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!

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”

No-Bake Caramel Slices from ‘The Happy Pear’

A friend’s recent drop in afternoon provided the perfect opportunity to bake up something sweet, and not be eating it all myself! Or not bake, as in these no-bake caramel slices from the first ‘Happy Pear’ cookbook (or ‘millionaires’ squares’ as they are sometimes called).

Each layer is made separately, with setting time in fridge in between. At the pace I was going, each layer was nicely chilled just as soon as the next was ready. This healthier version features dates and oats in the biscuit layer, more dates and almond butter for the caramel (I used peanut butter with good results) and plenty good quality dark chocolate for the topping. Well, it is a treat after all!

The recipe advises it makes 16. I cut mine into 20. I reckon you could even divide into 24. They are definitely delicious and quite rich, and the peanut butter/date mixture is great caramel consistency. Most of the nibblers thought they were too big- until they took a first bite, and crept away quietly with their plates!

Gluten-free, vegetarian & vegan. Contains nuts.