Showing posts with label Ballymaloe Cookery School. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ballymaloe Cookery School. Show all posts

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Ballymaloe Cookery School and Gardens. Coffee Break turns into A Day Trip

Ballymaloe Cookery School & Gardens. 
Coffee Break turns into A Day Trip
The cock crows. He always does when I arrive at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Good to be back!

The Food Truck Café in front of the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry has just reopened for the season. So when a friend suggested a mid morning cup of coffee, there was no hesitation. Plan was to be there for just a short interlude but that stretched to a walk in the gardens and part of the farm, and, much later, a return to the Food Truck for a delicious lunch.
A productive day for the panels.

 You may have coffee and cafe here from 10.30am until 5.00pm and they serve a light lunch between 12 noon and 3.30pm. First question? What to have with the morning coffee? There is a short list of temptation and the Tunisian Orange Cake was my pick and a good one it was. But it seems the winner on the day was the Gooseberry Compote served with their Jersey Cream Yogurt. Absolutely delicious.

Amphitheatre
Time on our hands then, time enough for a walk through the garden. There are some 70 varieties of herbs in the herb garden, laid out in a formal parterre edged with box hedges. Plenty of fresh herbs for Ballymaloe House and Cafe and the school.

The Herbaceous Border, planted in 1996, has thrived here, though not without a great deal of care and attention. Deep borders of fabulous perennials and grasses make it one of the very best of its type.
Gooseberry compote
 At the end of the border is the Shell House, with shell decoration by artist Blott Kerr-Wilson. We had been in these areas before - read more here


There is something new, always something new in Ballymaloe where their creatives just do what comes naturally. One striking feature, near the border, is the Garden Amphitheatre, a mini one. But it is capable of holding up to sixty people and is good for a cookery school lecture, even better for a wine tasting and lesson!

The Urban Garden
And not too far away, an Urban Garden was being constructed. The “entrance” sees you going out the back door of your home to see how your plants are coming along. Lots of good ideas packed into the small place, that includes a composting bin, a frame and a little greenhouse. Well worth a look for city-dwellers, even country dwellers whose gardens are on the small side.
Drying in the glasshouse
 I mentioned the Jersey cream earlier and soon we were passing those very ladies, at rest in the lush grass. Nearby were the free range pigs, at least the younger ones, a mix of Gloucester Old Spot, Tamworth and Saddleback. They were busy pushing one another near the water trough, looking to cool down on what was a very warm day. One even had his head buried in the wet mud nearby. Not too far away, some young hens gathered in the shade.

Glasshouse grapes
 I hadn't seen the kitchen garden before so that was next on the walk. All neat and tidy, all organic, lots of vegetables and flowers too for dishes and drinks. And a scarecrow hiding in the high fox gloves!

Head down

 Oh I almost forgot. We also had a tour though the glasshouse. It was baking! It is a fertile place, again supplying the restaurant, the cafes (both here and at the house), and the school itself of course. Always something being harvested, something being set, everything here is grown from seed and a no-dig policy is implemented.

Lunch taco
 You may buy a selection of the produce at the shop. I was looking for some honey but none available, not until August. All those stories you hear about bees being weakened by pesticides and other -ides are not fiction. Far from it. But I did get a few things including a white yeast loaf, one of the very best I've ever tasted.


We were just about to go back to the nearby carpark when we realised it was lunchtime. So why travel further? We sat under the canopy opposite the Food Truck for the second time and studied the  light lunch menu. It included a Tart of the Day, a Taco and a Salad.
Food truck

The Taco came with lamb, avocado, rocket, chipotle & horseradish mayo and crunchy veg, all for €7.50. Every single ingredient played a part here and the result was a slightly spicy and full of flavour meal. 


CL’s Super Food Salad was served with “Bread Shed” breads and included red lentils, quinoa, haricot, red kidney beans, roast parsnip/beetroot/carrot/red onion/mixed seeds/peanuts (7.00). Massive! Thought she might walk back to Cork after that. But no!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Ballycotton: Bites And Boats. Even Goats!

