Week 1: A whistle-stop tour of Ballymaloe

Well, I’ve successfully completed the first week of the course. I’ve also learned how to work this blog a bit, but please excuse any clumsiness. Or typos.

In our opening lecture, Darina (who principally runs the classes) said that we would get flustered in our first week and need to remember it’s only a tart/scone/pot of jam, and not the end of the world. I thought this was unlikely advice coming from a matriarch who built her success on fastidious attention to detail, and I thought I’d be fine, or even better than fine – after all, this is not my first diced onion. I then cut myself on my razor sharp knives, and grated my knuckle into the pasta. And as I pulled out my perfect scones from the oven, I was told by my teacher that the developing green hue was caused by the bicarbonate of soda I used, instead of the baking powder which the recipe clearly states, I am now not so sure. Let’s hope week two is better, just like Darina also promised.

The days are structured in two parts: cooking in the mornings for a three course lunch with local cheeses (!), and a lecture/demo in the afternoon of what we will cook the next day. Wednesdays are party days: cheese and wine. All. Day. Not sure how many people reading this got a WhatsApp of the Chablis we were quaffing at 11am last session, but I’ll try to refrain going forward. We also have extra classes we can take: organic farming, making cheese, milking the cows, helping at the Saturday pop-up pizzeria, the Ballymaloe stall at the farmers market and so on, and we’ve all signed up to everything with the expected first week enthusiasm. I am now growing sweet geranium and tarragon on my window sill.

I have an eclectic bunch of classmates who are leaving behind and/or starting quite interesting lives. Brianna (Irish/American, 23) worked on a raw food farm in Spain and enjoys spiralising sweet potato; Pixie (South African, 19) grew up on a vineyard in South Africa and wants to host on superyachts; John (American, 30 ish I reckon) was a cameraman and filmed Miss Universe amongst other shows; Prateek (Indian, 21) taught Chemistry to undergrads at University of Washington (yes, he is 21) and specialised in purifying water using technology used in solar panels – his layman’s summary, when all else fails.

We are already falling into loose groups of friends and settling into the pattern of school and evening beach walks, shopping trips, pub trips, movie nights with either an Irish or culinary bent, and so on. As you might imagine, with 62 people ranging from 18-62 living on a small campus, gossip is never in short supply, so I’ll share some on this blog in due course.

Below are a few snaps of the school, grounds and surrounding area which might explain better than I have above what it’s like here. But in summary, so far, I’m having a really good time.

What I’ve learned this week:

Bicarbonate of soda is a leavening agent which reacts with acids, such as phosphates, cream of tartar, lemon juice, yogurt, buttermilk, cocoa and vinegar, and releases carbon dioxide.

None of these acids are in scones.

Baking powder, however, contains Bicarbonate of soda, but also includes an acidifying agent already (cream of tartar), and a drying agent (usually starch or cornflower), so will do just fine in scones.

I live in the white barn in the background…

Cottages at the cookery school-001  DSC_0046

… and the ornamental chickens which are “too posh to push” live in the Palace des Poulets

DSC_0106 (2) DSC_0097 (2)

Here is the map of the grounds and where we are

FullSizeRender  IMAG0158  IMG_0044 (2)

Garryvoe beach – our local running destination.

Seaside river  IMAG0145_1

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