Friday and only one more before we finish. Tradition ruled as Fish would dominate the menu and the possibility of Frites Gate 2 was hanging in the air. I would not be involved in either though others in Kitchen 1 would make fresh Scampi, Salt and Pepper Squid, things in assorted breadcrumbs, two types of batter would adorn Monkfish and Black (Dover) Sole and Fresh Prawns and Shrimp would also appear with the full range of sauces and dips to accompany them. The Chips would be “Choose your own variety” and Mushy Peas made the Ballymaloe way would take centre stage.
None of this Piscean mayhem would affect me as I had French Onion Soup and a Silky Chocolate Mousse to make.
Three pounds of onions fell victim to the flashing blade of my Cook’s knife the shredded remains being consigned to meet 3 oz of butter and a long slow sweat over very low heat to caramelise without burning. Cooked uncovered and on a heat diffuser I anticipated that it would be about an hour before the stock could be added.
On then to the Silky Chocolate Mousse. You may have worked out that the classic cookery which we learn at Ballymaloe does nothing the easy way. You want to put the Mousse in a Chocolate Cup? First make the cup.
Good dark chocolate was melted down and painstakingly painted onto the inside of a bun case. For stability two were used and the cup had to be held to the light on a regular basis to ensure that there were no thin areas. It took me till my third to realise that if I put them in a bun tin they would be perfectly circular though the freehand examples have a certain rustic charm. A couple of weeks ago a visiting speaker told us that Artisan is a synonym for Inconsistent. My Artisanal Chocolate Cups certainly matched that description though the moulded later forms would grace any dining table in the land.
The Mousse involved melting Chocolate. This time with the addition of butter and water and then egg yolks and Rum were whisked on before the stiffened egg whites were beaten in. Counter intuitively this makes for a smooth and, indeed, silky mousse. Poured into the cooled and set cups this was in turn set aside to chill.
It is a rule that nothing leaves the Ballymaloe kitchen without garnish, so stage 3, make Chocolate Caraque for decoration. Let me see, melt some chocolate. Now this is one of the techniques which we have to master so having done it three times today I got it ticked off three times! Once melted the chocolate is spread very thinly on a cool surface to set then shaved or cut into attractive decorations.
Oh yes and there had to be a Rum flavoured cream piped on to the finished cups so Rum made its second appearance of the day. To test the consistency of the whipped and flavoured cream I spread a little over the surface of the coffee that I had just poured myself thus guaranteeing quality and a sneaky mid morning snifter at the same time.
But what of the French Onion Soup I hear the loyal reader cry. If I were Michael Winner I would be responding “Cal Down, Calm Down – it’s only a soup”. But I am not and the Rum cream was looking more attractive by the second. The Chocolate adventure had taken about an hour and a half but the onions were nowhere near caramelised or sufficiently reduced.
Whilst others around me battered, crumbed, fried, sauced, chipped or plated, I stirred. And stirred. And stirred, the volume diminishing with glacial progress and the onion slowly moving through the Dulux colour chart – White, Off White, Magnolia, Deep Magnolia – you get the picture. I was looking for Deep Ochre or Burnt Umber but began to wonder whether the course would have ended before the reduction process. Deep depression set in and I wondered whether it was worth finishing the dish, afterall there are only 24 hours in the day
Eventually, around 12:15 I was able to put in the stock and season. Just the rounds of toasted crouton and the grated Gruyere topping to go. 12:45 I had plated and was ready for a tasting.
But back to the Chocolate. The Rum cream was piped on, the Caraque added to the presentation and some finely sliced Orange Peel was added to one as I had noted a hint of Orange flavour in one Mousse even though there was none in the recipe. An edible garnish (Mint to you was added to complete the dish and by 1pm – about an hour after I had intended I finished.
Fortunately the tasting went well and I felt somewhat better for the finishing.
Demo returned to my favourite ungulate Lamb and a demonstration of how to cut a Rack of Lamb from the full side and how to create a Crown of Lamb followed. Fortunately I will not be doing either dish on Monday as my new and surprisingly male partner Shane will be tackling the Lamb. I shall enter the wonderful world of Meringue having missed it earlier in the course.
Demo was disrupted as an elderly visitor suffered a medical mishap, luckily all was well, and I left for the Trip to Tipp having had a productive week and looking forward to returning to where it all began – Kitchen 3 – for the last full week of cooking. Have I learned much? You bet. Can I learn more? You bet.