Ballycotton: Bites And Boat.
Even Goats!
Goats and Gulls on the lighthouse island
Very enjoyable visit today to the Seafood and Shanty Festival on the pier at Ballycotton. We got there early, just in time to catch the boat for a trip around the lighthouse island. The lighthouse staff, now long gone from the island, used keep goats. There are seven up there now, up with the gulls. The building under the lighthouse, in the picture below, was the last building and such an improvement on the previous quarters that it became known as the Ballycotton Hilton. Great trip for a fiver.
Ballycotton Island, the side facing the sea.
Bill Casey's smoked salmon presented by
Ballymaloe Cookery School
Back on dry land, it was time for lunch and quite a choice around the pier. Some inviting things as you might expect on the Ballymaloe Cookery School stall and we started with some of their chicken liver pate and some smoked salmon, both on brown bread. Main course was the Fish and Chips by local restaurant Pier 26, great value at six euro. Also got some sushi for later on this evening from Okawari. Dessert would have to wait a while and mine came in the shape of a slice of Plum and Pistachio Cake when we called to meet friends at the lovely SPP cafe in nearby Shanagarry. There was also the small matter of a carton of Wexford strawberries from a roadside stall in Midleton!
Fish & Chips by Pier 26
Had been thinking that there might be traffic problems in and out of the village. But the folks down there know their business and, with their directions and just a little patience, we had no problem at all, either on the way in or out. Well done to all behind the festival, a big thumbs up from this quarter.

Watch out for these
at Wilton Market
Big Girls

Rachel Allen has had more impressive sets.
But she herself was impressive as always,
tossing away a couple of bad avocados in her stride.

Pistachio and Plum cake at the
delightful Stephen Pearce Potter Cafe, SPP Cafe in Shanagarry

Friday, May 8, 2015

Taste of the Week

Taste of the Week
Fig Cake with Almonds
Taste of the Week comes from Spain, via the shop at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. Just two ingredients make up this beauty: dried figs (90%) and Valencia almonds (10%). Simple but simply delicious!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

High-end Burgundy Wines at Zamora Evening. Excellent Matching Food As Well

High-end Burgundy Wines at Zamora Evening


Excellent Food As Well


Edouard Leach (left) and Billy Forrester.
Zamora got its wine events off to a great start with a superb Burgundy tasting event at the new Academy Street venue last Monday.


The top end wines, three white and three red, came via Bubble Brothers and Maison Francoise Chauvenet who were ably represented by Edouard Leach. And Edouard’s task of showcasing the marvellous Chardonnay and Pinot Noir of the region was made all the easier by the matching food served up by the Zamora kitchen under the direction of Pat Browne of Ballymaloe Cookery School.

Burgundy, unlike Bordeaux, is a land of small plots. There are some 3,500 growers with an average 6 hectares. Once it was the the negociants who dominated but now 1000 growers bottle themselves. As the growers go for more control at the end of the operation, so the negociants seek more control towards the start.
In the meantime, Maison Francoise Chauvenet brings together grapes from various parcels and makes some brilliant wines and those on show at Zamora were made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

First up was the Marguerite de Bourgogne Chardonnay (2013). This is the signature house blend of wine from four Cotes de Beaune vineyards. Edouard said it sets the style and is drinking perfectly now. This was matched with A salad of Jerusalem Artichokes with smoked almonds and preserved lemon dressing. Simple, but an excellent match. We were off to a very good  start indeed.

And it got better. The kitchen delivered their Carrigcleena Duck Liver Paté with crostini to pair with the Pouilly-Fuisse 2013. Edouard: “This is considerable step-up. The fruit is more concentrated and it goes well with the paté.” Chauvenet themselves say this is the undoubted king of the Maconnais region and Edouard emphasised that the quality here is down to a very deliberate low yield policy.
Fish
Our next visit was to the small village of Puligny-Montrachet, one of the places in the famous triangle near Beaune. “There is a huge demand for the triangle wines”,  Edouard said. “This 2012 is slowly opening up and, in two or three years time, it will be even better, will have attained full complexity.” Not bad as it was though and a serious partner with the House smoked Salmon and Hake, served with seasonal greens, roasted red and yellow peppers and a black garlic aioli.

Now we were on to the reds. Would they match up? Would they what? Billy Forrester of Bubble Brothers introduced the first, the entry level Marguerite de Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2013. He was very proud of it: “A wonderful old world Pinot Noir. Delicious.” He must have been proud too of the matching dish: Boeuf Bourguignon with Kale and scallion champ potato. We could have been in Lyon!
Boeuf Bourguignon
Edouard was somewhat puzzled by the fact that the next wine, the Mercurey 1er Cru (2013), was not so popular in Ireland. Mercurey is the best red wine village in the Cote Chalonnaise, between Beaune and Macon and “this is a huge seller in France, Belgium and Holland. It is quite soft, nice and generous.” And went well with the soft and mild Buche de Chevre.

Both the kitchen and the wine company came up with a terrific finalé. Zamora’s final contribution was an Organic Rhubarb Bread and Butter Pudding, with compote and softly whipped cream. A dessert delight.
And the final wine was a very serious one: Nuits-Saint-Georges 2011. Edouard advised: “This needs time. It is still relatively closed, needs more age”. And speaking of age, he had some advice if you are thinking of keeping a few bottles of this. “Pinot Noir is very fragile, can lose everything if kept too long. If you have a case, use one bottle every year!”.

