12 week course

Ballymaloe Week 11 / Why Ireland?

Seared tuna
Seared tuna

When I had made the decision to come to Ireland for the Ballymaloe 12 week course, I had some people raise their eyebrows at me. To be honest, I had not much of a response other than 'It's the only cooking school in the world on its own organic farm". Of course, people only thought I would be preparing shepherd's pie and loads of potato dishes.

Sushi
Sushi

I did learn about properly roasting, mashing and peeling potatoes.. about 28 recipes dedicated to this versatile vegetable. But, as you can see from the sushi photos, this place is a cultural hub for all things food. I'll let this quote by Darina Allen herself carry my sentiments of Ireland's food culture..

"In the last few years the food scene has seen an acceleration in its influence as a culture maker. It has ‘trendy’ elements to it, what with its focus on foraging, DIY culture, and the rise of food photography, but it’s become apparent that naysayers would be wrong to dismiss the country’s newfound interest and dedication to food as a fad. With its focus on green economy, self-sufficiency, a deeper understanding of the food production systems, and on education, food has become the main portal to politics for a generation generally accused of apathy."

Below is a beautiful video featuring Rachel Allen speaking about Irish food on the world scene.

Of course, this is happening all over the world but Ireland has the advantage of a temperate climate surrounded by the sea.  Not only that but after the recession, Ireland focused its artisnal farming culture to become world-class. There are several food tours of the country, awards that are given out to promote great food. On top of that there is rich farmland and hardworking farmers to produce it all.

My home for 5 months.
My home for 5 months.
Pigs at Ballymaloe
Pigs at Ballymaloe

My first impression from the country was how generous and open they are. This peaceful nation has come out of hard times from the famine and recession but Ballymaloe is a lovely symbol of resilience and how a dedication to self-sustaining practices and good food can enrich ones life no matter how poor you may feel.

Champaign Oysters
Champaign Oysters
Poached Whole Salmon
Poached Whole Salmon
Carpaccio
Carpaccio
My favourite recipe I cooked on my last day of class. French Chocolate Cake.
My favourite recipe I cooked on my last day of class. French Chocolate Cake.
My obsession with puff pastry will never leave.
My obsession with puff pastry will never leave.

Now, it's time to study for the last week of exams!! Some people don't feel so happy about the work ahead..

Ballymaloe Week 10 / The Irish Pub

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I was blessed with my mom visiting from Canada and so we rented a car and did a tour of the Western Cliffs.

Over the few weeks here I've really gotten a sense of how different the pubs can be. In North America, there are attempts at replicating the convivial, communal and homey nature of that the pubs here have but none are as natural as what generations have created as a meeting place in Ireland.

In Ireland.
In Ireland.

Beyond that there are so many different types of pubs. I went to Dingle, which is on the Ring of Kerry, and there I went on an epic pub crawls where I really experienced all the different pubs.

Dingle Harbour
Dingle Harbour

There's the Old Man Pub.. seemingly not as 'Irish' to a tourist but MAN after visiting the other pubs that I would presume to be an 'Irish pub' I really got a sense why a true Irish pub is a relaxing home away from home - no matter the decore.

The other types of pub I discovered were really old buildings that have basically been converted into discos.. the complete juxtaposition of ancient looking stone walls with blaring top 40 music and lazer beams is really something to be seen. This is a good 'last stop' on a pub crawl.. but only if you're up for dancing or are desperate for another drink.

Bachelorette Party
Bachelorette Party

Then there's the Plastic Paddy pub. This is a term here used for Irish stereotypes all put together for tourists to enjoy. From the outside, I am most drawn to these pubs but quickly learn why my friends from Ireland bring me to the least obvious choices for a pint.

I spent St. Patrick's day in Galway. It was grand.

Galway Parade
Galway Parade
HEAR YE HEAR YE
HEAR YE HEAR YE
5km Cliffs! Wild.
5km Cliffs! Wild.

How was your St. Patrick's Day? If you'd like to share, comment below. I'm curious because the whole drive back there were loads of commentary on how the Irish are baffled by how celebrated this day is around the world!

Ballymaloe Week 9 / The Art of Wine

Skype session with Sparkling Wine maker at Wiston Estate in England.
Skype session with Sparkling Wine maker at Wiston Estate in England.

Coming to Ballymaloe, which I have now dubbed 'Appreciation of Food 101', I never knew that I would appreciate wine so much. The way each bite of food can be transformed after a sip of deliciously paired wine can be incredible and change the experience of what you eat.

Gateau Pathivier with Whipped Cream
Gateau Pathivier with Whipped Cream

When you think of eating locally, in terms of how it just tastes so much better when the food is fresh, it's incredible how true that is for a good wine. Wine, like good produce or meat, really depends on the quality of grape vine,  the geology of the region (soil, weather, etc) and how it is matured.

The difference is that it also needs to be matured in carefully selected barrels for several months and is carefully blended by the head honcho of the winery. The best wines are the least amount adulterated after it is blended.

What fascinates me is that food pairing with wine is pretty easy when you know a little bit about the wine regions of the world.

For example, the Loire Valley in France makes excellent dry white wine that goes well with shellfish, especially oysters. Incredibly, the vines grow on limestone made up of millions of oyster fossils. WHAAA??

