Saturday, 16 October 2010

Saturday - Shopping, Stock and Soup

The end of the week, relaxation beckoned and was greeted with a 10 minute lie-in before the need for caffeine took over and hurtled me downstairs to satisfy my craving. Between cups one and two I managed to fit in a shower and then, exhausted by the effort, back for a refill.

Regular readers will realise that Saturday means washing, filing and catching up but this week there was the need to replenish supplies for the house. So 9am saw three of us enter a well known store (where every little helps) to purchase cleansing materials. Food was another matter and with local organic products on sale at the Farmers Market the heirs and successors to sir Jack Cohen were not going to get a look in. A brisk trot across several lanes of traffic disdainfully ignoring the pedestrian crossing brought us to the market where we split up. A late breakfast of a double espresso and whatever tasting portions were available satisfied the inner man and ensured the continued shrinkage of the outer man as well.

Now one of the advantages of being in the market really early is that there are fewer people around, one of the others is that you get the best of the produce and since the suppliers are small they still have stock. Other advantages include looking very keen to any passing teachers or members of the Allen dynasty. No sooner had I loaded my little bag of goodies than Darina appeared, pleased that I was using the market - actually had I been at home I would have been in Usk Farmers Market so no real change there then.

Darina next appeared showing a small group round the market stopping at every stall to ensure that each was treated equally and each got a chance to explain their produce and methods to the group. The photo catches her at the Organic Meat stall in full enthusiastic flow.

Armed with my produce, which included 12 small langoustines which would be made into a stock and a garnish for tomorrow night's Crab Risotto, I headed home to convert ingredients to foods.

First cook your prawns, then refresh in cold water, peel and place the flesh in a box to cool in the fridge. Add the shells, claws etc to a pan in which a shallot has been carefully sweated sweat some more and add tomatoes. The add three pints of boiling water and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain and return the stock to another pan to reduce. Cool and refrigerate.

 Following this practice chopping skills on an onion, potato and a very large carrot. Sweat in butter until tender. Turn up the heat and introduce some diced smoked bacon. Add chicken stock and a pint of boiling water and simmer for 20 minutes. Liquidise, adjust seasoning and try to persuade housemates that soup and bread by a roaring wood fire is the perfect Autumn evening dish.

Oh yes, somewhere along the way the washing got done on the appropriate settings so Sunday looks like a day of ironing and filing.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Where's the Beef?

The setting sun hung low to the horizon, casting ever lengthening shadows over the grass as students, some delayed by clean up duties, made their way home.

It had been a long day without the need to cook which was, in many ways, frustrating. Having been away from the kitchens yesterday many felt the need to get back to routine and normality, but a day of Demos lay ahead as we entered the school about 45 minutes later than usual. Next week's lists had gone up and I was to return to Kitchen 2 with Joey as my unfortunate stable mate for the week.

So, at 9am Biscuit of the week made its appearance and a treat for us all. From here on in we are allowed to use processors and other electronic aids to cut some of the drudgery!!! This, of course, comes at a cost and menus are likely to get longer and more technical to compensate.

Beef was the main object of the Demo this morning and we had visions of Rory de-boning a cow through one small and invisible incision, whilst Elaine (head gardener) was milking the still living animal. Such thoughts were dashed when Darina entered carrying a 20lb Rib of Beef which she was to cook. The animal was from Ballymaloe's own herd of Angus cows, one of which is pictured

Actually by the time that we saw it the animal had passed through a transitional stage

to metamorphose as

Quickly the chine bone was removed to facilitate carving and the huge joint bisected to enable quicker and more even cooking. Whilst it waited it's trip to the oven more meat was demonstrated, Lamb Shanks were prepared, browned and sent for a little ride in the casserole with a saucy companion and a few herbs. Lamb made a second appearance as the surprise ingredient in a Cassoulet!.

This bean based southern French dish has much in common with Boston Pork and Beans except that Molasses are usually substituted by Confit Duck and a spicy Toulouse Sausage. The common elements being pork and beans. Now we know that there aare as many recipes for Cassoulet as there are cooks south of Paris but I have never heard of one adding neck chops of lamb to the mix. Oh well, another dish I would not be tasting.

The rest of the morning proceeded or rather ran increasingly over time as recalcitrant meat based dishes refused to deliver their promise in anything but their own time and even the Marmalade on the go joined in the go slow.

