(apologies for the late arrival of yesterday's blog - slow web speeds here prevented upload)
Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house etc. Actually twas the night before exams and all round the school, groups of students discussed herbs and making a fool. Yes exam fever was biting hard in East Cork and the thought of identifying 20 herbs and salad leaves was causing misery on a scale usually only encountered at a Smiths concert. What is the difference between pak choi and bok choi, coriander and flat leaf parsley, sweet Cicely and chervil. Huddled groups gave the latest hot news about the exam - you have to fillet a tuna and make sashimi, I heard it was boning a whole horse, You've to make 50 loaves of bread. Actually most of the speculation and worry was probably unjustified. Yes there is an exam on herbs, salad leaves and techniques but the reality is that it is more of a progress check than a competitive exam on which your chance of going to Big School rests.
In the meantime there was real cooking to be done. Today I had to make a cold cucumber soup and then convert 1/2 pint of that into a mousse and cook an apple upside down cake with a fudge sauce. By 9 the soup was made and chilling in the fridge and the gelatin was sponging. By 10 twee espresso cups of mousse were chilling and awaiting garnish and presentation. Tack;e the apple cake. Cut two apples into 8ths, sprinkle with soft brown sugar in a lined frying pan, pour over the cake mix and bake for 40 mins in a 180 oven. Take out and cool, make a fudge sauce and pour over the cake. Present.
The mousses were dressed with shrimp and got their own photo
The chilled soup went into a chilled bowl on a chilled plate but, as it was basically white in white on white it did not get a shot. The cake, covered in an unctuous oozy fudge sauce sat proudly on the plate. How to dress it for presentation? Whipped cream of course but you need that extra wow factor so Chantilly Cream with a cunning glug of Calvados to match the apple based cake. Went well. No photo though as the cake slice did not survive the rigorous tasting and the main cake was whisked away for tomorrow's lunch.
Speaking of lunch, today was vegetarian day except for my shrimp dressing. But a visit from an Italian winemaker who insisted on everyone trying his white with lunch as it would go well with the meal. It did.
Demo started with a brief explanation of the farming of sea urchins and abalone.
The the Italians produced a red for us all to taste before we got down to the real business of the demo.Alessio Guidi gave us the history of the Aviognense family and vineyards as well as the two tastings. The only slight qualm which I felt was that he looked a little like both Fabio Cappello and Ed Milliband, not a look which I would wish on anyone.
Next the actual Demo which featured Kerry and Dingle Pies (Lamb in pastry) Banana Bread, Gingerbread, Pasties (lamb) and seafood. Much of this was to be eaten raw and the proportion increased when as the clams cooked it became clear that one had gone off but, as it could not be identified they all got trashed. To preserve the sensitivities of certain Welsh readers I have refrained from photos but along with mussels and clams, prawns and oysters there were the aforementioned urchins and abalone. Again seafood produced the quote of the day as Rory cut open an urchin and placed the sparkling roe onto the tip of a teaspoon before consuming it. "Rory are those urchins alive or dead?" "Lets say very recently deceased"
A masterclass in oyster shucking could well pay dividends in the future though for the record I prefer mine in a Steak and Kidney Pie rather than on the half shell. Mrs K she is a big fan of the salty one and will select them if they are on the menu, though usually only a modest dozen.
Tomorrow is the big day, mass panic will break out in about 10 hours but I am remaining relaxed. We will be tested but not destructively and anyway at 8ma it is my job to prepare the salad for lunch and, if that does not drop a hint as to the likely content of the herb and leaves content nothing will.