The Stagiaire

I read over my first week’s post from Ballymaloe near to my first day ‘anniversary’. It struck how wonderously awed I sound, like a child on Christmas morning. It also struck me that I make no mention of the actual food or cooking! This year, instead of walking through the kitchen garden in chef’s whites, I was bringing Mr. WB home from A&E, both in our pyjamas (all better now, thank God).

Anyway, I didn’t mention it, but I remember on my first days in the kitchen thinking ‘I’ll never work in a restaurant kitchen’. Drying dishes the night of the pop-up, I thought ‘I’ll never work in a restaurant kitchen’. And now? I’ve just finished my first week…working in a restaurant kitchen. Paradiso‘s restaurant kitchen, to be precise.

I’ve peeled, prepped, pureed, chopped, baked, scooped and sieved my way through five evenings. There’s been a burn or two, which I haven’t even registered at the time. I’ve gone from never using a blowtorch to browning Baked Alaskas with gusto, and plating 40 desserts in one service.

It’s an amazing experience, not least because I get to eat the same food as the customers! Little do they know, as they sit chatting and laughing, that inside, seated on the stepladder beside the freezer, is a rookie chef enjoying the same plate of beetroot risotto (albeit in a 10 minute break).

In fact, I think every diner would appreciate their food all the more, were they know the time involved in the kitchen preparation!

GROW HQ

I’m rather ashamed that I haven’t posted in an entire month- work, appointments and sleeping badly seem to have got in the way. Anyway, I’m back with a rather belated post on the fabulous GROW HQ in Waterford, which  Mr. WB & I visited last month on our summer holiday.

The building itself is a funky affair-bright colours, concrete, and wooden tables with their own individual carved messages. Surrounded by gardens, you forget that you’re just off a roundabout and main road. I particularly liked the miniature garden, showing what can be achieved in a small space. It wasn’t lost on me that it’s just around the corner from University Hospital Waterford- perhaps the patient and staff could look out and feel inspired towards healthier homegrown food as a preventative medicine.

While not being a vegetarian cafe, the vegetables are definitely the stars of this menu. In fact, there’s even a ‘HQ Hero’ plate which features a vegetable cooked five different ways- great inspiration if you hit a garden glut!

Mr. WB satisfied his hunger with a hearty lunch, while I enjoyed a generous bowl of brocolli & romanesco salad with Cashel Blue dressing, caramelised cashews & dots of cauliflower puree.

I have to say I was rather jealous of Mr. WB’s beetroot & chocolate cake, but felt sufficiently appeased by deciding to order a gooseberry & tayberry parfait, especially when I was offered some ice cream in lieu of the usual (gluten-y) shortbread biscuits.

Calling GROW HQ a cafe really belies the quality of the food- this is restaurant quality food at cafe prices. I just wish it was closer to Cork!

A filling lunch plate
Broccoli & Romanesco salad
Beetroot Cake & Ice Cream
Gooseberry & Tayberry Parfait

 

 

Eggshells- Caitriona Lally

This review needs a disclosure to begin with: I spent two years in college with Caitriona Lally, before she decided to change tack and study English instead. We’d lost touch over the years, so when ‘Eggshells’ first appeared, I spent a while wondering ‘Is that…?’  before confirming that yes, it was ‘my’ Catriona Lally.

There is something Joycean about ‘Eggshells’, in a stream of consciousness and love letter to Dublin sort of way. In fact, were I to live in Dublin, I could see myself on an ‘Eggshells Tour’, following in character Vivian’s footsteps (and bus routes), as she negotiates the city, trying to find somewhere she belongs. Vivian doesn’t know where she fits in, and neither, it seems, does anyone else- not her neighbours or her incongruously named sister, Vivian.

‘ I used to bring home damp and gleaming shells, I used to think that if I found the perfect shell I would find the shape of the world, but I was always disappointed’.

This is not so much a story as an observational character study. I imagine how you react to it may depend on your tolerance for Vivian’s eccentricity and obsessiveness (there are many lists of items throughout that Vivian diligently copies into her notebook). Vivian provides a different way of looking at world, both its notable and mundane aspects. Perhaps it is a form of observation that we as readers could bring to our own locales to view them afresh, be that in Dublin or elsewhere.

 

What to do after Ballymaloe

Well, it’s hard to believe that it’s over seven months since I finished my 12 week course in Ballymaloe Cookery School, and I’m definitely a lot more settled than in my previous Limbo Land post. The allotment has been bearing fruit (literally, you have no idea how many raspberries are in my freezer), and I’ve been using orders of work for ‘fancy’ dinners at home.

Not only that, but I decided to try out my new skills in the outside world too, in the form of a stage (rhymes with ‘Taj’, trust the French to make things sound fancy!) Continue reading “What to do after Ballymaloe”

Frog Music-Emma Donoghue

‘She finds it oddly consoling to think of Jenny always in motion, spinning along on her high-wheeler or striding up a hill or crouching over a pond, all her energies focused on the hunt.’

I’ve enjoyed Emma Donoghue’s previous novels ‘Room’ & ‘The Sealed Letter’. ‘Frog Music was a present from Mr. WB, which I got around to reading a year later, as seems to be my wont. Continue reading “Frog Music-Emma Donoghue”

Allotment Update!

Regular readers are probably wondering what’s become of the allotment. There’s been a conspicuous silence since it was last mentioned in April.

There has not been a conspicuous absence of work though. Looking at the photo below, I think you’ll agree that Mr. WB has done an amazing job.

In the absence of a drone, I shimmied up a ladder to give you a good view: Continue reading “Allotment Update!”