Roasties and Yorkshire Puddings strained at the leash to join their natural compatriot Roast Beef but in the meantime a number of dips were outlined and made with crudites being fashioned to carry their salty, savoury or pungently smooth flavourings. Finally the beef behaved and about 45 minutes late we headed to lunch.

The afternoon was devoted to Cooking for Coeliacs. Until yesterday one of our number wondered how many things you could do with something that tasted like Celery. We reminded her that she meant Celeriac only to be confronted with someone who thought that they were an endangered species believed extinct until one was caught of Madagascar in 1953.

There are very divided views on coeliac disease. Sufferers believe that a gluten free life is the only way to live and enjoy life whilst others do not believe that gluten is at the root of their many symptoms, blaming the additives in food rather than the grains which we have eaten for 10,000 years and that some doctors, failing to find an alternative diagnosis call it Coeliac Disease.

This blog will not be taking part in that debate though we have probably got you thinking, and why not. You are not just here to enjoy yourselves or live a vicarious life as a trainee chef, No this blog demands  a thinking audience, ruminating on our postings and enhancing your lives from that experience. (Note Royal "we" to demonstrate increasing megalomania of the blogger)

Basically just a three hour demonstration of how to make pastry and bread without using the evil gluten, so no stunningly different photos for you as they looked like cakes or pies and flavour and texture do not come over photographically. Anyway the demonstrator was Rosemary Kearney a former student herself so here's a photo

There was one bit of controversy: Apparently to make cakes and sweet pastry with gluten free flour you have to add Xantham Gum described by Rosemary as a natural product. Her notes though indicate that it is a ground down micro-organism grown under laboratory conditions. Audience it's up to you.

And I would just like to share tonight's sunset with you all

Thursday, 14 October 2010

The Wheels on the bus

6:30 and the hot shower stung me out of slumber. Around the house a cacophony of alarm clocks sounded. Something was happening or at least about to happen.
A scrimmage for the kettle made me grateful that I had the espresso maker with me and the early injection of Java reached those parts that the shower hadn’t – mostly inside. Muesli and medication stuffed down the eager throat and a quick check that all was safely gathered in and we were off.
Usually when someone leaves the house at the crack of still last night they have a “duty” picking veg, milking cows etc. But this morning was different, we all left by 7:30 in various states of preparedness, have I got wet weather gear? Are these shoes alright?
The reason for the early exodus was that the great day had dawned, the School Trip. Barry Island? Funfair? Museum? No a selection of bakers cheesemakers, markets and ex students businesses. We were under strict orders to be outside the school by 7:45 as the bus would leave at 8am sharp!
Forming into twos we were herded onto the bus in a style that the Cockerels trying to  muster hens in the yard could only aspire to. Back seats had been booked in advance and partners firmly advised that if one went missing the other would become a hostage until such time as the wanderer returned. A special plan had been put in place for one student, executed in the style of Paddington Bear or a World War 2 evacuee.

Rory who was the official leader had hoped, earlier in the week, that he would not turn into a demented tour guide. I hoped that he would not turn into the woman in Italy who thought that we were only interested in celebrity “ Tom Cruise, he live he-ere, Roger Moore, is his house, Jay Lo she stay here last we-eek” and more like Brendan from Coach Trip. Hmmm, perhaps we could vote off a couple at each stop.
The driver took off dead on time and, from his entry into the first corner to the Schumaker-esqe maneuvers on the South Ring, we made excellent time, so much indeed that it was suggested that some passengers were a little nervous, and anyway we had plenty of time.
By 9 we were at Ummera Smoked Products in Timoleague who gave just won a Gold in the True Taste Awards in London for their Smoked Duck. Shown around the areas which we could enter by Anthony Cresswell the owner we saw Salmon smoking, the actual smoker and, through a window for food hygiene reasons, the actual post smoking salmon being trimmed and sliced. Finally a tasting, or in my case several, I could not get enough of the delightful light smoke which seemed to exude a delicate butteriness.

Back on the bus we headed off to Carrigaline and Carrigaline Cheeses. Pat O'Farrell spoke about the three cheeses that they make, all from pasteurised milk a Cheddar style, Garlic and Herb and a home smoked version. Donning attractive J cloths, Shoe Guards and PacaMacks we entered the creamery to see the curds being packed into moulds, brined,the store room and get some inside information on cheese making and marketing.

