From Ireland to Boston

fishing boats DingleFishing Boats in Dingle

Written earlier this week

My great Irish adventure comes to a close at the end of this week. What an experience it has been! I’ve had a lot of fun, met a of very warm and welcoming folks. The students and teachers that I lived with and cooked with every day for the last two and a half months will stay with me forever. That is not to say that this adventure has not had its ups and downs. The weather has been epic and not in a good way. I think it is fair to say that Irish weather stinks. During the three months that I have been here, we saw rainfall amounts that have not been matched in the last 50 years. I know that my friends back in Boston are not going to have much patience with my complaints about rain, but “you kinda had to be here”. The Irish people have lots of really unattractive expressions that describe the velocity with which the rain is falling out of the sky (see me later).

Ballymaloe, however is  a magical place. The vision that the school founded on and that Darina Allen and her family have been able, with immeasurable energy, to carry out over the past 30 years is quite amazing. It takes incredibly hard work to manage a farm and cooking school of this size and reputation. There are the farmers who care for the cows and dairy, the chickens, pigs, the incredibly beautiful herb gardens, soft fruit gardens, the huge and extensive glass houses. There are the chef instructors and kitchen staff, the folks who work in the school shop, the staff that run Saturday pizzas in the cafe, the long list of guest speakers, the office staff and of course the Allen family who give the daily cooking demonstrations, entertain guests, organize the local farmers markets and an endless list of other jobs.

At the end of the day, the most memorable thing about my Ireland adventure was the wonderful people who I met along the way and I met some really good ones. To the five people I share a house with, to some of the extremely lively chef/ instructors, to the Allen family, to my wonderful student friends and to all the people who made me feel at home in Ireland – Thank You!

So, here are some photos from my last few weeks in Ireland. It was a grand adventure, but I am really looking forward to going home and seeing my family.

 Pana BallymaoleBallymaloe fieldThe grounds at Balleymaloe Cookery School

KitchenThe kitchen where I cooked with Julia 3 days a week

(we made baked goods, sauces, stews, pickles and marmalade for the farmer’s market)

Florrie, Annette and JuliaFlorrie, Nettie and Julia

landscape IrelandThe Beautiful Irish Countryside

red audi 2My cute and zippy car rental with which to explore the beautiful Irish countryside

Milla and StephTwo of my housemates: Milla and Steph

CowsSweet Jersey Cows

more canapesCanape Demonstration

Rachel AllenRachel Allen

ItaAnother housemate: Ita

Gardens at Ballymaloe HouseWalled gardens at Ballymaloe House

Canape demoSalmon Canape

Milo and SteveTwo more housemates: Miles and Niamh (rhymes with Steve)

Charcuterie demoCharcuterie Demonstration

Dingle pennThe beautiful coastline of the Dingle Peninsula

So the last of this post, I am writing from Boston. Home safe and sound and so happy to be here and to see my family. Wishing that I had a little more time to spend with them, but starting a second internship tomorrow morning at America’s Test Kitchen in Brookline. More about that later, but for now, I am going to feed my sourdough starter and go to bed.

Bon Appetite,

Robin

Posted in Ballymaloe Cooking School, Ireland | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Monday Cooking Demonstration at Ballymaloe and some warm thoughts for Boston….

DarinaDarina Allen- Balllymaloe Cookery School

There was a little hint of Spring today in Shanagarry. In the planters outside the front door at Ballymaloe, there are dafodiles bloomming and other spring bulbs about to bloom. God bless them because as an active observer of Irish weather, I would not want to peek my head out just yet!

I worked in the kitchen behind the demonstration kitchen this morning preparing ingredients for salads and measuring up this and that. It was a good morning and after lunch, I went to the student’s cooking demonstration. Darina Allen gave the demonstration assisted by two of her talented chef/instructors.

The demonstration featured some delicious goat cheese salads and a wonderful and simple haddock recipe, but the star of the day was the choux pastry. Choux pastry is reasonable easy to make and has so many variations.

eclairsEclairs

There were eclairs, lemon curd puffs, a cheese gallette, cheese choux puffs with and without chirizo, and beignets with rhubarb sauce!

