T - from now on it shall be known as Day One!
T had arrived … It was finally “Trade Date” (Banking humour, I’ll stop now ...) Today was the day … First day at the cookery school however it’s a day with a difference … From now on … today shall be day one … tomorrow day two … still with me !
No chef whites, no cooking … and we had breakfast and lunch made for us … that will change from tomorrow!
So … dress code today was normal clothes plus sensible shoes … wellington boots recommended! As I refused to buy a pair of wellingtons (I was afraid I would end up with a pair of Le Chameau’s (google them to be amazed !!!) I tend to get a little carried away when shopping unaccompanied or so I’ve been told numerous times). I donned my hiking boots and plodded my way down to the school to join the other 63 (approx) students for our first breakfast.
Breakfast was a lavish affair … sweet and savoury options with everything homemade, I can’t even remember a fraction of what was put out … from granola to labneh with honey, jersey (cow) butter to fresh sourdough and sourdough buns, freshly squeezed apple and orange juice to tea made with tea leaves (Yes ... no T bags at Ballymaloe!) … this I could get used to!
After breakfast we all gathered in the main demonstration room (where they do the afternoon cooking demonstrations) where Darina gave us a quick briefing and then we headed out with her onto the farm … alas the rain got the better of us after about 20 minutes and we retreated back to the demonstration room where Darina, with the assistance of one of the teachers (Pam, this women is a cooking machine, more on her another time) showed us how to make basic brown soda bread & oat biscuits … during the demonstration they touch on many subjects ... from the benefits of organic dairy produce to the “healthy” eating industry. One of my personal inner chuckles was one of Darina’s quips “Nature didn’t put fat on meat to annoy us” … so there !
The weather then cleared up (somewhat) and we managed to get back out and around most of the farm, from the wild flower meadows, the old cottages, the decorative herb gardens, the vegetable and herbs beds, the greenhouses, the dairy, some of the chicken coops (over 200 chickens making eggs for my breakfast!). We had a condensed briefing on seed planting and the management of the vegetable and herbs growing from Tim Allen, Darina’s husband. We were then all given a sweetcorn plant to put in the earth (with our names on it, see photo) we will see it’s progress after the end of 12 weeks, considering that I have recently managed to kill even our Cacti at home, this will be interesting!
We finished up our Farm exploration with a lesson on composting … at “Ballymaloe“ they waste nothing … natural waste (from the kitchen) either goes in the “hen’s bucket”, where it comes back to us as eggs a few days later (a phrase we have already heard four times, so it must be true) or it goes into the compost heap to be used for vegetable growing etc when ready! It really starts to make you think about what we do with our organic waste!
Lunch was another affair … three courses … cooked again by the teachers! Darina even assists in the serving ... I managed to not get told off today! Success!
Starter was a tomato cream soup with homemade white and brown soda bread (and jersey butter … this could be the death of me!),
Main … we had a sea food plate with smoked eel, Dublin bay prawns, smoked mackerel, smoked salmon etc … (photo will do it more justice than I possibly could), we also had a local delicacy …sea kale … that was served with a hollandaise!
Dessert was lush … all I can remember was there was coffee ice-cream, jersey cream and some sort of decadent cake with an amaretto mousse (I think) and fresh cream! Just what we needed to keep us awake during the afternoon demonstrations!
The afternoon session was a walk through of what we will be cooking tomorrow morning … (soups, rice pudding (with spiced fruit and roast rhubarb (in season now)), a mushroom sauce (mushroom a la creme) and the breads from earlier! Oh we also did stock syrups and lemonade !) ... and an overview of some of the basic FAQs on our stay at Ballymaloe!
Bring on tomorrow … an 8.30am start and donning my chef whites for the first time!
I forgot to mention … you will probably see at some stage ... on my name tag … I am "Gar" O’Sullivan … when I registered they asked what nickname I go by … I thought it was a bit too “street” to go by my normal “G” so just put down Gar, not really, I just thought it would be easier for the non Irish and so I wouldn't have to repeat my name and explain my name 64 times 😉
"Interesting" fact - the orange halves that are left over after being juiced are either made into candied peel or are dried out and apparently they are great as a fire-lighter! Who knew!