Cloughjordan Cookery School
Layers of Knowledge
Puff Pastry is widely available and everyone, including top chefs, goes out and buys it. Why teach the art of making it? Why make it at all?
The answer is understanding. The extra knowledge will enhance your pastry skills. It’s a bit like photography. Why bother to learn about aperture, shutter speed, ISO, when a digital automatic will do it all (well, 90 per cent) for you? Again the answer is knowledge and gaining the understanding to do that awkward 10 per cent!
Knowledge and understanding. And that’s what the Cloughjordan Cookery School and Colleen teach. The knowledge is here and they pass it on in a gorgeous 400 year old farmhouse in North Tipperary (Nenagh to the west, Roscrea to the east) and very near to the Offaly border with Birr fairly close, right in the middle of Ireland. Your hosts are Sarah (founder of the cookery school and still paying a leading role there) and husband Peter Baker.
|Top: croissants, before and after.|
Middle: blind baking and Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart.
Bottom: lots of butter and Colleen with yours truly
And if you are there for a course, or B & B, or a wedding, the food will be local. And will also be very good, if our breakfast is anything to go by. They grow lots of fresh fruit and vegetables in their walled garden, and what the garden doesn't provide, they source from artisan producers, the local butcher and local farmers.
During a small break and after sampling the delicious croissants, the course participants went out to the nearby muddy paddock to see four newly arrival bonhams (piglets). Immediately, the curious crew arrived, the quartet dashed off to the far end and hid behind a row of trees. They had every right to be suspicious. Must have heard the oohs and ahs as we tucked into the tasty sausages a few hours earlier.
The course was entitled “Sweet Things” and the sub headings were Puff Pastry, Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart, Choux Pastry, Croissants, and Italian Biscuits. Colleen took us through the lessons and handed out a few general tips as well. Knife handling skills were illustrated with the hint “fold your fingers back while chopping, that way you won’t lose a finger-tip!” and she recommended using Doves Farm Yeast which is widely available; check here .
|Top: the Cookery School.|
Bottom: Colleen, big welcome (yes, tail is wagging) and shy little piggies.
There was an immediate practical result from our Puff Pastry efforts as we each ended up with at least two tarts, one topped with caramelized red onions (from the garden) and goats cheese or Brie, the other with leeks and mushroom mixed with crème fraîche and cream. And this was our tasty lunch! Our chocolate tart was also ready at this point but in most cases we had been well satisfied by the savoury tarts and the chocolate came home with us along with a Glenisk Goody Bag!
Courses generally start about 10.00am and finish around two o’clock. And, like us, quite a few of the participants stayed at the house on the previous night. And from what I gathered, we all slept well in comfortable beds and bedrooms. We had a meal at the nearby Fairway Bar and Orchards Restaurant (in Kilruane) before coming back to the sitting room where, in front of a warm stove, I sipped a lovely glass of Bordeaux before enjoying meeting and chatting with other guests as they came in from various parts of the country.
It is a friendly place and that starts with the Baker family themselves. If you are traveling in the area, do keep it in mind for B&B which they offer from April to October. Looks like a very enjoyable experience indeed. For more info on Cloughjordan weddings, B&B, and cookery courses, see the excellent website where the videos will give you a hint of the warm welcome that awaits.