What really caught my attention, though, because I have been thinking a lot about my wonderful friends and family in Boston, was the hot chocolate with homemade marshmellos. If you find yourself snowed in yet again, this might be the antidote.

hot chocolateToby’s Hot Chocolate

Recipe from Ballymaloe/Darina Allen

Serves 4

3 1/2 – 4 ozs (100-110g) best quality dark chocolate

2 1/2 fl ozs (62ml/1/4cup) water

1 pint (600ml/ 2 1/2 cups) milk

1-2 teaspoons sugar

4 large teaspoons whipped cream

grated chocolate

Put the chocolate and the water into a heavy saucepan and melt on very low heat. Meanwhile, bring the milk almost to the boil (what we call the shivery stage) in a separate saucepan). When the chocolate has melted, pour on the milk, whisking all the time: it should be smoooth and frothy. Taste and add some sugar. Pour it into warmed cups, spoon a blob of whipped cream on top and some homemade marshmallows and sprinkle with a little grated chocolate.

marshmellowsMarshmallows

This recipe is also from Darina Allen’s collection of cookery school recipes

“Real homemade marshmallows are a forgotten flavour but are east and great fun to make. Toast them over an open fire or drop one into hot chocolate and watch it slowly melt.”

Makes about 64

vegetable oil

2 teaspoons confectionary sugar

2 teaspoons cornflour (sieved)

25g (1 oz) powdered gelatine

2 organic egg whites

500g (18oz/ 2 1/4 cups) granulated sugar

1- 8 inch square tin

Line the tin with bakewell paper (parchment paper), brush lightly with sunflower oil and coat with icing sugar (confectionary sugar) and cornflour (cornstarch). Sprinkle the gelatine to cover 125ml (4 1/2 fl oz/1/2 cup) water into a small bowl. Allow to sponge for to 3-4 minutes. Put the bowl in a saucepan of simmering water and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat.

Whisk the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks, preferable in the bowl of mixer- this makes adding the sugar syrup to the egg whites much easier.

Put the sugar into a saucepan with the 25ml (9fl oz/generous 1 cup) water. Stir over a low heat until all the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and continue to boil fiercely until it reaches 122 degrees C/252 degrees F (thread stage) on a sugar thermometer. Turn off the heat

Pour the dissolved gelatine into the syrup and stir. Watch out – the syrup will bubble up a little.

Switch the food mixer on the lowest setting so that the egg whites can carry on whisking, then pour the syrup down the side of the bowl in a gentle trickle, whisking all the time. The mixture will change texture and become creamy. Continue to whisk until the mixture becomes really thick, but still pourable. Pour into the prepared tin and leave to set in a cool place – but not the fridge- for an hour or two.

Dust a clean chopping board with the rest of the corn starch and icing sugar mixture and coat a sharp knife with vegetable oil. Gently ease the marshmallow out of the tin. Make sure that it is dusted all over with icing sugar, then cut into squares. Oil and dust the knife again as often as necessary. Thread the marshmallows onto skewers or spear them with forks. They are delicious toasted over  an open fire.

Warm thoughts to you,

Robin

Posted in Baking, Ballymaloe Cooking School, Ireland | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Ballymaloe Cookery School – week three

 

Rory Occonnell demoToday’s demonstration at Ballymaloe was centered around roast beef, and beef and lamb braises. Above is Rory O’Connell who is one of the three celebrity chefs that do the daily cooking demonstrations. As an intern, I am occasionally in the audience, but more often helping to prepare the demonstration in the kitchen behind the demonstration room. Other days I am working with the chef that makes the prepared food (bread, soups, stews, marmalade, cookies) for the Middleton Farmers Market and the Ballymaloe Store. Today, I sat in on the demonstration which was mostly things one would make for a holiday or a dinner party. I always love seeing how they do their presentations.

DemoThis is the reflection from the large rustic mirror that hangs above the demonstration kitchen. In case it is confusing, you are seing the reflection of the first row of students and Rory and Darina doing the demonstration. The demonstration included a mind boggling assortment of braises and side dishes, but I am giving you a snap shot of one or two plates.

Roast BeefHere is a beautiful roast beef which came with loads of tips on how to select a butcher and a piece of meat as well as how to trim and carve. You can see the little Yorkshire puddings around the beef and then below, a popover…

popoverPopover filled with whipped cream and raspberry jam

I loved the plate of crudities. Darina explained that the primary reason to have such a plate would be to highlight vegetables that were right out of the garden, so these are all vegetables that come directly out of the glasshouses at Ballymaloe.

crudityThe crudities were served with an olive oil and spice mix.

