Day 3 – Chicken Run

On top of our daily kitchen tasks students here are assigned extra little jobs throughout the course.  Things like making soda bread, hosting guests, laying the table, serving tasting plates at the afternoon demos or picking and preparing the salad. Today was salad day for me so I started an hour earlier than usual. I went to the greenhouse at 7:30 along with two other girls and farmer Haulie. We picked leaves like rocket, broad bean leaves, wild mustard leaves, lettuce, sorrel and salad burnet, and some others I can’t remember the names of.  Apparently the average salad at Ballymaloe has 11 leaves, as well as flowers. Then we sorted them, which took FOREVER.  It was, as my fellow picker Marian described it, ‘a Cinderella job.’ Next time you eat salad think of the poor person who made it for you!

Then I made a mushroom and thyme quiche and cucumber, radish and mint salad. I’ve made quiche at home before but picked up some tricks to make it better, like how to roll out the dough to minimise waste, and to use an egg wash for a crisper finish. Little things like this add up and really take your cooking to the next level!

Finished, soggy bottomless, quiche

Darina invited one of her food heroes to the afternoon demo. Jane Murphy, from Arsallagh Farmhouse Cheese told us how she started her business and was so captivating I forgot to take any pictures! Long story short, she got into the business ‘accidentally’ when a door to door insurance salesman gave her a goat to cure her children’s eczema. One thing led to another, she started making cheese, eventually gave up her day job to go pro and is now one of the top producers in Ireland. This is the best part about Ballymaloe –  meeting people who have turned their passion into a career and are living life on their own terms and thriving!

Today I learned : 

Ballymaloe grow as much of their own produce as possible but they also order from 350 suppliers. The very savvy Chef Pam is in charge of buying and knows a lot about Irish and international producers. She says  Sri Lankan cinnamon is the best in the world.

Refrigeration did not become common in most countries until recently – maybe 50 or 60 years ago- so don’t be put off by storing food at room temperature.

Recently there was a bird flu which meant free range chickens across Europe had to be caged for their welfare. Today they were finally set free and it was the cause of much excitement around here.

Food of the Day :

Jane Murphy’s goats cheese and cranberry roulade. This won Irish Goats Cheese of the Year in 2015. She said that the prize usually goes to a strong, robust cheese with complex flavours so she was ecstatic to win for this relatively fine, delicate cheese.  It was so good I had to close my eyes to fully experience it.

Line of the Day : 

From Jane Murphy. “If you want to do something, don’t be put off by other people telling you you can’t.” People discouraged her from producing smoked cheese but she has certainly proved them wrong and had a good time doing it!