Wednesday is lecture day, and day 2 of the wine course!
First up though a visit from Mary Burns the iconic creator of Ardrahan cheese - made just outside Kanturk in West Cork. She told us of the production process and also of the bureaucratic nightmare facing small producers. Originally an unpasteurised cheese Ardsallagh was snapped up by the French and was 99% exported, then one calf in a herd that they owned on a separate farm and nothing to do with the cheese process tested positive for TB. Immediately production was closed down, ans in future all milk had to be pasteurised. The French could not understand why one incident not related to cheese production should end raw milk cheese making and promptly cancelled the contract. The way back was long and hard but they now produce not only the Ardsallagh but also a new, milder, cheese Duhallow. Mary also spoke of another West Cork cheese Durrus. Later her tasting plate emerged as part of lunch.
A demonstration of two cakes followed Mary's talk, Tunisian Orange Cake and it's sister cake Moroccan Orange and Almond cake, but more of those later.
Time had arrived and Wine was the next subject (One of my three pet hates along with Lamb and Tea). Surprisingly the lecture proved not only informative, but also very interesting. After the great wine regions of France were explored and explained we settled down to a tasting of wines from Burgundy and the South West. Six wines before lunch? What are they doing to us? How will we concentrate in the afternoon? Four of the six were unexceptional, they tasted pleasant at the front of the tongue but I unfortunatley do n ot like the tannin which dominates the taste buds at the back. If only wine could be drunk solely at the front of the mouth or at a really low temperature like a Prosseco or Champagne I would get a lot more out of them.
Then came a red, Chateau de Cedre 2006, made from the Malbec and Tannat grapes, and produced bio dynamically. This split the students. A robust wine by a top maker I found it too strong for my taste but others loved it and the chateau has great respect around the world and from leading wine critics. All a matter of taste and better palates than mine love this one.
A sweet Jurancon Clos Urolat 2008, from the Petit Manseng grape proved brilliant. I LIKE this wine. Sweet but a background of acid, Orange and Apricot flavours dominated and this wine, admittedly a sweet dessert wine, would go brilliantly with the cakes demonstrated earlier.
And so to lunch. Now you will recall my partial vegetarianism due to lamb being on the menu for the last two days, and how it is one of my top 3 hates. Well guess what? Lamb again today as not all of the shepherds pies and moussaka had been eaten.
Fortunately I had plan B. Ballymaloe works with local schools to give top junior classes the chance to try cooking and gardening and a group of 10 year olds were in today. Even better they were making and cooking sausages from scratch.
Now show me the 10 year old who can resist an obvious authority figure marching into their dining room and saying "Give me that plate boy!"
Actually I had a word with one of the cooks doing their session and she offered me to hold back a few sausages. These went well with the veg on offer today and caused some jealousy amongst those who were trying lamb again.
Back to Demo and guess what? The Treble!!! A lecture on ..... Tea. Fortunately no tastings were involved and though it will apparently come up in the exams the questions cant be too hard as we only had 55 minutes of presentation.
Now the bit that will have many, and I would imagine disproportionately those of the female persuasion, drooling and beating a path to Ballymaloe, the Afternoon Tea Demonstration. Cleverest of all was the way in which a loaf can be hollowed out to leave a picnic box and then re-stuffed with the insides now converted into sandwiches.
Anyway the photos