This was also the point at which coffee appeared along with some of the cakes from yesterday's cooking session. The sweetness of the cake contrasting well with the depth of flavour in the three cheeses. My favourite - the Smoked Carrigaline.
Onwards and ever upwards, hence to Mahon Point Farmers Market. A little bigger than Midleton this is one of the most successful in Ireland and also the point for lunch, provided by a member of the "Ballymaloe" family of businesses or a former student depending on whether you favoured Steak Sandwiches or Curry. My own fully loaded Steak Sandwich was very good and left me wishing for more of the tasty beef.

Next the English Market in Cork. For a food lover this is a MUST, for a non-food lover merely an essential. A huge range of fish, meats, fowl, cheeses, breads and vegetables are on offer along with many many products created from the raw ingredients. You could spend a day (and a fortune) here and be certain that you had left with some of the finest products available. The long suffering and non foodie Janet reckons that my hobby is staring at meat, I reckon it is preparation for informed sourcing of quality ingredients. Anyway to prove her point a few photos, and to disprove it - sometimes the ingredient stares back!!

 From the English Market on to Arbutus Bakery, purveyors of fine breads and a must for me whenever in range of one of their outlets. Now, baking is a nocturnal activity and at 3pm there is not much except machinery some still at over 180 degrees despite having been turned off since 8am. So no photos but a very informative journey around the baker with the processes from flours, and indeed grains, and yeasts being explained and the various elements of hand finishing needed to produce a range from Soda to Brioche and Croissants via various yeast breads and sourdoughs and an invitation to join them a t midnight one day to see how it runs when in action.

The final part of the trip/tour took us to another ex student who has set up an Italian Pizzeria in Midleton. He explained how the business was created including getting planning permission for the wood fired stove, financing and detail like getting Venetian artisans in to do the decor, provenance and quality of ingredients and getting a usp like being genuine, he trained not only at Ballymaloe but also in Venice and employs one Italian chef and one Irish one. Cracking antipasto was followed by freshly made pizza, one of which with rocket and parmesan is basically a yard long!! I was so impressed that when Mrs K pops over next week I have a surprise reservation for dinner ( Keep it secret).

Back to Ballymaloe at 5:30. Not a cooking day but one in which we had learned a lot about production and business. That's what the course does so well, it's not just the cooking. From Darina's lecture on compost on day one to the stage at which we have just arrived our understanding of food has grown exponentially. Whatever we do after Ballymaloe the three months will have given us a real understanding and the ability to contribute to ensuring the future of food remains strong.

Finally no students were left behind, no one was injured and no belongings lost. Best School trip I've ever been on (actually the only one).

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Bright Green Water - with apologies to Rhodri Morgan

Last cooking day this week, off on our trip tomorrow and lectures on Friday.

On paper very easy, Vietnamese Salad and Curly Kale. I started with the Salad and hand shredding chicken. The recipe called for breast which is easy to shred finely, this being Ballymaloe I got mainly leg and thigh so as not to waste any chicken from yesterday. 55 minutes of hand shredding later, and some nice comments from teachers about how fine I was shredding, half of my pile was given to someone else who had complained about the lack of breast available!! Oh well, ever onwards and upwards so shallots finely sliced for deep frying for the crispy shallot topping. Then the lime juice gastric which would infuse the chicken and the Prawn Crackers accompaniment. Can you do enough for 70 for lunch please. I cooked more crackers than a take away during the Moon Festival. Mings Garden if you need a cracker chef I'm your boy!

On then to the Kale. 1lb destalked and boiled for 6 minutes, "If you remove them with a slotted spoon someone else can use the water". Into a Magimix to puree ( I passed on the Magimix and the washing up to the person who used my water), back into a pan with butter, cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg to finish. Later Rachel Allen described it as delicious when she had some at lunch.

Plating up, receiving good comments, tasting cakes and scones then on to lunch.

Chicken three ways, assorted accompaniments, Spicy Chickpea soup Cake and cream and coffee.

Hence to Demo and Rachel made her first appearance on the course though we shall have her once a week in future. At high speed and with good humour she whisked us through a trio of winter soups, Kale, Watercress and Spinach (more green water Midge), Bacon Chops with an Irish Whiskey sauce, A new coleslaw like salad and a mother recipe for pastry done by the creaming method (Blackberry and Apple Tart in our case), with several variations. We also got recipes for non-seasonal soups such as Nettle and Wild Garlic - though obviously without demonstrations.



Bacon Chop with Piperonata, Scallion Champ and Fried Banana

Scallion Champ


Blackberry and Apple Tart
Comedy moment of the day came when Rachel misunderstood my question about using the rind from the Bacon as using a Banana Peel and asking me to come and demonstrate how a banana peel could be turned into Pork Scratchings.

