Irish Tourism

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 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!

Ballymaloe Week 4 / ...what you make it

How was everyone's SUPERBOWWL SUNDAY!? / Groundhog Day / Imbolc / Chinese New Year?? I couldn't imagine having a more magical time in this country. A lot of it had to do with blind faith that I would achieve all my expectations - a hard one if you've been through some tough times... I went to Cork for the evening. Beautiful beautiful city.. (The locals don't believe it's a city - population is around 300,000)

Below are some photos of my house mates plucking and cooking wild hunted partridge, pheasant and goose.

Gruesome? Yes.

Awkward? Certainly.

Before I get into that, I should say that I'm very fortunate to live with such ambitious people. After volunteering to help clean up a little longer, they received these birds as gifts from the staff so we could practice our culinary skills.

Vietnamese Chicken Salad with Prawn Crisps.. for all my Pho lovers back in Ottawa - One of my proudest food styling so far.
Vietnamese Chicken Salad with Prawn Crisps.. for all my Pho lovers back in Ottawa - One of my proudest food styling so far.

This is one of the reasons why I chose to come here above all other cooking schools. The cooking skills we learn go beyond fine dining. It connects us to our food on many deep levels.

Recently, I also offered to help with cooking classes so I could get more experience with teaching. It was Imbolc themed, or St. Bridget's Day - the midway point of winter that celebrates the Patron Saint of Dairy - St. Bridget. There was a demo open to the public about Bastille Bread (a soda bread made in a stoneware pot) and a demo on homemade butter.

Prepping.
Prepping.
Learning how to make St. Bridget's Cross.
Learning how to make St. Bridget's Cross.
Little 'dote' making butter for the first time.
Little 'dote' making butter for the first time.
First wild flowers of the year - snow drops!
First wild flowers of the year - snow drops!
We did it!
We did it!
My own home made butter and gluten free White Chocolate Cranberry Scones
My own home made butter and gluten free White Chocolate Cranberry Scones
Yeasted Corn Meal Sandwich Bread
Yeasted Corn Meal Sandwich Bread

I've never understood food more in my life.. and it just makes me hungry for more.

Speaking of which...

!HERE ARE SOME PHOTOS OF CAKES!

My Gluten Free Candied Kumquat and Whipped Cream Victoria Sponge Cake
My Gluten Free Candied Kumquat and Whipped Cream Victoria Sponge Cake
Candied Edible Flowers to garnish this one...
Candied Edible Flowers to garnish this one...
Coffee Cake
Coffee Cake
Orange Cake
Orange Cake
Chocolate Cake
Chocolate Cake
Parsnip Cake
Parsnip Cake
Gingerbread & Whipped Cream
Gingerbread & Whipped Cream

LOCAL SEA FOOD AND TRADITIONAL IRISH BREAKFASTS

Mini Lobster. How cute!
Mini Lobster. How cute!
My seafood platter: Home Made Mayo, Oysters, Shrimp, Clams & Mussels
My seafood platter: Home Made Mayo, Oysters, Shrimp, Clams & Mussels
Moss pudding! Instead of gelatine, you soak milk in seaweed, which exudes a jelling agent. So lovely!!
Moss pudding! Instead of gelatine, you soak milk in seaweed, which exudes a jelling agent. So lovely!!
My Irish Breakfast! Gluten Free Toast, Fried Tomato, Mushroom Cap, Lamb Kidney, Back Rasher, Streaky Bacon, Potato Cake, Blood Pudding
My Irish Breakfast! Gluten Free Toast, Fried Tomato, Mushroom Cap, Lamb Kidney, Back Rasher, Streaky Bacon, Potato Cake, Blood Pudding
Waffels
Waffels
Amazing Granola, Oatmeal & Fruit Salad Spread!
Amazing Granola, Oatmeal & Fruit Salad Spread!

And that's that.. So much more to learn - I'm about half way through the course! Living in the moment is a challenge but it's well worth it.. I hope I can carry on this spirit throughout my life afterwards. I swear though.. there must be something funny in the air in these parts...

Ballymaloe Week 3 / Talent, Touring, Cheese Tutorial

I ride my borrowed bicycle every chance I get when I'm not in school and it's sunny.. turns out that day is Sunday.

At school this week we learned how to make sourdough and cheese!

Makin pizza!
Makin pizza!
Sourdough starters.
Sourdough starters.
Sourdough Tutorial
Sourdough Tutorial
Cheese equiptment.
Cheese equiptment.
Let milk ferment with cheese culture.
Let milk ferment with cheese culture.
Cutting cheese to let whey escape.
Cutting cheese to let whey escape.
Mix at a certain temperature to encourage whey to escape.
Mix at a certain temperature to encourage whey to escape.
Drain whey and wash.
Drain whey and wash.
Whey is a really healthy beverage!
Whey is a really healthy beverage!
Adding water to wash it.
Adding water to wash it.
Fill cheese mold.

Fill cheese mold.

Press out whey.
Press out whey.
3 months later.
3 months later.
Cheese fridge.
Cheese fridge.
Salting the cheese the next day!
Salting the cheese the next day!

The most amazing part is getting to sample all the local goodies and just completely immerse myself in the culture where food is concerned. I'm really starting to get an idea of what true Irish food is. Cured fish, breads, THE CHEESE IS AMAZING. Irish cheese and butter is widely sought out around the world since the cows just have so much darned grass to eat. It makes their milk more yellow.

Midleton farmer's market. BARISTA!
Midleton farmer's market. BARISTA!
You get locally made chocolate chips with your coffee.. amazing.
You get locally made chocolate chips with your coffee.. amazing.
Bread.
Bread.
Cheese stand!
Cheese stand!
My goodies. Eggs, blue cheese, chive goat cheese, ginger dark chocolate, seaweed pickle, hot smoked salmon with chili.
My goodies. Eggs, blue cheese, chive goat cheese, ginger dark chocolate, seaweed pickle, hot smoked salmon with chili.
Local prawns.
Local prawns.
Bacon.
Bacon.
Chocolate lollipops.
Chocolate lollipops.
Meringue heart with spiced plumb and whipped cream centre.
Meringue heart with spiced plumb and whipped cream centre.
My creation!! Smoked salmon rosette with quick cucumber pickle.
My creation!! Smoked salmon rosette with quick cucumber pickle.
Stuffed lamb breast.
Stuffed lamb breast.
Roast beef!
Roast beef!
Dressing a cutting board for roast beef.
Dressing a cutting board for roast beef.
Roasted lamb shank.
Roasted lamb shank.
beautiful raw vegetables for an appetizer
beautiful raw vegetables for an appetizer
Hummus
Hummus
Helen and Mary Pat. Music promoter and Irish mom.
Helen and Mary Pat. Music promoter and Irish mom.

There was a talent competition at the local pub.

Talent show!
Talent show!