Though, nowadays, quite a few areas around the world are making excellent Chardonnay and  far fewer areas Pinot Noir, you will still hear that Burgundy is the spiritual home of both. Don't think there were too many arguing with that after this particular evening.
Cheese

The partnership between Bubble Bros and Maison Chauvet is a relatively recent one but is has started well with the promise of other excellent wines to come. Currently, there is ten per cent off the Chauvenet wines. So do keep an eye on their website for all the latest news from Burgundy. And also for news of further wine evenings at Zamora.


  • By the way, I always thought that Cotes d’Or meant golden slope or golden hillside. But I just read in The Finest Wines of Burgundy by Bill Nanson that it is actually  a contraction of Cote d’Orient - East-facing Hillside. I could have asked Edouard had I read that before the evening!

Dessert


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Taste of the Week

Taste of the Week
On the Double



Two excellent local products here, each a great taste in its own right. The cheese, from the Farm Shop in the Ballymaloe Cookery School, is creamy and full of flavour, not yet showing the dry flakiness that comes with longer maturing. You don't often see Loganberry jam nowadays but this gorgeous pot, by Follain, is available in Bradley's, North Main Street. 

In the Basque Country in South West France, and probably over the border in Spain as well, they often serve sheep cheese with a cherry jam. So why not put those two together, I thought. And it worked a treat, my Taste of the Week!



Monday, July 28, 2014

Krug at Ballymaloe. Patience and perfection

Krug at Ballymaloe
Patience and perfection
Toast to the harvest! The Krug is served in its special Riedel glasses.
"Champagne is all about pleasure."
Nicole Brown got widespread agreement on her opening statement at Ballymaloe last Thursday evening. And that agreement was reinforced by the time the audience in the famous Cookery School had sampled the amazing Krug Grand Cuvée.


Nicole was in Ballymaloe, both as a visitor - she is on holiday in West Cork - and in an temporary extension of her role as the US Brand Ambassador for Krug Champagne. Ballymaloe’s Colm McCann was delighted with the visit and welcomed Nicole, who was accompanied by Adrien Combet of Moet Hennessy Ireland, and the rest of us to the first ever Krug tasting in Ireland!


Krug, perhaps the premier champagne house, was founded by Joseph Krug in 1843. With some previous experience of the trade and his own principles to guide him (detailed in a journal he started for his young son in 1848), he set about extracting pleasure from a difficult climate (200 days of rain per annum). The chalk soil though was and remains a huge factor in the champagne maker’s favour.


The boundaries of champagne have long been set (though there is a move on to extend them in the next year or so) and so the competition among the houses for the raw material, the grapes, can be intense. Very few houses have enough grapes of their own. Krug, with some contracts dating back to 1878, are loyal to their suppliers and it seems to work both ways.



Krug use 5000 small oak barrels (average age: 23 years) for the first fermentation. Repairs are constant but Eric Label, Chef de Caves, is determined not to use stainless steel at this stage.

The tasting committee - we are talking about the Grand Cuvée here - consists of six members charged with using their memories and tasting abilities, not to mention the legibility of their handwriting, to make the flagship wine as consistent as possible each and every time!

There is no magic formula here, just memory and taste, and taste again! Some 200 plus wines are tasted twice while the reserve still wines are tasted once or twice each year. No less than 5,000 thousand hand-written tasting notes are accumulated in Eric’s big black book and then consulted before the blend composition is finalised.

The final blend may consist of over 100 wines from ten or so different vintages (years)! The wine then matures in the cellars for at least six years. Memory, taste, and so much time! The patience of perfection.
Roast Guinea Fowl and those amazing Heritage tomatoes.
While champagne is the most regulated wine in the world, its workings are not always clear to the outsider. “Krug wants to be transparent,” said Nicole and pointed to the ID on each bottle. Download the APP and you’ll get the key info, including important dates, on the wine. Let’s check the Grand Cuvée in our hand. We see that no less than 142 still wines (some going back to 1990) were blended with the base 2006 wine and that it was aged for seven years on its lees.

The audience was now eager to taste and Colm and his crew obliged. Nicole: “The Grand Cuvée is unique, an incredible expression of champagne”. And so it is. The deep golden colour and the endless fountain of fine bubbles promise much as do the amazing aromas. And it is all delivered on the palate, full and yet fine, mature yet fresh. You won’t forget this one in a hurry.

The Krug Rose, first made commercially in the early 1980s, is crafted in much the same way as the Grand Cuvée, and includes Pinot Noir from La Cote Valnon “to make it pink. It is aged for five years and the reserve wines date back to 2000. It is amazing with cheese.” Krug offer five champagnes and all five are Prestige Cuvées.

