Monday, 13 February 2012

Valentines and Ballymaloe Cookery School Adventures - Week 6, Nearly Half Way There!

Week 6 has got off to a cracking start and things are looking good for the week. Here are come pictures to get you in the Valentines spirit!

Valentines weekend - Cooking up a Storm!
I had a very relaxing weekend, pottering around Cork with Simon. I spent lots of time cooking up some yummy food to get in the spirit for Valentines Day tomorrow. On Saturday, we visited the English Market in Cork where we picked up some lovely ingredients for dinner. If any of you havn't been before, you must go, as there's a huge array of fresh and wonderful ingredients to choose from.

Deciding what to cook
The main course pretty much decided itself as I had lovely pheasant that I was kindly given by the school. The pheasants had been hung for a few days so I had the job of plucking and gutting them. Simon got an awful fright when he opened the fridge to be greeted by three dead birds. He soon quite embraced them though, as you can see! Plucking and gutting them wasn't as difficult as I'd imagined it would be. It took no time, with just a little bit of a mess.

I cooked the pheasant slowly in a nice cider, cream and apple sauce. I came across a fantastic local cider which I decided to use instead of Calvados. (An apple brandy, which is apparently quite expensive.) This Irish Craft Cider worked amazingly well and is made by a local brewing company just up the road from my house in Oysterhaven -  'The Nohoval Brewing Company.'

For starter I made some potted shrimp with chilli and garlic. The shrimp was very in-expensive at the English Market and I served this with some of my toasted white yeast bread.

For dessert I made raspberry fool with shortbread biscuits - in the shape of a heart just to get in the spirit of Valentines Day!

Happy out by the fire, drinking wine and eating cheese!

The amazing sunset

A great start to the week - Sherry Tasting
So it's Monday evening and I'm just back from an evening of Sherry tasting with Colm McCan, the sommelier from Ballymaloe House. It opened my eyes to the world of sherry and its huge possibilities for matching with food.
Sherry is made only in one place in the world and that is in the hot, most Southern part of Spain, Andalucia. It's incredibly under priced at the moment so it's a great opportunity for us food and wine lovers to take advantage of this. In London,tapas and sherry bars are the new craze and the most fashionable places to eat and drink - I ought to put a few tapas bars on my list for next time. Hizara and the Salt Yard in London are ones that I have heard are fantastic.

Sherry is quite an acquired taste but there are so many different styles and varieties that there must be one to suit everyones taste buds. One particular Sherry, Lustau's Pedro Ximénez 'San Emilio' is meant to be incredibly good with vanilla ice cream due to its very sweet flavour. To just compare its sweetness, a Chablis has 4g per litre of residual sugar, Coca Cola has 110g of residual sugar per litre and Pedro Ximénez has 450g residual sugar per litre!

Exam Week and baking fun
I think exam week will scare some people but for me I think its just another week of raising things up a knotch and actually forcing us to get really really good at the essential techniques before we move on.

I am still really enjoying baking and making lots of breads and cakes. I feel it is a great chance to delve into something that I wouldn't have normally done before now. Sourdough is one of the breads that has the most appeal for me to make because of the long process that goes into making it and the amazing result you get at the end. To make sourdough it is a three stage process;  you make the starter, then the sponge and then the bread itself.
To make a really active starter you must place 2oz flour and 2 fl oz water into a tightly sealed tall jar for 6 days in a row. Each day as you add the flour and the water, you must stir thoroughly to ensure all the flour and water are mixed, then re-seal. Once you've got your sourdough starter established at this stage after day 6, making a loaf of sourdough will take between 24 and 36 hours.

I have my sourdough starter at the 6th day stage and I am ready tomorrow to give it its final two feeds of 8 oz flour and 8 fl oz water tomorrow morning and then again tomorrow night before I make the sponge.

I'm sure a lot of you are thinking, jeez why the hell is she bothering, but believe me after I have tasted homemade breads here, you would want to make some yourself. I will let you know anyway how I get on later in the week, and hopefully you guys might feel inspired to make some too!

Adventures in the kitchen
I have had a really great few days in the kitchen and feeling like I am taking in so much. Today I made sunflower bread. Doesn't it just make you smile? ! This would be the perfect bread for a dinner party when you're trying to really impress your guests. This would be ideal to serve with some tapenades, hummus and dips or even just some really good quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

We have made such an array of dishes it is so hard to keep you all up to date. We had the opportunity to cook some really mouth watering lamb tagine dishes and today we prepared some good auld Irish stews. For me, my experience of Irish stews has never been that great, so I was delighted to learn how to make a really good one and be proud of our local dishes. We also made a selection of fools, poached fruit, florentines and shortbread biscuits.

This afternoon, we covered a new pastry technique - choux pastry. I've never actually made choux pastry before so I am dying to have a go at it tomorrow.

Anyway, I should probably love you and leave you for now.

As always, please feel free to leave any comments or ask me any questions at all.

Laura xx


  1. I'm inspired to make a sour dough starter now! :) all sounds fab! Looking forward to the next dinner party- you're cooking! :)

    1. You better get onto it so! It keeps for YEARS!! U can just put the leftover starter in the fridge and when you want to make another load you just feed it the day before and off you go!! Looking forward to seeing you guys today ;) I better get up so!!