From there, I took a walk down to the glass houses to see what was growing…

curly KaleCurly Kale

MibunaMibuna

SproutsBrussel sprouts  and much, much more…

the gardens at Ballymaloe winter      then a walk back though the gardens…

  roosters hens chairand a check on the chickens

All and all a really great day,

Bon Appetit,

Robin

Posted in Cooking School in Ireland, Ireland | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Cheese Making at Ballymaloe Cookery School

Last night, I went to cheese making seminar in the dairy. The dairy is in the same building where we milked the cows. There is a cheese making room and a cheese storage room. Everything is immaculately clean and precise.  As a cheese lover, I was amazed to see how it all comes about.

making cheese oneAbove is a vat of fresh milk, straight from the Jersey Cows at Ballymaloe. An enzyme and rennet were added to to the milk in the hours before we arrived to accelerate the process of curdling the milk.

Cheese makingTo check if the milk is sufficiently, set, a knife is used to slit the cheese. If the milk is set, then it is cut.

Cheese maling JamieCutting the cheese (I know) ….once the curdling is completed, the milk mass is cut which allows the whey to discharge. After cutting, the whey is drained and warm water is added.

Cottage ChesseTwo of my new friends stirring up the curds.

breaking up the chesseOnce the cheese curds are sufficiently firm, they are transferred to molds. The molds are aerated cylinders with weights on top to compress the curds into solid blocks. Since last night, we have turned our cheese five times and at the last turning, we rubbed them with salt to help discharge more liquid. Here is my cheese as of 6:00 pm Shanagarry time.

My Cheese I know – it’s beautiful, sort of makes me tear up.

Hope you are well!

Robin

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Ballymaloe Cooking School | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Ballymaloe Cooking School: The Middleton Farmer’s Market

countryside

My first week at Ballymaloe Cooking School has flown by. There is lots to do and lots to learn. The staff here has been incredibly welcoming; I feel very lucky to be here. So far I have not taken any photos at school – it’s difficult to take photos when you are running around like a one-armed paper hanger who doesn’t know where the paper is yet.

This morning I went to the Middleton Farmer’s Market which is about 15 miles from Ballymaloe on skinny little roads. I have a car the size of a large toaster and am feeling slightly better about driving a stick with my left hand on the left side of the road than I did on day one.  In other words, I have stopped pulling over every time someone approaches on the other side of the road.

Today was a beautiful day, the second since I have been here (that’s two out of eight), but I am not complaining. Every once in a while we look out the windows at the school and see a beautiful rainbow…and then it rains some more.

PennyworthI stopped on the way and took a couple of photos. This is a foraged green called Pennywort. We have put it with lots of other beautiful delicate greens in salads all week. I just double checked to make sure that I had the name right and I’m glad I did because all week I have thought it was Pennyworth. At least I was close, which is more than I can say about the other 98% of conversations that have gone on around me. I  hear that this should get better with time. As of now, I am doing a lot of “what was that?”

CheesesCheese and Chorizo

SpudsSpuds, no really just spuds, no vegetables…

Smoked MackeralSmoked Mackerel

Middleton Farmer's……more cheese

Spring bulbs Farmer's MarketSpring bulbs

Later in the day, I took a walk on the beach……

Life preserverbeautiful and very safe!

Shanagarry BeachMore soon,

Robin

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Cooking to stay warm….

soda bread baked I want to be happy about the snow, but really, the ice/snow/wind/freezing rain bonanza that we got this weekend was a bit much. Today, at least, I am sitting in a warm and sunny spot in my house with my two furry companions at my feet, but when I look out the window, I can see the wind shaking the frozen-stiff trees and the rhododendron leaves clenched tight. I can hear the wind blowing and cars going down the street and cracking through the ice and rock hard snow- uggh. Some of my family members think this is just fine, but I’m getting a wee bit tired of it.

Luckily, I’ve found another way to escape the New England winter and cook, cook, cook. I am headed off  to Ballymaloe Cooking School in Cork County, Ireland for the next two and a half months. I think it may be dark and wet and cold there, but there will be lots to do. I will be helping out on their 100 acre farm, greenhouses, bake shop and assisting in their cooking school. I will be living in a little cottage which would have sweet little roses all over it if it wasn’t January!  Check out Ballymaloe Cooking School. Maybe you’d like to come to a cooking class and visit Ireland?

In preparation, I thought I would try a few recipes from The Ballymaloe Cooking School Cookbook.  Irish Soda Bread seems like  a good place to start…. please, of course I know how to make that (awk). I tried to look this up in the index- hmmmm. Lesson #1, it’s not called “Irish Soda bread” in Ireland. The Irish soda bread that I love (there are many variations) is called “Spotted Dog”.