Back in Ballymaloe House, at dinner, we were amazed at the versatility of the Grand Cuvée, matching everything from fish to fowl and not forgetting vegetarian. Ballyhoura Mushroom and Marjoram Bruschetta and Hot Buttered Ballycotton Lobsters featured in the starters while Poached Wild Blackwater Salmon, Roast free-range Guinea Fowl and Braised Ballymaloe Pork were among the mains listed.
Sunset finds Nicole and Adrien doing some field-work.
The gigantic tin whistle is the newest
addition to the FORM sculpture trail, showing all
summer long at Ballymaloe.
Cheeses included St Gall, Triskel Goats and Cashel Blue and here the Rosé was put through its paces. No problem!

It was a delicious well paced meal and one of the highlights was the Shanagarry Heritage Tomato and Basil Salad. Colm McCann had been talking this up all evening and, boy, was he right. This simple salad illustrates the essence of the Ballymaloe farm and kitchen. Here they start with simple and end with simply superb!

We dined with windows and doors open on this lovely summer’s evening. Walked out then to the front, the canopy of farmland darkness broken by a myriad of sparkling stars. The Milky Way, I saw. And then I thought. What a prosaic name. All that sparkle and the best they can come up with is milky! Why not The Champagne Way? Pourquoi pas?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Muc Turns Up for Book Launch in Ballymaloe

Muc Turns Up for Book Launch in Ballymaloe
Jamón Ibérico


Muc*, the pig from Buenvino, was in Ballymaloe Cookery School at the weekend. Or at least one of his back legs was. You see, four years back Muc was killed and the long air-drying period began. Before that, he had happily wandered the woods around the big house in the south west of Spain, snouting out the best of nuts, especially those gorgeous acorns, qualifying him for the coveted Ibérico status.


Muc, now a tasty hunk of Jamón Ibérico**, was in Ballymaloe as Buenvino owners, Sam and Jeannie Chesterton, came to have their cookbook, simply named the Buenvino Cookbook, launched by Darina Allen. All the recipes have a Spanish flavour but you can get most if not all the ingredients here.


Quail's eggs
Rory O’Connell certainly did and he and his team cooked up many of the recipes from the book and we were able to enjoy: quails eggs with a pinch of cumin, fresh pickled anchovies, toasted almonds, Almond soup with PX soaked raisins, manchego, spinach with chickpeas, tortillas,  and more, before finishing off with a plate of Paella! All accompanied by Lustau sherry (manzanilla for me) and Vina Herminia wines (a Rueda verdejo and a Rioja red).

Finca Buenvino, a pink washed farm and guesthouse, is in the middle of the Sierra de Aracena nature reserve in Andalusia and the book tells how Jeannie and Sam ended up there and are now regarded as true locals.


Paella

Darina, who has visited the Finca, says Jeannie is a wonderful cook (and she does cookery courses there). Jeannie herself emphasizes that while her cooking is influenced by Spanish methods and ingredients, that this is not a “thoroughbred” Spanish cookbook, rather her take on their way of life and the food they share with their guests.


It was Irish "hatched" Sam who persuaded Jeannie to join him in Buenvino about thirty years ago. It is something of a cook's paradise. “We kill and cure our own Jamón Ibérico and bake wholemeal loaves and Moroccan flatbreads from organic flour...Honey comes from the hives above the orchards, organic vegetables and herbs from the garden. In autumn, wild mushrooms spring up in the woods…”

Darina introduces Sam and Jeannie

The book, published by BFP , runs to over two hundred pages and there are all kinds of tantalising recipes from Tapas to full meals, from  Baked Octopus and potatoes to a Lamb with aubergine tagine, from various treatments of anchovies to a Citrus and Honey Cake, from a Stew of Mixed Fish to the Pear and Almond Tart, from Tortillas to Iberian Pork Fillets with red peppers. There are even some pronunciation tips, for Chorizo for example.

Such variety! And all beautifully illustrated. “Have a great time cooking these recipes” wrote Sam as he and his wife signed the book for us. A great time, maybe even a long time. But it is looking very good indeed.

Jeannie gives her seal of approval to Rory O'Connell's paella


Just two recommendations to end with, there are many.
1 I can't wait to buy this book and be transported back to their little corner of paradise. (Thomasina Miers, founder of Wahaca restaurants).
2 A creative and dedicated cook who understands food with plenty of taste, colour and flair. (Maria Jose Sevilla, Foods and Wines from Spain, Spanish Trade Commission, London).

* Name has been changed!
** Jamón Ibérico puro de bellota is a rare and exclusive air-cured ham. The Ibérico pig is a pure bred, free-ranging animal that feeds mainly on acorns from Holm Oak trees. It is these acorns that give Jamón Ibérico it’s unique smell, taste and feel. The meat is delicate, with a sweet flavour and less salty than Jamón Serrano.