Friday, 29 October 2010

Exam Fever and a crispy Calzone

Tyres smoked as they struggled to find grip, leaving thick black lines as evidence of their effort - but no matter what this was a car crash that was going to happen.

Fortunately probably not at Ballymaloe today and hopefully not to your blogger. A miserable day with lashing rain as I picked my way through the sodden fields trying to avoid the obvious puddles but arriving with a somewhat soggy shoe and one that was just soaking. Early morning salad duty when everyone else has to be in at 9:30 means little chance of a lift so I wended my already weary way like the proverbial ploughman - except that he had finished the day's labours and mine were yet to commence.

Good news, there was no salad duty!! Bad news 70 pizza bases had to be rolled and the dough was still in a 3 Kilo lump. Still the technique ( a buzz word round here) was that for rolling white yeast rolls so whilst the weigh up team cut dough into 220 gram chunks, the rest of us formed it into balls and rolled it out.

With enough "volunteers" this task can be done in a relatively short time and the more we did the better we got and the nicer the bases looked. Mr Domino I will be available after all - unless Mr Hut or Mr Express sign me up first.

Once made, many would be cooked in the wood burning Pizza Oven:

though others would be cooked in conventional ovens or fried either dry or deep as the versatility of the humble Pizza was demonstrated to its very limit.

The latest addition to the Allen dynasty is Phillip who is not only a master of the Pizza but a very good butcher too, not so much gaining a son in law as gaining two craftsmen and teachers.

Not only would Phillip be cooking in the aforementioned oven but he explained the technique (that word again) for spinning the dough to stretch it - we were not allowed to practice on the newly rolled bases. He also gave a brief history of the Pizza and explained its versatility. From simple Margherita to involved Calzone and Sfincuini via Piadina and even an explosive chilli based Pizza we saw them all.

And tasted many!! Guess what was for lunch? along with some fine Focaccia breads.

This feast of fine Italian cuisine was designed as much as anything to take our minds off the forthcoming exams and lunch was somewhat quieter than usual as little groups continued both speculation and last minute revision.

I had the Technique exam first and was in the first group scheduled to enter the kitchen. 30 minutes with 4 techniques to demonstrate. We were pretty certain that we would each have to chop and sweat an onion and also make a paper piping bag but beyond that the techniques were random.

How delighted I was to see that I had to joint an entire chicken. One of the things that I had only done twice in its entirety but understood the technique well enough to have a reasonable stab at it. (Actually no stabbing just slow methodical strokes with a boning knife). I even remembered to separate the wing pinion for stock and to turn part of the wing inside out for a cocktail/canape drumstick!!

not my actual jointing a s cameras are not allowed in exams

The onions were finely diced and sweated off with a little seasoning and a butter wrapper to retain moisture and the piping bag looked like an elf's hat.

 Just the sauteed mushroom to go. The trick here is really high heat, plenty of butter and seasoning and to use your filleting knife to cut them vertically and what passes for high speed in students with only six weeks experience. Remembering to fry them in small batches and place into a warmed bowl for presentation I also remembered that they should all be returned to the pan just before serving to maximise heat.

35 minutes and I was out! Others had tasks like making glazed carrots, making shortcrust pastry, making scones or filleting fish. I guess that I got lucky with four techniques that I could do.

The on to the herb and salad exam. 10 herbs to identify and suggest recipes in which they could be used. Not too hard and the tricky Dill or Fennel position can be resolved by a tasting. Salad leaves harder and one I could not remember the name at all so won't be getting 100% there then.

Finally two bonus techniques, present and pour a bottle of wine and lay a place setting correctly including three glasses. The wine probably OK and the place setting excellent provided you are a left handed person who does not drink wine and needs a spoon to handle all your food.

Overall not as bad as many had imagined and, I think that, the real purpose is to give a reality check on progress to date and identify areas in which you may need help ( in my case the kitchen) or are excelling.

I think that the Blackbird in Ballycotton will be busy tonight!!

and I bet that the local Hell's Angel will be there too.

1 comment:

  1. Guess you set that place for Kevin then he's a left handed non drinker who prefers to eat with a spoon how creepy it must be halloween!