Here is what Darina Allen of Ballymaloe Cooking School says about Spotted Dog…

      Spotted Dog

Spotted Dog is also called railway cake in some parts of the country; “a currant for each station”. This bread is one of the great homely foods of our family. It has always been a favorite with my children. Freshly made on a Sunday morning for our picnics on the cliffs of Ballyandreen. Or relished with delight when eaten with lashings of butter, jam and steaming mugs of hot chocolate after a winter walk on Shanagarry strand. It is also a staple in our ‘pre-weighted repertoire’; made on our family boating trips on the Shannon and given as a parting gift to the many boats we met on the way.

Robin’s note: Lashings of butter? that sounds great!

Ingredients

450g (1 lb) plain white flour preferable unbleached

1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (bread soda)

1 level teaspoon salt

1 dessertspoon sugar

75-110g (3-4 0z) sultanas

1 egg

350ml (122 fl oz) buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 220 C/425 F/gas 7

In a large mixing bowl sieve the flour and the bicarbonate of soda and add the salt, sugar and fruit. Mix well by lifting the flour and fruit up in your hands and letting them fall back into the bowl through your fingers. This adds more air and therefore, hopefully more lightness to your finished bread. Now make a well in the centre of your flour. Break the egg in the bottom of your measuring jug and add the buttermilk to the 400ml (14fl oz) line – the egg is part of your liquid measurement. Whisk briefly to blend and pour most of the milk and egg into the flour. Using one hand with the fingers open and stiff, mix in a full circle drawing the the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky.

soda bread well

The trick with Spotted Dog like all soda breads is not to over-mix the dough. Mix it as quickly and as gently as possible thus keeping it light and airy. When the dough all comes together, turn it out onto a well floured work surface. Wash and dry your hands. With floured fingers roll lightly for a few seconds – just enough to tidy up. Pat the dough into a round, pressing to about 5cm (2 in) in height.

Place the dough on to a baking tray dusted lightly with flour. With a sharp knife cut a deep cross on it, letting the cuts go over the sides of the bread. Prick with a knife at the four angles as, according to Irish Folklore, this is to let the fairies out.

soda bread Fairy- free Spotted Dog dough

Cook in the oven for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 220 C/400 F/ gas 6, for 35 minutes or until cooked. If you are in doubt about the bread being cooked, tap the bottom: if it is cooked it will sound hollow. Serve freshly baked, cut into thick slices and smeared with butter and jam. Spotted dog is also really good eaten with cheese.

I hope that Ireland has in store for me as much warmth and character as this recipe holds.

Bon Appetit!

Robin

 

Posted in Baking, Cooking School in Ireland, Travel in Ireland | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Kirkland Tap and Trotter

Tap and Trotter exteriorIt’s been a while since Lauren and I have found the time to have dinner together. Life sometimes gets in the way of important stuff! I am  reminded of how much I love spending time with her. I am also reminded that our whole fabulous food journey began with simply making time to  share a meal together once a week. Sometimes there is nothing better.

Anyway, we have always wanted to go to Craigie on Main (Tony Maws’ famous and much acclaimed restaurant in Cambridge). The thing is, for a casual dinner,  it’s a little pricey. I’m sure it’s worth every penny, but it’s just not part of our program. So, we were very excited when we heard that Tony Maws had opened a new restaurant,  Kirkland Tap and Trotter in Somerville! Kirkland Tap and Trotter is a fun, upscale pub and we loved it!  The atmosphere pays homage to the comfortable neighborhood bar and music scene that previously occupied the space but with a little more funk and a rustic sophistication.

tap and trotter 1

I found this article written by Tony Maws for Food Republic entitled 5-tips for opening a restaurant-5-reasons-you-should-not. In this article, it becomes clear that Tony Maws is a perfectionist and  that the words “perfection” and “restaurant opening” are not generally found in the same sentence. Read this if you are interested, it made me laugh.

We tried a few things…I wish we could have tried more. There is a bit of everything on the menu, from a delicious grilled grass-fed hamburger, provolone and horseradish cream  to braised local skate wing, littleneck clams, smoked tomatoes and beans. The general theme is “simple, hearty and approachable food” but there are definitely some sophisticated dishes on the menu.

We had the pan-fried sardines…

fried fish

the vegetarian winter stew……

 

Vegetarian stew

and the octopus with hummus and toasts.

