Ballymaloe Cookery School: Week 1

By Sunday, May 04, 2014

Week 1 at Ballymaloe has been really special. It has been a very very busy week but I have loved every minute of it! I arrived at the beautiful Ballymaloe Cookery School on Sunday evening. We had a delicious pizza dinner cooked in their very own wood burning oven and had the opportunity to meet and greet the other students on the course.

The next day we were given a 4 hour tour of the school's farm and gardens by Darina and Tim Allen. The weather for the first few days was absolutely amazing, so it was really nice to be able to be outside in the beautiful gardens.

There are about 57 of us all together on the course, about 25 are pretty girl heavy! We get split into 3 groups and within that get matched with a different partner each week. Between us we usually make 3-4 dishes each for our lunch. We get marked on taste, presentation, method etc and this contributes towards our overall mark. Each day is very full on - we are in the kitchens 8:15 to 12ish and then in the afternoon we have a demonstration from 1:45 to 5. This is where we are shown through what we will be making the next morning. We then have to write up pretty intense orders of work each evening for the next morning, so I am gradually getting a system in place for that! 

We had Rachel Allen as a teacher for one of our demonstrations this week - she is so passionate and knowledgeable about food and a really lovely person. I am a big fan of hers, so am very excited to see more of her over the next few months.

This week I have made rhubarb compote, fresh lemonade, brown bread, chocolate and hazelnut tart, potato and parsley soup and strawberry jam. I have loved every minute of it and am so excited to see what next week brings! 

Each of us was given the responsibility of growing our very own sweetcorn. It should be ready to harvest during our 12 weeks at the school, so it will be very rewarding to taste the fruits of our labour...literally!

A 5 minute drive from the school is the beautiful Shanagarry beach, which on a nice day is one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. 

In the mornings we have to wear some rather fetching chef's whites. As you can see, I look pretty interesting in mine...!

I opted to go to a butchery class where Philip, the onsite butcher, showed us how to joint a pig. We were taught about the four main cuts: shoulder, loin, belly and leg and it really was a very interesting experience. 

My highlight of the week has got to be milking a cow. I had to be at the Dairy for 7:30 and put on a big green apron to prepare for the potentially mucky job ahead! There was room for three cows in the milking stalls. Apparently cows really need to have schedules, and if they don't get to stick to them, then they get really ancy. Anyway, there was a food incentive to keep the cows distracted whilst they were being milked. As you can see, they were pretty happy with this!

The dairy has two pumps for the cows, so essentially the third cow is just snacking and having a great time whilst the other two get milked. The fresh milk gets pumped into a large holding cylinder and then into fresh milk urns. Because the milk is unpasturised, any milk that is potentially not perfect gets given back to the cows so there is no risk of illness.

I was given a glass of the milk fresh from one of the urns. You don't have to drink it, but I thought it would be good to try. The milk was warm and frothy as it had literally just been taken from the cows, which was a slightly strange sensation. Despite feeling a bit squeemish about the warmth and froth, there was an overwhelming taste of freshness, something you do not really get with supermarket milk. I really loved this milking experience, so much so that I signed myself up for another one in a few weeks time! It was just amazing seeing the whole process and the cows were very very cute! 

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