads. An evening eating pizza at The Actress in East Dulwich lead to Potato focaccia because, while pizza is a good thing, you get so much more carb for your bite with focaccia.
Restaurant of the month: A trip to Stockholm introduced me to the delights of cheese and herring starters, meatball main courses and really expensive beer (what was I thinking, going to Ireland and Stockholm in the same year?). But best of all were the breakfast buns, cardamom or cinnamon, served with super strong coffee. No finer way to snap your eyelids open in the morning.
Recipe of the month: The approach of the cold weather (little did I know just how cold it would get), had me reaching for my soup pan. Spinach and coconut soup was a healthy shade of green and packed with chilli, garlic, lemongrass and coconut. A hot water bottle in a bowl.
Restaurant of the month: Before the snow clouds gathered, I grasped a few days of autumn sun in Turkey. The abundance of salad, fruit, fish and freshly baked bread put a glow in my cheeks and not too many inches on my waistline, but the stand-out meal was the simplest: a local cheese sandwich at the Cinarlar Beach Club, Kas. A sun lounger, a bottle of beer and chunk of crusty bread filled with fresh cheese, oily tapenade and salad. Proof that the simple things in life are the best.
Recipe of the month: An easy choice, although I’d like to give an honourable mention to the St Clement’s tart, the best dessert recipe I wrote all year. But the Pork crackling and peanut brittle was a sugary, piggy delight – and left me with a chunk of pork belly to pick at.
Restaurant of the month: A slight cheat this one, as we actually ate there on the 30th October, but I wrote it up on the 1st November so I’m going to let it sneak in. The wonderful service at The Podium Restaurant, Park Lane Hilton, made the Hallowe’en afternoon tea a joy.
Recipe of the month: The behemoth of Christmas dinner hangs over December and a dish of Pistachio and cranberry stuffing cheered up the turkey, that great dull bird that dominates the table for weeks (if you buy one the size we did). Makes good sandwiches, too.
Restaurant of the month: Another win for great service coupled with excellent food at Bob Bob Ricard, home to extravagant soft furnishings and the best salted caramel ice cream in London. I’m thinking of moving in there the next time I’m rendered homeless. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind.
And that was 2010. A year of unrestrained gluttony and there’s barely a mouthful I regret. 2011 stretches out in front of me, over 1,000 meals are waiting to be eaten. With knife in fork in hand, I think I’m ready.