Ballymaloe Cookery School: Weeks 6-12

By Monday, July 28, 2014

I am happy to introduce Flora's Kitchen Stories. After a series of technical problems, Flora's Fancies has gone offline. Sadly, the name Flora's Fancies is a thing of the past, but the website itself is back as Flora's Kitchen Stories and I am really excited to share lots of new recipes with you! 

The technical problems very annoyingly stopped me from being able to update you all on what was going on during the second half of my time at Ballymaloe, so I decided to do a final post of the last few weeks. Whilst it would be impossible to properly describe seven weeks worth of Ballymaloe into one post, I thought I would show you some of the highlights. 

During the three months, you really acclimatise to the Ballymaloe way of life, so I am having to cope not living on a farm anymore, which means no more (very) free ranging chickens, friendly and rather scruffy farm cats and ever-growing ducklings!

The greenhouse was a constant port of call during my time at the school, whether it be doing exam revision for our herb and lettuce exams, or being taken around by Tim Allen and picking fresh spinach or radishes for dinner...mmmm!

During weeks 6-12 I built up my sourdough starter and made as many loaves as I could! Initially I thought the process sounded pretty lengthy, which it is, but I found the more I practiced, the easier and less daunting the whole exercise was! 

A group of us went on a fishing trip during week 6 in Ballycotton. 

A local fisherman was kind enough to take us out on his boat. Unfortunately, it was a predictably rainy Irish day so we had to stay in Ballycotton bay and caught nothing during our two hour trip. Apparently this is very unusual, as there are lots of mackerel in the area. Nonetheless, it was a really fun experience and my first ever attempt at fishing! 

On the seafood note, we cooked lobster in one of our final weeks. 

The lobsters were bought in alive, so we had to cook them ourselves. This was an interesting experience as the lobster's claws weren't taped together wither, so everyone had to be extra careful when picking them up in order to keep all of their fingers intact! 

I then made Lobster Vol au Vents using the delicious lobster meat, homemade puff pastry and a beurre blanc sauce. This was probably one of my favourite and most extravagant dishes from the whole course!

A French TV crew came to Shanagarry to film the school in week 9, so a group of us went on a foraging trip with Darina to a local beach. It was the most beautiful morning which we spent looking in and around rock pools for cockles, clams, mussels, samphire and seaweed. 

Pasta making also has to be another highlight. I chose to make ricotta and parsley tortellini which was a very fiddly experience and as you can see, required quite a lot of work surface space! Despite all of this, after tasting the dish, I can assure you that it is true that homemade pasta is totally worth the trouble! 

One of our Wednesday morning demos was Sushi making. This was one of my favourite demos, as it showed how once you have all the sushi elements prepped, the actual process of making sushi really isn't that hard, or time consuming! 

I also made souffle, which is not one of my favourite things to eat, but something I thought I should have done at least once before I left the school! This was a hot lemon souffle, which is essentially lemon curd mixed with egg whites and turned out pretty nicely I thought. 

We rounded off the 12 weeks with a farewell dinner cooked by Rory O'Connell and our teachers. It was probably the best meal I had during the whole 12 weeks, and was just such a happy occasion to have finished all of our exams, get a bit dressed up and have the teachers cook for us! 

It is a weird feeling now after 12 weeks not having to wear my chef's whites, and getting used to cooking in my own kitchen again! My three months at Ballymaloe taught me so much, gave me the opportunity to meet some really amazing people and live in an unbelievably beautiful part of Ireland. 

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