Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Update of wine, cakes and much more!

Greetings from Ballymaloe Cookery School again!

I am now into my fourth week of the 12 week course and almost a third of the way through. Madness! It has been a mad few days -  as usual! On Monday I moved kitchen so I was a bit all over the place to begin with. It takes time to get used to where things are and to settle in with new teachers etc. It wasn't my best day to be honest as I spent a lot of time faffing around trying to find things! By Tuesday, I was back in the swing of things again - thankfully!

We had lots of lovely dishes to cook on Monday including learning to cook with guinea fowl, turkey and pheasant. In actual fact I was given a pheasant yesterday, as there was a shoot on Saturday, so I am going to leave it hanging until the weekend and will have the challenge of plucking and gutting it myself! Excitement!

The week has turned out to be the most calorie filled week yet. We have cooked cakes, cakes and more cakes. Buns, meringues, cupcakes, you name it we have done it this week! This evening I think we are all suffering from sugar highs and lows and on top of that we had a wine tasting morning!

Wine Tasting No 2:
The wine tasting was absolutely brilliant. We had John McDonnell, the manager of Wine Australia, in with us today giving us a class on Australian wines. He was incredibly enthusiastic and an inspiration for anyone looking to get into the wine business. We tasted 5 wines from Australia and 1 French wine to compare. Our first wine we tasted was a sparkling wine from a vineyard in the Yarra Valley called Chandon. I was very excited as this vineyard was one I visited when I was in Australia last year. Sparkling wine at 9.20am - I wasn't complaining!! We then moved on to try two Rieslings, two Shiraz and a Cabernet/Merlot.

I was quite surprised to hear that Australia is the largest supplier of wine to the Irish market, at about 25%, even though they only produce about 3% of the worlds wines.

I learnt so much today and I thought I should share some of it with you:

Did you know that Shiraz and Syrah are the same grape variety?! Well call me stupid.. but I didn't  know that this is true!

Have you have ever wondered how sparkling wine or champagne is produced? Well have a read below to get filled in on how it is made!

How champagne and sparkling wine is made:

The white and red grapes are picked when not fully ripe. Champagne and sparkling wines are best from cooler regions of the world where the grapes don't ripen fully naturally. This ensures you have a good acidic grape.
The skins from the red grapes are removed and then the juice from both the red and white grapes is squeezed out. The juice from red grapes is, in actual fact, clear. The juice from red and white grapes is used for white wine production. It is the red skins that give red wine its colour. The red skins are left in during fermentation for red wine. The longer the skins are left in, the darker the red wine.

Yeast is added at this stage and the sugars in the grape juice ferment with the yeast to make alcohol. At this stage you have an alcohol content of about 11-11.5%.

This juice is then bottled and sealed with a beer crown. During this second fermentation in the bottle, CO2 is produced in the wine. As this CO2 cannot escape from the bottle, bubbles form which gives the wine it's fizz.

The wine is then stored horizontally at first and over the next 4-5 weeks, the riddler gradually rotates and tilts the bottle upwards. The yeast then slowly makes its way towards the neck of the bottle and eventually the bottle will end up in the upright position.

The bottles are then put neck side down in a bath of a small amount of very cold water. This freezes the wine and the yeast in the neck of the bottle. The bottle is then opened, yeast removed and then topped up with fresh wine and sealed again.

Tip: If serving sparkling wine or champagne, make sure your glasses are SPOTLESSLY clean and polished. If any residue of detergent is on them, it will make the wine go flat very quickly and you do not want this to happen with an expensive bottle of wine!

An afternoon of tea and cake

This afternoon we received a lecture from Seán Moran of NOOD Tea. Some of you may think, what is there to say about tea?

In Ireland, we have a tea industry worth millions of euro. When Seán asked for a show of hands to see how many people drink tea, the majority of the class raised their hand - not surprisingly. The point he made was that, out of all of us in the room, how many of us considered what was in our tea bags? or what quality we were getting in our tea bags? The answer was.. well basically none of us.

Tea leaves are classed into 4 categories of quality:
1) Whole
2) Broken
3) Fannings
4) Dust

If you open a teabag from any of the standard brands that you generally would pick up in the supermarket, you will find DUST, the least good quality of tea leaf.

The marketing strategies of the big tea companies have been very clever in convincing us to settle for a standard black tea with milk, made from poor quality tea.

This lecture really opened my eyes to the world of tea. We are very lucky in Ballymaloe that we have leaf tea every day and a wide variety of different types to choose from. Keep a look out at your local farmers market for good leaf tea's. Even Barry's leaf tea is better than teabags AND it's from CORK!

You should check out Seán's website here and

Here are some more photos for you to enjoy.

Love Laura x

1 comment:

  1. Laura, this is the most wonderful blog,Ijust love it!
    Who knows I might even begin to like cooking.....?
    Thank you for sharing, your enthusiasm is so infectious, you just make me smile!!

    Moira Lynott (Amy's Mum)