I did explain the error and then went and demonstrated uses for surplus boiled bacon rinds. the moment was captured for posterity by a phone wielding student.
Hopefully no misunderstandings on the trip tomorrow or I may end up walking back from Timoleague!!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Hot Wrist Action

No, don't get all unnecessary.

My right wrist got a severe workout this morning with nearly an hour of whipping and beating. Still no need to get unnecessary.

Only three dishes to cook today but several elements to each, one two stand alone dishes joined to create a third, and lots of ingredients. First up a tomato granite topped with a crab mayonnaise. So make the mayonnaise, 25 minutes whipping the constituent parts, then make a tomato puree, liquidise and put into a sorbetiere to set. Then pick a crab and combine meat and mayonnaise. Finally put the granite into a classy glass, top with a blob of crab mayonnaise and serve.

Next a traditional sponge cake. Cream butter, add sugar, beat in eggs, add flour and bake. More wrist action about 20 minutes. Then cool cakes and line with Raspberry Jam, Raspberries and Whipped Cream (another 10 minutes). Sandwich together and dust with icing sugar.

Finally make a really good bread sauce to accompany the chicken being roasted by my partner. Good results too, the cake rated 5.5/6 the crab mayonnaise and sorbet 6/6 and the bread sauce 5/6. The cake was a triumph particularly for a man who does not stride in the footsteps of Mr Kipling, it was eaten before I could get a photo so you will just have to take my word.

Tomorrow looks easy on paper, just a salad and curly kale to cook. However, the salad has several steps and the Kale is cooked then pureed and seasoned before being re-cooked for service. My partner will cook a soup and a coffee cake.

Don't imagine though that we have several hours to produce a limited range of dishes. Today we learned how to make a paper piping bag and the relatively short cooking demand will ensure that we have time to make bags, melt chocolate and practice chocolate decorations and writing. If there are still a couple of free minutes omelettes will be back on the menu.

Soups and salads dominated the demo with a stunning range of cakes displayed toward the end all based on one mother recipe.

The salads revolved around chicken with Asian, Indian, Mexican and European influences and  a host of techniques needed to deliver them. The tasting at the end was a culinary circumnavigation, and tasty too.

Only one more cook this week as Thursday is the School Trip to a number of producers. More on that Thursday.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Still Life with Pheasant

Orion the hunter still glimmered in the early morning light, an auspicious sign given that today would be our introduction to game. I felt good, probably more to do with not going back to the pub last night than the traumas of a new kitchen and a new partner.

Into the kitchen and into our stride we tackled our dishes, my soup involved finely chopping 1lb of mushrooms (45 minutes in case you are interested) and sweating onions whilst boiling stock and milk. Dressing for the tomato salad took a while as did painstakingly stuffing dates with marzipan- no not the horrible bright yellow shop bought stuff but real almond paste. In between these activities we made millions of omelettes, classic french, fines herbes, cheese souffle etc until our teacher - possibly egg bound - said that we had done enough for the day.

After a lunch of Mushroom Soup, Omelette and Stuffed Dates or Marzipan Apples it was back to Demo but not the clean tidy pristine Demo that we had left after our culinary adventure no this one was a positive avian charnel house.

Presiding over this unconstructed duvet was Tom the local gamekeeper. He did not look like the cartoon image of a gamekeeper no Barbour, boots and flat cap but a tall smiling gent in a pullover and tie. He had a charming manner even when eviscerating some recently deceased member of the duck family with his bare hands or demonstrating that with the right twist the sinews come out along with the severed bit of the leg he was twisting. Clearly a man not to upset, but a man who knew his stuff and advised on the types of duck we would probably see (if not shoot) in Ireland demonstrating Teal and Mallard as well as Snipe and advising us of the legal hunting dates. The Pheasant, he apologised, was frozen as it was not in season but he had frozen it unplucked as it was for our demo!

After he departed Darina returned to more domestic fowl and two recipes with Roast Chicken 9equally applicable to pheasant and guinea fowl - adjust the timings) Turkey -recipe only due to cooking time, witty ways with crab, tomato granite, a creamed sponge cake and Turnips (Swedes to you who think that turnips are the little white things). Of course the full range of sauces and salads were demonstrated as accompaniments and home made potato crisps.

So tomorrow Lunch will have its first official meat other than lamb for over a week, we cook what we last saw demonstrated for the uninitiated.

Tomorrow as they say is another day and at the risk of sounding dangerously right wing Tomorrow belongs to me.