Market Stalls and Growing Orchards

When I stretch over and hit the snooze button on Friday morning for a split second I think, almost habitually, thank God it’s Friday, but then I remember this is the end of week 7 and before I know it I am out on the beach making the most of the bright morning, since the clocks went back last weekend. I am attempting a jog, clearing the head, running off last nights wine and cheese and running through my order of work in my minds eye for the assigned dish of the day, duck with orange sauce. It has been another varied, exciting and awe-inspiring week in this Ballymaloe bubble.

Last Saturday I spent a long but rewarding day helping out at the Farmers Market .Well wrapped up for the cold autumnal morning I arrived at the school at 6.30am to help load up cooler boxes of stock, tables, cash registers, table clothes, tents, bags of ice and the list goes on. I had to laugh as the three of us bundled into the front of the white transit van with our jam jars of tea and we set off into the dark, like three little eskimos…there goes that pipe-dream of cycling to market, sun kissed, bells on my bike, with a basket of banana bread in tow. Oh well!

Organic veggie Ballymaloe stall
Organic veggie Ballymaloe stall
Everything in its place

Set up took about an hour and was done so, meticulously. Every chutney, jam and sauce in it’s own place. Systems, systems, systems – every business no matter how big or small must have a system, the resounding voice of Blathnaid Bergin, the Restaurant Advisor,all making sense now.

I was chuffed with myself when I could ream off a list of possible uses for the lovely and ever so versatile tomato fondue that I had actually made the week previous,…’oh you can put this on pizzas, serve it with a piece of grilled fish, toss with some pasta, use as an omelette filling ‘ etc etc..  … and it was there I made my first sale. Success! After a busy day of selling, replenishing shelves and chatting to the lovely Yvonne and Igor, it was time to count up the stock and pack up for home.

Myself and the fabulous Yvonne , drinking kale juice to get us market ready
Myself and the fabulous Yvonne , drinking kale juice to get us market ready

Among other things this week, I attended organic gardening class before school on Wednesday morning. Armed with my notebook and pen ready to learn about how one should tend to their windowsill plants and what time of year is best to plant coriander, it wasn’t long until I realised I was just a little out of my depth. I was one of 6 students, a mere 10% of the class. I was among the elite green-fingers of our class.

Up until this point ‘gardening’ for me was  really a euphemism for pulling weeds and undoubtedly head gardener Susan Turner could read that precisely as I stared at her blankly, while she spoke about root stocks, fanning branches and how to get the perfect goblet-shaped apple tree. Ah yes, of course, I nodded.

So I guess I got more than I bargained for. As well as gleaning some information on planting basic herbs, I will also have an orchard, apparently. Jeff, darling, if you are reading this, would you mind checking what point of an acre our garden is please, and maybe check if Sean next door has an apple tree for cross-pollination purposes?! There are a couple of apple pies in it for you! Kisses!

I will have green fingers and green toes by the end of these 12 weeks!
Head gardener, Susan Turner; the more you prune in Winter, the more growth you get. Fact.

In other news, I made lots of tasty dishes this week and feasted on many more. A firm favourite was burger day and I attach the recipe below for the pork burger with fennel, pistachios and a hint of chilli. Divine! I also started a cheese-making course with Tim which involved so far, lots of cheese turning . The cheese will be ready around February so I already have an excuse to come back and visit! And now some chill out time before week 8. Happy Halloween yawl!

Tim giving the cheese-making masterclass
Tim giving the cheese-making masterclass
Midweek meal
Midweek meal
Showing J the glass houses - bank holiday weekend
Showing J the glass houses – bank holiday weekend

Grilled Pork Burger with Fennel & Pistachios, served Apple and Plum Sauce – serves 4

700g minced shoulder of pork

2 cloves of garlic

1-2 chillies, deseeded and finely chopped (I used 1- taste first for heat!)

2 tsps. of ground roasted fennel seeds

2 tbsp. chopped coriander leaves

40g pistachio nuts

Maldon sea salt and black pepper

Mix all of the above ingredients together. Fry off a teaspoon of the mixture to check for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Form the mixture into burgers (I made 4 as they hold better when frying) and chill until ready to cook- easy!

In the meantime make the apple sauce by peeling, quartering and coring 450g of bramley apples. Half those pieces and place in small saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Add 4-6 plums (halved and stones removed). Cook on a low heat with tight fitting lid. The mixture will cook to a frothy fluff. Stir well, lift skins from plums. Taste for seasoning and add more sugar if necessary.

Now heat a heavy grill pan until quite hot. Grease the burgers lightly with olive oil. The burgers should be fully cooked through so seal on both sides and then cook on a lower heat until golden brown and cooked through, about 15 minutes. They should feel firm to the touch. Plate up and enjoy with the sauce!

Pork burger with fennel, pistachio and chilli, served with apple and plum sauce .. Delish!

Pork burger with fennel, pistachio and chilli, served with apple and plum sauce .. Delish!

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