Monday, 29 November 2010

White Hell

Though nothing compared to Wales, East Cork this morning was still - if not blanketed- gently wrapped in a gossamer layer of snow. The temperature had been around zero all night and was not expected to rise during the day. If Met Eirean are to be believed the worst is yet to come.Still there's work to be done and that means leaving the comforts of home to cross the Shanagarry tundra. Feeling not a little like Ivan Denisovitch I left and headed towards the twinkling lights of the school, pausing only to record the scene in the Herb Garden.
As the warmth of the kitchen gradually seeped into my bones I contemplated the day's tasks. Irish Coffee Meringue and Mussel Soup, neither highly taxing. The Meringue would take an hour in the oven so it had to be started first.

Whisking two egg whites and 4 oz icing sugar into stiff peaks should take around 15 minutes. At 25 I had an impressively shiny and definitely thickening liquid. At 30 it remained the same. The white haze of depression descended and I decided that I had to ask for help. "You're nearly there give it another 5". 5 minutes later and no discernible difference so back for assistance. "Did you use the egg whites from the container?" "Yes, we were told to use them up and not separate eggs just for meringue." "Looks like they might be contaminated, try again with two fresh eggs".

Some nifty cracking and separating and new whites lay in my scrupulously clean and dry bowl. With trepidation I turned on my electric beaters, a second failure would have been soul destroying. This time the task was over in 5 minutes and a glossy, dry peak of meringue rose from the bowl like a mini Matterhorn, more icing sugar and two teaspoons of instant coffee powder were added to give a speckled effect. . Swift spatula work and a palette knife produced low discs of meringue perfectly fitting the circles that I had drawn on parchment paper and into a 150 degree oven they went. 45 minutes later they emerged and went off to cool down.

Time to tackle the soup. Onions were chopped, Herbs prepared and 3lbs of Mussels scrubbed and consigned to the saucepan with the other ingredients and 15 fluid ounces of wine. As the mussels opened they were removed, shelled and put aside. The cooking liquid was strained through Muslin to ensure any gritty bits were left behind and the liquid returned to the pan to reduce. I have to say that I did not find the taste of the liquid exactly scintillating and even after reduction, thickening with a roux and then diluting with boiled milk any improvement was marginal. Just before serving the Mussels were returned and a little cram added before a garnish of Parsley was scattered on.

The Meringue discs were sandwiched together with whiskey flavoured whipped cream and then decorated with piped cream and other exciting elements such as coffee beans. I have to admit that my meringue was whipped away straight after tasting so the photo is not of mine but it was along pretty similar lines.

The tasting went well with my favourite comment being on the soup. You made it taste as good as it can, usually they are horrible.If I am honest, and why not, I must say that I would reject that particular soup if the Salvation Army were feeding me on the street, many however would like it.

The afternoon demonstration was another 35 ways with Pasta, concentrating on filled parcels. My mind however was wandering as I turned to the third handkerchief of the day and concluded that I might be starting a cold.

Somehow I hung on until the end of the Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar tasting but was relieved when at 7:30 we were let go.

Tomorrow will either be tales of mortal combat with Pasta or 33 ways with Lemsip. Only tomorrow will tell.


  1. Better get that lemsip down you no way can you miss those exams! It's only man flu anyways

  2. I was on the course in April. Amazing to see Ballymaloe covered in icing sugar (aka snow). Fun to read your blog!

    I blogged about my Ballymaloe experience here:
    (last post about receiving the certificate / sorry, in german but google might translate it)