Week 5, we were warned back on day 1, can be when the cracks start to appear. People get tired. Exams loom. Tempers fray. Competitions are won and lost. ‘The end’ (and therefore making decisions about what comes next) feels much closer, sometimes uncomfortably so.
But so far, a few days into week 5, while there have definitely been moments of tiredness and while exams and life after Ballymaloe are both realities that cannot be ignored, on a daily basis I am still feeling amazed to be here. Appreciative, inspired and grateful. (But hey, we’re only a few days into the week so I reserve the right for everything to change)
I mean when this is your view, it’s hard to find anything to complain about
Monday morning I was back for my second week in Kitchen 2. Partnered this time with Sophie (a lovely girl from England who shares a similar enthusiasm for piglets) I began the morning making a spiced lamb pie with hot water crust pastry and more white yeast bread.
Hot water crust pastry is a wonderful thing. Sturdier and more robust that a short crust pastry it’s great for savoury pies which have a heavier filling. It’s also great because it’s such a doddle to make. No rubbing cold butter into flour as per your usual shortcrust. Instead you melt the butter in water and bring to the boil and then simply pour into your flour. Once cooled, you can then roll it out and add your filling pop your lid on and in my case some sheep related decoration and voila. Pie. With local lamb we cut off the bone and lots of freshly roasted cumin and coriander seeds, this was delicious winter fare.
Also on the menu was local seafood. Delicious mussels, shrimp, scallops, clams and periwinkles – these were all cooked from fresh (in plenty of salted water of course) and served with seaweed and homemade mayonnaise. Delicious. And as you can see from Sophie’s plate – as pretty as a picture.
Monday afternoon’s demo (and therefore Tuesday’s cooking menu) was a hoot. It felt slightly backwards because it was all about breakfast. Darina, supported with a very full cast and crew, whizzed us through basically every item of breakfast food you could possibly imagine. And for someone like yours truly who is a huge fan of breakfast and will host a brunch party at the drop of a hat (did someone say Prosecco?) this was right up my alley.
Darina is hugely vocal about the fact that if one is to do breakfast, it must be done properly. And breakfast, while at first glance can seem simple, is nothing of the sort when done the Darina way, with care and attention given to the smallest of detail and everything that can be is homemade.
“Every bite of a breakfast menu must be delicious. There’s plenty of people doing a very mediocre job in the breakfast department. Leave them to it! Someone has to be the best, so why shouldn’t it be you” – Darina
There were more homemade jams (rhubarb and ginger = amazing) and breads. (Specifically Spotted Dog, another traditional Irish soda bread but this time enriched with raisins and egg). Juices and smoothies. Muffins. Granolas and mueslis. Porridge. Waffles. Eggs done multiple ways. Discussions about teas and coffees. And of course, the inimitable Irish Fry, or cooked breakfast. Bacon, sausage, black and white pudding, tomatoes, mushrooms and an egg. This was an insane amount of food and no small undertaking. At one point in the demo there was Darina, Rachel, Pam, Emer, Pat and Tracie all doing various elements of a breakfast menu. 4.5 hours later when we finished up everyone was exhausted and totally put off ever serving on-demand cooked breakfasts for a crowd 🙂
“Cooking shops will sell you every gadget under the sun to help you poach and egg. But you only need one thing for good poached egg. And that’s a good fresh egg. There’s no mystery if you start with a good egg” – Darina
All of this was then re-created by us on Tuesday morning. Well, that was the intention anyway. I was on granola, ginger muffins (made with fresh root ginger these was light, airy and delicious) a citrus fruit salad cocktail that I ran out of time to do and then when everything else was finished – we all cooked a fry up.
To be honest it all gets a bit much in the kitchens when everyone starts frying. Reminiscent of burger day, suddenly you feel covered in a thin film of grease. This has the immediate effect of completely removing any desire I have to actually eat what I’ve been cooking.
Needless to say this wasn’t a huge issue given the HUGE breakfast spread there was on offer. But sometimes a black coffee and a perfectly segmented pink grapefruit is breakfast perfection.