Tag Archive | Ballymaloe

Advent Calendar Day 2: Christmas Cake

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This year I thought I’d risk making a new Christmas Cake recipe and only time will tell if it’s any good….

I was gifted Darina Allen’s Christmas book last Christmas and having spent a couple of weeks in Ballymaloe this year, I thought it was only right that I try the cake! I also had the crazy idea of swapping the whiskey for some of the Madeira that I brought back from holidays in the summer….

Darina Allen’s Christmas Cake
225g butter
225g soft-brown sugar
6 organic free-range eggs
285g flour
1 tsp mixed spice
65 ml Irish whiskey (or Madeira)
340g best-quality sultanas
340g best-quality currants
340g best-quality raisins
110g real glacé cherries
110g homemade candied peel
55g ground almonds
55g whole almonds
Rind of 1 organic unwaxed lemon
Rind of 1 organic unwaxed orange
2 small  apples, grated

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Line the base and sides of a 9 inch (23 cm) round tin with brown paper and greaseproof paper.

Wash the cherries and dry them out. Cut in two or four as desired. Blanch the almonds in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, rub off the skins and chop them finely. Mix the dried fruit, nuts, ground almonds and grated orange and lemon rind. Add about half of the Madeira and leave for 1 hour to macerate.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F

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Cream the butter until very soft, add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Whisk the eggs and add in bit by bit, beating well between each addition so that the mixture doesn’t curdle. Mix the spice with the flour and a pinch of salt and stir in gently. Add the grated apple to the fruit and mix in gently, but thoroughly (don’t beat the mixture again or you will toughen the cake).

Put the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Make a slight hollow in the centre, dip your hand in water and pat it over the surface of the cake: this will ensure that the top is smooth when cooked. Lay a sheet of brown paper over the top. Put into the preheated oven; reduce the heat to 160C/325F/regulo 3 after 1 hour. Bake until cooked; test in the centre with a skewer — it should come out completely clean, 3-3½ hours in total. Pour the rest of the Madeira over the cake and leave to cool in the tin.

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Next day remove from the tin. Do not remove the lining paper, but wrap in some extra greaseproof paper and tin foil until required….

Melissa xx

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Ballymaloe Cookery School part 1…

Once upon a time there lived a girl who loved tea and cake. She marvelled at elegant cake plates and fancy cake forks. She was in awe of  seasonal produce and local goodies. This girl had a dream….

As I write this post, I’m mid way through a course that will undoubtedly change my life. Not only because of its content but also because of the very surroundings I find myself in. I’m currently studying at the world famous Ballymaloe Cookery School.

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The School sits on a 100 acre organic farm near the sea, amidst the undulating landscape of beautiful East Cork. As well as an on site farm and gardens, there is an acre wide glasshouses which yield an abundance of fruit, vegetables herbs and flowers throughout the year. Their free-range livestock include pigs, beef and dairy cows (Angus, Kerry, Dexter and Jerseys), as well as hens who keep the school in a supply of fresh, organic eggs!

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It’s utterly breath taking. Every minute of day I’m reminded of all this produce; whether it be by the fresh cut flowers next to my bed at my cottage on site, or by gazing out the class room window at the raised beds, or by the outstanding food lovingly produced.

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Never if my life have I so clearly seen the coloration between what is growing and what I’m eatting and using. I’ve picked up tips on what else I can be growing at home in our little vegetable patch. I’ll be adding some edible flowers and lots more herbs when I get home.

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I’d also like to add a shell house to the garden when I get home, but I fear Dr Doolittle might make me wait for that! There is a magnificent shell house here in the gardens. I have never seen or experienced anything like it. The beauty and the texture are quite something, it’s utterly breathtaking. To think someone painstakingly placed every individual shell is mind blowing!

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Finally, I can’t write about this magical place without talking about the food… For breakfast there is an amazing array of homemade granola, mueslis, breads and a new discovery, labneh! This middle eastern type of yogurt is sweetened slightly for breakfast and is just gorgeous with a sticky mixture of apricots, almonds and pistachios.

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Lunchtimes are also a site to behold with a beautiful selection of dishes every day. I mean the actual dishes, the style of the different vessels is gorgeous. I might just have to take a little trip to the school’s shop while I’m here… Lunch itself is yummy; salads, soups, pies, breads and even a curry have been served up.

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I’m so happy, I feel blessed to have been so warmly welcomed to this incredible place. I feel like part of the family, I feel like I belong- and that’s handy, because I’ll definitely be back!

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Melissa xx

P.S. I’ll tell you all about the course in my next post!

Advent Calendar Day 11

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I believe that Christmas should be about spending time with people and making new memories…
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However, if I was going to buy myself 3 presents and if I didn’t have a price limit, this is what i’d get:

1) A croquembouche mould! Ever since the first series of Masterchef Australia….
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2) A 3 month course at ballymaloe cookery school in County Cork. Not only would the course fulfill all my cookery needs, it’s located in a beautiful part of the world.

3) A wood burning oven for the garden!!! How cool would that be?
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What would be on your list?
Melissa xx