Friday = Fish day! Yesterday in our afternoon demo the lovely Rachel Allen talked to us about fish, showing us how to filet and then cook the most delicious fish in buttered crumbs and duchesse potatoes. (This is basically fish pie gone luxe).
Friday was my last day working in Kitchen 3 with the lovely Emer. Here we both are with our fishy friends for the day.
Emer was in charge of the fish dish today though and I was on sweets, namely traditional Seville orange marmalade and then marmalade bread and butter pudding with marmalade sauce.
The mamalade was a two day affair. Yesterday I’d cut up the peel of the oranges and lemons and then left them soaking in water overnight with all their pips and pith in a muslin bag. (The pith and pips provide all the pectin to help the marmalade set, so it’s important to include them in the whole cooking process). Then today I boiled them for a couple of hours with an inordinate amount of sugar until it was reduced, golden and sticky. Once it had pass the plate test and was set, I said goodbye to the pith and pips and poured it into sterilised jars.
Now this bread pudding was something else. It is amazing how simple ingredients like stale bread, eggs, milk and cream can be turned into the most indulgent and delicious thing with a bit of care and attention.
There is nothing vaguely healthy about it; it’s a perfectly pudding-ish pudding. And as always Darina had one very clear direction on making it:
“Don’t you dare use low-fat cream when you make this or I will come back and haunt you. If you’re going to have bread and butter pudding it might as well be gorgeous” – Darina
And, I’ve got to hand it to her. She was right. It’s amazing.
I then got filleting fish. We start our fish skills with round fish, called such because they have one fillet on each site. Common ones caught locally are pollack, haddock, hake, cod (which is still allowed to be fished in Irish seas) and whiting.
My Mr Hake was lovely. And it was much more intuitive than deboning a chicken. It made me realise how elegant a fish is with its smooth skin and clean lines. Caught that day from Cork Harbour his eyes were clear and he smelt like the sea. Fresh but not fishy. And just like the chicken, every part of the fish that can be is either eaten or into the stock pot.
In the afternoon demonstration, we were shown our first animal with 4 legs – the lamb. We had Philip come in and show us a half lamb. He (with support from Darina) cut it up, calling out the different cuts, talking to us about Spring lamb, lamb, hogget and mutton and then different cooking techniques.
There are optional evening butchery courses to get involved in at the school. While chicken jointing, fish filleting and cooking all meats are pretty much mandatory for everyone, actually getting out the saw to butcher an animal is not forced upon us. Sitting there it looks interesting but also pretty intense. I’m going to give it a go as I think it’s important to see, learn and understand where all the food I eat comes from… but as someone who doesn’t eat a lot of red meat and feels more comfortable with chickpeas than offal it will be interesting to see how I find the reality of it.
Darina then continued with the demonstration in her usual flair, full of action, information and Darina-isms.
“Make sure you use all your senses when you cook. Your taste, your sight, your smell and your hearing” – Darina
A shoulder of lamb was put into roast and then an array of accompaniments were shown. Haricot beans, tomatoes and rosemary that the French would eat with their lamb. Potatoes in their many guises. More salads. Mint sauce, redcurrant sauce, glazed carrots and of course… gravy.
“There are a few things with food that are very personal and gravy is one of them. Gravy is what your mammy used to make. And however I show it to you, you’ll always think it’s not quite right” – Darina
We also saw more pastry; a french onion tart and a pissaladiere (an open french tart with onions, anchovies and capers) – both two of my favourites. Every demonstration leaves me waiting in anticipation for the next day of cooking and eating and today was no exception!
Finally – and if I hadn’t been full enough I got a last minute place on the Friday evening cheese making course. Major excitement.
Ballymaloe have their own dairy where the cows are milked every day and they make small quantities of their own Ballymaloe cheese. And this is what a group of us got a chance to do last night; make small gouda style cheeses with a washed rind. Given we’d had the cheese demonstration on Wednesday I was pretty excited to do this. Rather than explaining everything, I’ll let the photos show you the process.
We turn the cheeses daily for the next week and then less regularly. By the time we leave in 10 weeks time they’re be ripe enough to take home with us. Exciting!
Then it was home to a very well deserved glass of red wine and down time with my house-mates. What a week!