Friday, Friday and we’re at the end of our third week already! It’s been another couple of busy, food fuelled days.
Thursday I was back in the kitchen with one of my all time favourite deserts on the menu – meringue! (Parochial I know, it must be all that growing up with pavlova)
The first meringue we’re introduced to is neither the classic Italian meringue or the method I’m more familiar with cornflour and vinegar. This is the Ballymaloe ‘break all the rules’ meringue. No making a sugar syrup or slowly and carefully adding the sugar into the egg whites – everything is put into the beater, turned up to high speed and then left alone until those stiff, glossy peaks appear.
While other people were making plum and cinnamon meringues or chocolate and hazelnut (with a deliciously healthy dose of brandy) I was making merging with kumquat compote.
Kumquats are the tiniest of citrus fruits and unique because you eat them whole – no peeling required. They can be grown indoors and make lovely houseplants, there are a couple dotted around the school. They have a softer grapefruit taste, especially delicious when turned into the slightly sweeter compote which sandwiched my two meringues together.
I was also making a mackerel and beetroot salad, accompanied by horseradish and pickled cucumber. Fresh and delicious this is definitely my type of food. Although in life before Ballymaloe I confess I would have made this by mainly opening packets. Not so here. I started with raw beetroot which I boiled and then pickled and fresh horseradish which I grated and folded into softly whipped cream. (Hah, is there any recipe which is not improved by this stuff!) It was so amazingly more superior to any jar of horseradish cream I have ever opened. Both dishes went well, but given I also jointed a chicken the morning just seemed to disappear out the window! It was a bit of a rush to the finish line.
Friday’s menu (as demonstrated by Rachel Allen on Thursday afternoon) got all classic Irish on us. Bacon (glazed and boiled), cabbage and of course, potatoes. All made with fresh local ingredients and all totally delicious. Well… maybe except for the boiled bacon. I mean it tasted good but given we do so much eating with our eyes, I couldn’t quite get past the rather unfinished look of the boiled cut of meat.
We also tasted fresh shrimp and prawns caught from Ballycotton harbour and served with homemade mayonnaise and brown yeast bread and a classic covered apple pie.
Both the bacon (glazed version of) and the cabbage ended up on my order of work today. The best part? That delicious cabbage! Finely shredded, cooked so it is soft but still has bite; fresh, salty and buttery tasting – surely the best sort of green side dish. We’ve eaten raw cabbage in salads and coleslaws, liquidised in soups, braised in stews… it’s crazy how this delicious, cheap and seasonal vegetable gets so little air time. Especially that savoy cabbage; it’s like a pretty a bunch of flowers with it’s dark green leaves and white centre.
Unlike yesterday I had bit of extra time today and so with that segmented citrus fruit (one of the many skills on our techniques sheet to check off and get assessed against and made mendiants. Using 62% dark Valhorrona chocolate I decorated mine with crystallised ginger and hazelnuts and sea salt. (See above)
We rounded off the week with a final demo from the lovely duo of Rachel and Pat. Such a great Friday menu to finish with; cakes and burgers.
There were four types of upside down cakes.. mainly featuring seasonal fruit such as pears, apples, plums and the seriously decadent sticky toffee pudding. And – burgers! All that lamb and beef we’ve been butchering will be transformed into burgers. But similar to the mackerel salad – everything from the burger buns (but obviously not brioche style) to the ketchup to the accompaniments will made by hand. e.g. by us on Monday morning!