Monday morning at Ballymaloe started like many others so far, yet today there was something different. At 8am there was the usual air of anticipation and a hint of adrenaline (Adrenaline incidentally is brown) but also something else. A very faint whiff of normality. Though all would change partners and many would vary their kitchen as well a slight outbreak of normality hung over the school. This was our third week and we were beginning to settle in.
The mad dash to the kitchens and weigh up areas had less desperation, it was a casual stroll, people spoke to each other comparing weekend experiences rather than competing blindly. Hell, if we had a water cooler we might have gathered around it.
Signed in and, therefore officially there we collected ingredients for the morning, checked recipes and just prepared. The morning pep talk by the teacher was listened to and acted upon, people shared information like where the carrots could be found and small talk broke out at the stations. We were on our way to being chefs not just highly competitive cookery students.
The evil beast that goes by the name of sheep featured heavily on the menu today though for allergenic reasons my own contribution to the forthcoming feast was limited to Mint Sauce, a retro starter salad with home made salad cream, dessert and a vegetable accompaniment. In our new, more professional environment we all finished on or around time and the kitchen seemed cleaner than ever before.
Lunch was a cheery affair except for those of us condemned to a main course of two types of beans, some carrots, turnips and potatoes. Dessert however was delicious with an Italian Fruit Salad, Mango and Banana in Lime Syrup and for me, a portion of flapjack on the side.
Lunch did, however have its lower moments as we discovered the need for the first student to receive treatment in A&E, happily some stitching did the trick and they were able to rejoin us before the end of the day along with another mutilated proto-chef.
Now for the moment which you and I have both been waiting.
But first a demo of things to do with left over lamb and cheap scraggy bits. The Ballymaloe way seems to be convert them to either Shepherds pie or the more popular Moussaka (three recipes)and throw in a veggie one as well, so that everyone looks like they have the same. They seem to have missed my preferred option of casting the flesh into the burning fires of hell for all eternity, though in the Ballymaloe manner it would re-emerge 20 minutes later as a tasty kebab with home made pitta bread, a youghurt and cucumber relish and a tasty tomato and cumin side dish. Damn it even my cynicism is being subverted by food!!
Finally Rory turned his attention to the main event the Pawnographic Display. A short burst of information on the differences between shrimp and prawns was followed by actual preparation of dishes. First the succulent crustaceans were cast still wriggling into hot, very salty water to cook to perfection. This produced questions as to why crabs were gently heated and lulled into the big sleep whilst prawn and shrimp were boiled alive. The answer seemed to be that crabs took longer to cook. The follow up from another student "How do we know when they are dead?" produced the stunningly simple answer that "As they have been immersed in boiling water, we can be pretty sure that they are."
Accompaniments such as garlic butter or mayonnaise followed and demonstrations of plating which will influence my own offering of Ballycotton Shrimp with Mayonnaise and Brown Bread tomorrow. However, if you have made it this far it will probably be because you want to see some prawnographic images, so here they are
Tomorrow I shall probably report on every garlic butter infused second of their consumption and look ahead to Mexican cookery on Thursday, after all Thomasina Miers came to Ballymaloe and then went on to build her own Aztec Empire of restaurants.