Saturday, November 21, 2015

Final Exam Time at Ballymaloe Cookery School

Walled Gardens at Ballymaloe Cookery School turning brown in the fall.
Hello!! How is everyone? I miss home so bad. My bed! My car! Running on an actual path! Running! My friends! My Mom! My Dad! Sleep! Babysitters (you know who you are)! So much to say, I'm not sure where to begin. The 12 Week Cookery Course students are heading into week 10 at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Last week, some of the highlights were poaching a ray wing (basically a huge sting ray with massively sharp spikes all over it and slime. So much slime.), saucing up some spicy pork ribs (going to use that recipe again!), Christmas demonstration day (Pam sure knows her Christmas Cakes!), tasting Lustau sherry with the actual makers from the Jerez growing region in Cadiz, Spain, an olive and olive oil tasting (my belly hurt so bad that night — too many olives!), butchering a pig and helping the Nomad Food Company throw a pop-up dinner at school, making of puff pastry, a tapas demonstration, and most loomingly, preparing for our final exams!!! Daunt, Daunt, DAAAA!!!

The Christmas Pudding is lit at Ballymaloe Cookery School.
Christmas Pudding at Ballymaloe Cookery School.
Christmas at Ballymaloe Cookery School.
Edible Chocolate Christmas Tree of Nuts and Fruits.
Christmas spread at Ballymaloe Cookery School.
Christmas Spread at Ballymaloe Cookery School.

A whole morning was devoted to the wickedly sweet and sinful treats of Christmas and I'm bursting to get home and experiment on my own! I have so many recipes needing to be shipped home, in fact, all the books together weigh 14 kilo — that's about 30 pounds of recipes! Who wants to come for dinner?! Will you let me experiment on you? I will definitely want to do some personal chef cooking (call me!), but I also have two interviews at restaurants in Minneapolis when I return. I know. It's so exciting. 
Spicy Pork Ribs with Rustic Roast Potatoes & Chili Dipping Sauce.
Spicy Pork Ribs with Rustic Roast Potatoes with Chili Dipping Sauce. 
Dice of classic brunoise.
Dice of brunoise, the classic garnish for Beef Consomme. 
Plate of Ray Wing with Thyme Hollandaise -- The spoon got away from me while I doused with sauce.
My hand seizured when I topped the fish with sauce. Not really, but it appears that way. 
A couple shots of my plated food ready for tasting by the teacher. The fish was over sauced which teacher said if I were to do that in a professional kitchen I'd be torn to shreds. I may have been weeping inside a little bit by that point, honestly, it was a bad morning. Even though this fish seemed like a low point at the time, probably when I'm able to have time to process this experience and look back at this situation it will be a real learning and growing time in which I'll be really proud of myself! 
Ready to filet this bad boy at Ballymaloe Cookery School.
Because, like, look at this beast! This sweet fellow greeted me all sharp gills and slime and stuff ready to be, yes, eaten. This is a ray wing or skate fish. They live on the bottom of the ocean, and according to Darina Allen, are very overlooked by restauranteurs and adventurous home cooks, but shouldn't be because you get a lot of bang for your buck (which DA says of a lot things, BTW). The holes down the sides of the spines are the guts removed, how the fish arrives to the school (there is a God). The fish has nasty armor which needs to be handled with a towel, or else. To filet, I had to saw through his cartilage to remove his wings, fit them in a pot, boil until "just tender," make a hollandaise sauce (which curdled over too high heat, but I was able to tearfully bring it back with a little water and an additional egg yolk), plate up with flair, nonetheless (the point where my hand seizured and added to much sauce) and keep it all warm until service. This may have been one of my toughest mornings in the kitchen where everything seemed to be going wrong, but better this day than the day of my final exam. Which is all scheduled on the docket. My menu is handed in to be purchased by Pam. Knives sharpened by Phillip the Pizza Man. My time slot is chosen. Next week is our first exam on all the wine lectures we've been having. Big breath. Wish me luck. And prayers. Xo, Becki