Just said â€˜au revoirâ€™ to another group of 12 Week Certificate students who have truly put 110% into 12 full-on busy weeks here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. They came from all over the world, 12 nationalities this time. Some had never held a wooden spoon in their hands before, a few were chefs, others had a little experience in a cafÃ© or restaurant kitchen, perhaps not even in the kitchen but in front of house or waiting on tables – all were united by a longing and determination to learn to cook. Thatâ€™s all we need, passion, energy and curiosity.
Twelve weeks later, they leave us looking forward to their new adventure, go straight into restaurant kitchen either at home or abroad from London to San Francisco, to Copenhagen. They use their newly acquired skills in a myriad of ways â€“ travelling, cooking on yachts, ski chalets in Winter, teaching, writing, food trucks, Farmers Marketsâ€¦.. Some will return to their former jobs having taken 12 short weeks off to learn a vital life skill. One girl wants to be a butcher, others will use their skills to smoke food, make cheese, forage, ferment even grow herbs and vegetables. On the summer certificate course which starts in May the students have the opportunity to have a raised bed on the farm, to sow seeds and grow vegetables. Itâ€™s one of many extra circular activities.
Several took up the option. Itâ€™s magic to plant seeds at this time of the year, everything grows so fastâ€¦ They grew radishes, white turnips, carrots, onions and beetroot from seed and transplanted fennel, cabbage, marigolds, tomatoes, broad beans, lettuce, peas and sunflowersâ€¦.
Can you imagine, they were beyond excited and I think we may just have given them a gift for life â€“ a love for growing some of their own food.
On the very first day when they arrived they learned how to sow a seed and then planted a sweet corn plant, tucking a lollipop stick with their name on it into the ground so they can identify their very own plant. I know of no better way to give my students an understanding of how food is produced and how long it takes to grow and how much care it needs, than to plant it into the ground themselves and then wait for it to grow for a full three months.
Further more, it gives them a huge appreciation of those whose labor to grow nourishing wholesome food to keep us healthy and sated plus an understanding of the time and attention it takes â€“ they will never complain about the price of organic vegetables and herbs again.
Each batch of students enrich our lives in so many ways and often share a favourite recipe with us. This time Martin, an engineer from Stockholm designed a brilliant BBQ which our local blacksmith made up. Much fun was had cooking on it while they were with us and now it will remind us of Martin and the summer 2016 group every time we see it. Sarah Cremona gave us her favourite recipe for macaroons which I like much more than my original one. Martin also gave us his favourite recipe for Swedish crispbread, Lindsay spent days testing a recipe for cinnamon buns and then shared the recipe.
Thinking of starting food business?
So many ideas but nowhere to experiment or test your product. Good news â€“ Cork County Council have a new initiative. Cork Incubator Kitchens to assist emerging and established food businesses is now available to rent in Carrigaline. For further details contact Brendan Russell 087 6233088 or Mary Daly 087 919 8168. Email Brendan@thefoodsafetycompany.ie
Martin Gustafssonâ€™s Swedish frÃ¶knÃ¤cke (Seed Crispbread)
You will soon become addicted to this seedy crispbread â€“ delicious with cheese or dips or just to nibble as a snack.
Makes 2 trays
80 (3 1/4oz) pumpkin seeds
80 (3 1/4oz) sesame seeds
80 (3 1/4oz) sunflower seeds
80 (3 1/4oz) linseeds
100g (3 1/2oz) polenta flour or cornmeal
350ml (12fl oz) water
50ml (2fl oz) olive oil
Pre-heat oven to 150Â°C/300Â°F/Gas Mark 2.
Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Pour in the boiling water and the olive oil. Mix well to dissolve any lumps. Divide equally and spread out the wet mixture on the baking trays. Make sure the thickness is even and as thin as possible without creating holes in the mixture. Sprinkle sea salt on top.
Bake in the preheated oven for 70 minutes. Every 15 minutes open the oven door to allow the steam to escape. After 60 minutes turn the crisp bread over and bake for the remaining 10 minutes.
Allow to cool on a wire rack.