 

Tap and trotter octopusEverything was as we expected….delicious! If you find yourself in the Inman Square area of Cambridge (it’s right on the Cambridge/Somerville line), we think you’ll like this one.  I would definitely go back to and as Tony Maws writes in his article, it’s bound to get better and better with time.

Bon Appetit!

Robin and Lauren

 

 

Posted in Cambridge Restaurant reviews, Somerville Restaurants | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Goals for November….

Goals for November…..

1. Ride in the Ovarian Cancer Research ride on November 17th in memory of my dear friend Elizabeth Canny. I’m hoping that raisng money for Ovarian Cancer reserach will translate to earlier detection and more effective treatments.

robin and me 006

2. Keep cooking!

3. Read more!

4. Go to Boston more often!

5. Get together with friends more often!

6. Lose five pounds and figure out how in the world I’m going to ride a bike for two hours.

7. Make some art!

Okay that seems like enough for now. If you would like to help me with goals #1, #5 and #6, I will be at the spinning class at Club Excel on Sunday morning at 8:3o (really 9:30 because of daylight savings). It’s going to be so ugly.

If you would like to help me fundraise for the Ovarian Cancer ride, you can follow this link.

Many, many thanks to those who have already donated and please know that your donation is being matched by a long time supporter of Ovarian Cancer Research! All donations will be matched and any donation over $1000, will be tripled!

Hope to see you on Sunday!

Robin

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hotel Vermont

Hotel Vermont hotel Vermont2Lobby, Hotel Vermont

Just back from a quick trip up to Burlington, Vermont to grab Charlie for the weekend. I thought I’d split up the drive and spend the night up there on Thursday. I stayed at Hotel Vermont which  opened in May. Located on Cherry Street near Lake Champlain it’s a quick walk to all the shops on Market Street. I won’t lie to you, when it comes to hotels, new is good. I love new! Hotel Vermont prides itself on its  eco-friendly, sleek-modern meets rustic-Vermont vibe. Sounds good, right?

I arrived at 9:30pm (thank you Boston traffic) and was starving!  Hotel Vermont has two dining options, both have full menus available until 10:00 pm and a bar menu available until midnight! Juniper is their more casual, less expensive option and it was great. I had a beautiful and delicious salad.

salad hvAutumn greens, toasted nuts, dried plums, Boucher blue cheese, and cranberry vinaigrette .

Next, the smoked trout cake with shaved fennel, cilantro, lime and corn puree – fantastic!

trout cake   trout cake 2The best news is that Hen of the Wood from Waterbury, Vermont has chosen Hotel Vermont as their second location. Hen of the Wood is known has one of New England’s best farm to table restaurants. Head Chef, Eric Warnstedt  is a three-time James Beard Award finalist and was one of Food and Wine’s Best 10 New Chefs in 2008. It’s a little hard to get a reservation, but you may be able to walk in and sit at the bar. I can’t wait to go back and try it!

Maybe Charlie will need a ride home for Thanksgiving??

Bon Appetit,

Robin

 

Posted in Hotels in New England, New England Farm to Table | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

End of the summer season at The Market Restaurant….

 view from the marketAw  Jeez**, I can’t believe that it’s the end of another wonderful summer season at The Market Restaurant in Annisquam. It has been a really great summer of cooking and chopping and peeling. Next Sunday night, the 13th is the last night, so there is still time (but not much) if you haven’t made it up there yet.I wish I had more photos of the beautiful plates of delicious food that I watched come out of the kitchen, but there isn’t often time for standing around with a camera.  Here are a few good ones….

striped eggplantEggplants on their way to being roasted.

roasted peppersRoasted Red Peppers

market pastaCannelloni

SwordfishSwordfish

The Market2Beautiful Tender Lettuces

IMG_0748Naked Tortellini

IMG_1425Spring Lasagna

IMG_1426Soft Shell Crab with Citrus

IMG_1660Boudin Blanc

IMG_1655Scallops

tpmato tart marketTomato, Black Olive and Anchovy Tart

I have learned a ton from the very talented chefs at The Market and feel so fortunate that they have let me tag along for another season. Thank you Nico and Amelia!!! The good news for all of us is that Short and Main, Nico and Amelia’s second restaurant in Gloucester, is open year round! They have wonderful pizza and salads and a fantastic bar. Check it out if you haven’t already!

Bon Appetit!

Robin

**a phrase we use a lot on the rare occasion that something does not go as expected.

Posted in Cape Ann Restaurants, North Shore Restaurants | Tagged | 1 Comment