Tuna steak.
Tuna steak.
Tuna Tartare.
Tuna Tartare.
Port and Chocolate
Port and Chocolate

Beyond wines, if you aren't a wine drinker, fermented drinks don't need to be alcoholic! Kamboucha and Kefir is really easy to make! Check out MASTER FERMENTER Sandor Katz for more information on how to incorporate these healing foods in your diet!

Ballymaloe Week 7 / Food Fad Fit

One of the best things about being a chef is that it's such a multifaceted, multi-sensory job. It's like.. trades-work but with a visual arts edge. It also sustains life! Everyone has to eat but I'm not sure if anyone was prepared for how much indulgence was going to happen on the course.

Ballymaloe Cheese Fritters
Ballymaloe Cheese Fritters
Pakoras
Pakoras
Onion Bajis
Onion Bajis
My Gluten-Free Flaky Pastry Experiment. Dutch Pinwheels.
My Gluten-Free Flaky Pastry Experiment. Dutch Pinwheels.
Steak & Frites Dinner. I tried to cook it to Rare. It was Blue. I ate it.
Steak & Frites Dinner. I tried to cook it to Rare. It was Blue. I ate it.
My Local Smoked Fish Platter.
My Local Smoked Fish Platter.
The best dessert I've made so far.. Bakewell Tart.
The best dessert I've made so far.. Bakewell Tart.
some AMERICAN coleslaw
some AMERICAN coleslaw

We're all kinda feeling this slump in energy.. we have visions of whipping cream in our minds and the smells of butter on our skin. Sounds sexy but, well, the question is - is all this food taking a toll? Mind you, the consensus seems to be that we are here and we are learning - so - we must EAT! be merry! EAT!

Sailor Moon - Episode 3 Season 1
Sailor Moon - Episode 3 Season 1

Meanwhile, the dictates of an unhealthy body image our society poisoned us with whilst growing up is unconsciously seeping in. By no means is this a black and white issue, though. There's much to say about my 6 months of eating paleo - whole foods which are grain, dairy and refined sugar-free - and how incredible I felt. Yet, there's something humbling and grounding (and sleep inducing) as a mashed potato doused in butter. There's something exciting about giving my fellow gluten-intolerant students a fresh-baked brioche I've experimented on creating.

Rich, creamy Cannelloni I made with fresh gluten-free pasta I hand rolled out.
Rich, creamy Cannelloni I made with fresh gluten-free pasta I hand rolled out.
Gluten-Free Lady-Fingers aka Boudoir Biscuits
Gluten-Free Lady-Fingers aka Boudoir Biscuits
Tiramisu based on said biscuits.
Tiramisu based on said biscuits.
Green Saffron's Chicken Curries
Green Saffron's Chicken Curries
Mahan Point Market - Marshmallows
Mahan Point Market - Marshmallows

Food fads based on national health suggestions and the supplement industry are based on facts that aren't usually holistic.. Well-intentioned health practitioners have a tendency to push products on society as a whole as if they have the same body chemistry.. as if they have the same health needs.. as if they live in the same climate.

Fortunately, anti-rules to the health industry are starting to become mainstream. I can't speak for my classmates but these facts I've heard spouted by my fellow farm-to-tablers for years now have really run true for me here.

1. Eat Local and Organic - Produce and meat tastes better the freshest it is, you seem like a better cook when you've really only used quality products!

2. Eat seasonal - It's usually cheaper and treated with fewer chemicals and fertilizers so it's maintained all its nutrients by growing naturally and stored for a shorter amount of time.

3. Don't eat 'fat free' - Of all the essential vitamins, only two are water soluble! No wonder we feel nice when we've had a little bacon.

4. Live a balanced life - Ultimately, we're not only what we eat but how we treat our bodies holistically. It's one thing to say, eat this, eat that.. but what you do with the machine you are feeding impacts how you feel greatly.

Trust me, I'm a scientist.

Visit to Cashel Blue, cheese maker.
Visit to Cashel Blue, cheese maker.

So, how do YOU escape the clutches of a society that shames food indulgence?

Ballymaloe Week 5 / Pretty Pics in Limbo Land

The last week and a half have been a bit nutty. We are preparing for our mid term exam so this week, although I have LOTS to talk about... I am at my deadline of getting a post up so photos will have to suffice for now. More next week!

Until then.. Happy Valentine's Day!

This is a loaf of bread filled with sandwiches made from the inside of that loaf a bread formed into a treasure chest.
This is a loaf of bread filled with sandwiches made from the inside of that loaf a bread formed into a treasure chest.
Christmas cake!
Christmas cake!
cupcakes with meringue topping
cupcakes with meringue topping
meringue animals!
meringue animals!
My Gluten-Free Chocolate Hazelnut Eclairs
My Gluten-Free Chocolate Hazelnut Eclairs
More Choux Pastry delights!
More Choux Pastry delights!

The weather's been rather crummy.  WIND WIND WIND - the show must go on!

The power went out due to a terrible storm - Rory pullin' through, continuing the lesson.
The power went out due to a terrible storm - Rory pullin' through, continuing the lesson.
Tapas - Marinated Olives
Tapas - Marinated Olives
Marinated Anchovies
Marinated Anchovies
Manchego Cheese & Sherry
Manchego Cheese & Sherry
Almond Stuffed Bacon-Wrapped Dates
Almond Stuffed Bacon-Wrapped Dates
Cod-Stuffed Red Pepper & Toasts
Cod-Stuffed Red Pepper & Toasts
Peace over the weekends.
Peace over the weekends.

Wish me luck on my exam!