Martin Gustafsson (12 Week April 2016)
Brioche Cinnamon Butter Buns
Brioche (see recipe)
150g (5oz/1 1/4 sticks) butter
250g (9oz/1 1/8 cup) pale brown sugar
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) Sri Lankan ground cinnamon
1 – 2 beaten eggs
Make the brioche in the usual way. Cover and allow to rise overnight in a fridge.
First make the Cinnamon Butter.
Cream the butter, sugar and cinnamon together and beat until light and fluffy.
Roll out the brioche dough into 1cm (1/2 inch) thick rectangle. Spread the cinnamon butter evenly over the surface with a palate knife, roll from the long side, cut into 5cm (2 inch) pieces. Pop each one into a well-buttered muffin tin. Cover and allow to rise to double in size. Egg wash gently.
Preheat the oven to 180Â°C/350Â°F/Gas Mark 4.
Bake for 20-25 minutes. Cook on a wire-rack
Brioche with Butter and Sugar
Serves 20 – 24
1 x brioche dough (see recipe)
110g (4oz/1/2 cup) granulated sugar
110g (4oz/1 stick) butter, cut into 5mm (1/4 inch dice)
2 x Swiss roll tins â€“ 33 x 20.5cm (12 x 8 inch)
Brush the Swiss roll tins with melted butter. Divide the brioche dough in half.
Roll each into a rectangle to fit the tins.
Egg wash and allow to rise for 1 1/2 hours approximately.
Preheat the oven to 180Â°C/350Â°F/Gas Mark 4. When the dough has risen, dot with the diced butter evenly over the top, sprinkle with granulated sugar.
Cook in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack.
Best eaten when freshly baked but also delicious next day.
Brioche is the richest of all yeast doughâ€™s. It can often seem intimidating but this very easy version works well and we have written it so that the dough can rise overnight in the fridge and be shaped and baked the following morning.
We always serve them warm from the oven with butter and homemade strawberry jam.
Makes 15-20 individual brioches or 2 large ones
25g (1oz) yeast
50g (2oz/1/4 cup) castor sugar
65 ml (2 1/2fl oz/1/4 cup) tepid water
450g (1lb/4 cups) strong white flour
large pinch of salt
225g (8oz/2 sticks) soft butter
Sponge the yeast and sugar in the tepid water in the bowl of an electric mixer. Allow to stand for five minutes. Add the eggs, flour and salt and mix to a stiff dough with the dough hook.
When the mixture is smooth, beat in the soft butter in small pieces. Donâ€™t add the next piece of butter until the previous piece has been completely absorbed. This kneading stage should take about half an hour.
The finished dough should have a silky appearance, it should come away from the sides of the bowl and when you touch the dough it should be damp but not sticky.
Place it in an oiled bowl, cover and rest it overnight in the fridge.
Sarah Cremonaâ€™s Chocolate Macaroons
Dare I say, a fool proof recipe for macaroons â€“ one can of course vary the flavours.
Makes 30 macaroons depending on size
300g ground almonds
300g pure icing sugar
10g cocoa powder
110g egg whites
300g white sugar
Chocolate Ganache or Buttercream of your choice
Sieve the ground almonds, icing sugar and cocoa powder into a bowl.
Pass the egg whites through a spotlessly clean and dry sieve so that they are the same consistency.
Add the sieved egg whites to the dry ingredients and mix to a smooth paste.
Put the remaining 110g (4oz) clariï¬ed egg whites into the a food mixer.
Put the sugar and water into a saucepan, stir to dissolve the sugar and boil until it reaches 118C/244F.
Gently pour the boiling syrup into the the bowl of the mixer. Whisk until light and ï¬‚uffy to make Italian Meringue. Reduce the speed to medium and continue to whisk until the meringue is less than 35 degrees in temperature.
Gently fold the Italian meringue into the almond base.
Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Pipe into generous 2.5cm (1 inch) rounds with a round tip nozzle (size 11). Allow to rest for 10-20 min to allow a skin to form.
Meanwhile, preheat a fan oven to 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2.
Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until cooked, the macaroons will lift easily off the parchment easily.
Sandwich the macaroons together with chocolate ganache or butter cream of your choice.
Sarah Cremona (12 Week Summer 2016)