Jointing and Curdling

"Most people in Ireland still feel they aren't fed at all unless they have at least one serving of potatoes a day"- Darina Allen

In case any of you were wondering (and I know you were!), yes, people in Ireland do actually eat lots of potatoes. Hold that thought though, more on potatoes later. 

My workstation for the week!

My workstation for the week!

The past two mornings have been hectic to say the least. I've said this before, but timing and organization play such a huge role in the kitchen. Monday morning I made tomato coconut soup and strawberry ice cream with strawberry sauce. Sounds pretty basic, right? It is, once you get your ice cream in the ice cream maker after chopping, blending, sieving, whipping, stirring, mixing and pouring. After the mixture goes into ice cream maker for 45 minutes it then needs to go into the freezer for at least an hour before serving. See what I mean about timing? While my ice cream was a makin' and a freezin', I was able to get all of the ingredients together to make my soup. Luckily, the tomato puree had been made on Friday so that was one step I was able to cut out. Alas, my ice cream and soup came together.

Tomato Coconut Soup

Tomato Coconut Soup

Strawberry Ice Cream with Strawberry Sauce

Strawberry Ice Cream with Strawberry Sauce

After our morning in the kitchen we sat down to eat the delicious lunch we had just prepared for ourselves. Other items on the menu were a dill and gruyere tart, and crab and tarragon tart, grilled aubergines, tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad and scones with kalamata olives. For dessert (aka pudding) we had ice cream, strawberry petit-fours and oatmeal bars. Oh, and a cheese plate. Just another Monday lunch. 

Monday afternoons demonstration was our intro to chicken. Man am I excited to see some hearty protein. Along with chicken, there was a focus on Middle Eastern flavors. Chicken breast with peanut satay sauce, chicken wings with chili sauce, spiced chicken breasts with avocado and peanuts and some more tomato based dishes (gotta use the maters' while they're still ripe!). We also learned how to properly joint a chicken and how to make a crunchy apple tart. Lastly, we learned how to properly steam potatoes! It's not as simple as you think! At Ballymaloe, they use seawater to boil their potatoes because it gives them much more flavor. Tuesday I will be making crunchy apple crumble, roasted sweet peppers and boiled potatoes. 

Monday night a group of us got to go make cheese with Tim Allen. They let the Americans go first because we cannot bring our cheese home with us (we'll see about that). The cheese will take about two months until it is ready to be consumed. Last night was the first step in the cheese making process. It starts with fresh cows milk curds. If you were to leave milk to spoil on its own, it would naturally form curds. This is technically the process of making cheese. However, because the sour taste of milk, well, sucks, an enzyme called rennet needs to be added to the milk to speed up the setting process so that the milk doesn't sour before it sets. The curd is cut and stirred until it forms a scrambled egg like consistency. It is then placed into molds and left for a day to set. Then then salt is added to the cheese so that it can start to brine. That's as far as we've gotten with the cheese but I'll be sure to keep you posted on its progress. It'll be my little cheese baby. I'll have to name it something cute. Hm-stay tuned. 

Tuesday morning in the kitchen was pretty smooth except for the casual chicken jointing session midway through the morning. This is much harder than it looks and I'm really going to need to get up close and personal with these guys over the next few weeks. This set me back about 45 minutes which is not good when you have to make a pastry crust- eek! My second attempt at pastry was a little better however my dough was too wet apparently. It actually tasted delicious when cooked, but I had to get creative when rolling it out. Luckily my teacher Debbie had a few tricks up her sleeve to help me with this. My crumble came out well, as did my peppers. I'm embarrassed to tell you all that the only thing that wasn't cooked correctly was the potatoes. Nope- I don't know how to boil potatoes. They looked delicious but apparently they weren't soft enough in the middle. #notwinning

Tuesday afternoons demonstration was taught by Darina and Tim's daughter, Rachel. Rachel is a TV Chef, Cook and Cookbook Author- aka my idol. She is amazing! I loved her demonstration and am so excited to get to work with her over the next 11 weeks. Her demo stuck with the Middle Eastern theme from the day before. She made homemade pita bread, roasted aubergine dip, spiced chicken with almonds, basmati rice, raita, cabbage and fennel salad and for our pudding she made creme caramel. Here are some pictures from the demo!

Tomorrow is lecture day so we get a break from the kitchen. That also means a break from homework! I had cleanup duty after the demonstration but was able to get a run in with some girls from my cottage before the sun went down. Stay tuned for some more wine tips after another lecture with Colm tomorrow. 

Also, these are my chicken friends. Cheers!

Tips:

-The best way to ensure that you have quality cinnamon is to buy it whole and grind it in a spice or coffee bean grinder. Lots of store bought cinnamon is a combination of cinnamon and cassia. 

-With each spice you can get up to 5 different flavors depending on how you use it

-Saffron is the worlds most expensive spice because of the way it is harvested

-Fennel herb and fennel bulb are two different plants. Fennel bulb does have the feathery top like the herb but the flavor is not as strong. Fennel seed comes from the herb.

-You can use vanilla pods up to 5 times to flavor something, assuming you don't cut them open. Just rinse with water and pat dry after you use it. After about 5 uses, split it open to use the seeds inside as the pod will not be able to infuse flavor anymore. You can also place vanilla pods in sugar to create vanilla sugar. These tips help because vanilla pods are very expensive!

-When boiling milk, place a pyrex plate over the top as opposed to the lid of the pot. This will help you watch when your milk is about to boil so that it doesn't overflow (I know it's happened to all of you!)

-Color is flavor!

-More on chicken- buy organic free range chickens for the things that are not in them. You may notice that non free range chickens seem to have more tender meat. This is because the chickens have less muscle in their bodies because they are housed in such conditions that they literally sit all day and do not move (ew). Don't let the tenderness fool you!