Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Austerity Budget? Pass the champers and grill another Koi Carp

The final ever Demo this morning and the luxury of a 9am start. Overnight rain had frozen hard so the walk across the fields was a lottery, wet feet or broken ankle. Miraculously I managed to get to School safely where I met a teacher who had fallen on ice and damaged her shoulder. Others arriving told of falls, and even Darina had lost her footing.
However by 9 we were all assembled and looking forward to Rory's demo. On the day that Ireland faced an austerity budget Rory promised Oysters in Champagne Sauce, Quail done several ways, Haunch of Venison in Red Wine Sauce and one or two other trifling dishes. A display of swordsmanship was unlikely given the size of the average Quail but what could stop Rory?
Though you might need a fairly small knife to joint them, something larger would be required to halve the Quail.

Note Knife to Bird ratio 2:1?

Given the minute nature of the birds even a standard Chef's Knife looked massive and the birds fell into the required cuts at the lightest touch of a blade that looked as though a Ninja had sharpened it. These would be served in different fashions and with accompaniments such as salad or even Grapes.

9lbs of Venison Haunch was lightly marinated and sent to the oven for 10 minutes per pound whilst 1/2 bottle of red wine was reduced to a tablespoon and then Port and Grand Marnier followed suit before stock was added and reduced by only two thirds. Finally butter was added Rory selflessly limiting the addition to only one ounce per person. The resultant ruby red, deep and intense sauce was amazing and would go well with Steak or Beef as well.

The Champagne sauce again saw half a bottle being reduced to a tablespoon and then butter being added in Beurre Blanc style. This would be used to nap Oysters before grilling. The Oysters themselves were placed under a hot grill to open before the lids were removed, the sauce added and the whole re-grilled. Great taste, and for many a cooked Oyster is probably prefferable to a raw one.

Carpaccio of Beef was the other main feature of the demonstration with good quality Fillet being thinly sliced and rolled to wafer thinness. Served with Rocket, Parmesan and a Mustard Sauce these little delights were served as a starter and also as canapes (well the trimmings).

All too soon the Demo and our learning process were over. Well we will continue to learn for ever and, as Rory said"I am going to do a few day's work experience before Christmas at The River Cafe".

The end of learning though means the beginning of testing and those of us cooking tomorrow were on tenterhooks waitng to discover which bread we would be cooking as part of the practical. Drawn by lot we could have faced anything from a White Soda Bread to a White Yeast Plait or a Focaccia. My relief was immense when I drew a Brown Soda. Though I do not claim to be a Master Baker ( though I may have misheard some suggestions) but the key thing is that bread is part of the exam and must be included within the three hour cooking time allowed. A yeast takes more time to prepare and knead so it cuts down on the time available for the other dishes and, as overruns incur penalties of reduction in marks, avoiding it improves your overall chance.

This afternoom we had a trip to Ballymaloe House to tour the Kitchens and Wine Cellar, visit a Coffee Roaster who has just set up in one of the farm buildings and have tea. We were also treated to a few words of advice from Myrtle Allen the Grande dame of Irish Hospitality.

Tomorrow at 12:30 I shall put my newly acquired skills to the test in the Practical Exam and then, hopefully after a restful Thursday the new knowledge will be tested in three written exams.


  1. Good Luck, not that you will need it

  2. Enjoyed reading your blog. Why not check us out when you fancy a change of scene and some more wonderful food! We are not too far away in Brittany....