Shepherd’s Pie – getting me through exam week!

We were advised not to make any hasty or life-changing decisions for at least three weeks after leaving. (And I think it is safe to say this goes beyond, ‘Do you think this needs more salt?!’) We will be exhausted & emotional. It is not unheard of to find yourself breaking down at inopportune times, like in the ethnic aisle in the supermarket, when you discover all the spices have already been ground, (adulterated with flour they have!) Dont be surprised if you meltdown in the veggie aisle at the sight of the carrots that have been scrubbed of their soil, (how could they!) and the ‘lettuce’ for your Winter green salad is in puffy sealed bags, claiming freshness until 2016, not a nasturtium or fennel flower in sight!

Our bodies would be out of equilibrium for a while and we would be on a come down from the massive sugar high, they explained. Three desserts a day consumed over a long period of time would do that to you I guess. Does this also imply that one should not operate heavy machinery and perhaps should lay horizontal, for at least 7 days, on the couch, with a duvet, and a glass of red? Because I tell you, that is all I am fit for right now. But I will plough on. Only two days to go so may as well enjoy the ride. Most likely I will be the one being hauled out of Tesco …. “Someone call security ,we’ve got a problem in the ethnic aisle…”, a deep booming voice echoes over the microphone.

Anyway ! Until then here are my top tips for getting through exam week and we can deal with civilisation afterwards. You will need the following;

Lots of paper, a highlighter or two, and some pens. Some knives, a cleaver maybe. For obvious reasons.

A box of matchsticks – so you can set your staphylococcus notes alight when you are finished. Just kidding! I will of course treasure those handouts forever. Matchsticks are necessary for burning the midnight oil, of course.

Current situation. So embarrassing, don’t look at my eyebrows! I really need a HD brow shape

Lots and lots and lots of coffee – preferably on tap….

Potential post Ballymaloe career idea me thinks?

You will also need a good hiding place. For your phone that is. Serious respect for all those doing the Leaving Cert, college exams, or any exams for that matter. I have done my fair share of exams but, Hello, instagram did not exist way back when!

Phone, on airplane mode, locked away, on high shelf . Advisable to have someone do this when you are not looking. At the very least have it out of arms length reach

It might be wise to wear loose fitting attire, such as pyjamas. This is particularly relevant for Ballymaloe students. We don’t want to cut off circulation to the brain. This also allows for more focus on exams and less fretting about the newly acquired muffin top.

And of course, last but not least, lots of comfort food. We are fortunate enough to be culinary masters and can whip up gourmet cuisine with the leftovers from the fridge but there is actually only so much one can do with countless jars of jam and chutney. In this case, take 5, go to the shops and buy ingredients for a tummy warming shepherds pie.  Recipe below. (If it’s hiding in all your filing !)

Ballymaloe Shepherds Pie Recipe – to be enjoyed with a glass of pinot noir.

50g (1¾oz) butter
2 onions, chopped
salt and pepper
1kg (2lb 4oz) minced lamb, not too lean, or minced cooked lamb left over from a roast
250ml (9 fl.oz) lamb or chicken stock
2 tablespoons roux
1-2 tablespoons Ballymaloe Country Relish or something similar
Mashed potatoes made with 1kg (2lb 4oz) potatoes
Garlic butter, to serve

Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the chopped onions, season with salt and pepper, cover with a disc of greaseproof paper and a lid and cook on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured. Add the mince, increase the heat and cook, stirring regularly, for a few minutes until the meat changes colour. Pour in the stock, bring to the boil, decrease the heat and cover with a lid and continue to cook for about 20 minutes or until the meat is cooked, taking care not to let it burn on the bottom (you can also put it into the oven at 160°C/325°F/gas 3). Strain the liquid off the meat, pour back into the saucepan and bring back up to the boil. Add 1 tablespoon of the roux and whisk until the juices have thickened. Whisk in more roux if it isn’t thick enough. Pour the juices back in with the meat and add the relish and some salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a large pie dish or individual dishes. Place the mashed potato on top, score with a fork and put it under a hot grill to brown the potato slightly. Serve with a few pats of garlic butter melting on top. You are now exam ready. Good luck !

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