Something that’s been in the back of my mom’s and my mind the whole time we’ve been at Ballymaloe is that WE NEED TO BUY NEW EVERYTHING FOR OUR KITCHEN AT HOME! We’re mostly joking, but we’ve definitely been taking note of the different tools the school has, as well as the efficiency with which they run their kitchens. It reminds me of a line in Judith Jones’ My Life in Food, “Frugality was considered a virtue” — anything that has potential to be reused or transformed is repurposed. Besides the wonderful value of not being wasteful, I also just like the cute way they display things here for ease of access in the kitchen. Here are a few of the changes I plan to implement in kitchens for the rest of my life!
This may sound simple, but pre-Ballymaloe, the idea of making my own stock regularly to either freeze, drink for a bit of nutrients, or to make a soup completely homemade didn’t feel convenient. The reason was that whenever I had a bit of onion left over or some carrot peels, I would just toss them in the trash. Ballymaloe makes their own stock every single day — chicken stock, veg stock, sometimes fish or beef stock. Because they’re so passionate about not wasting anything, they have stock buckets in every kitchen. If a recipe calls for a few tablespoons of chopped celery and we have celery leftover, we don’t just throw it in the hen bins (they have very well fed hens at Ballymaloe), we put it in the stock pot. All of those buckets get combined and handed over for stock-making the next day. Of course it’s easier on a larger scale to accumulate enough veg to make a nice, rich stock than it is for a single family home, but if I save my scraps throughout the week and buy a chicken on Sunday night, I think I can make a weekly stock feel like no chore at all.
Citrus Peel Bucket
I swear this isn’t just a list of buckets, but if I’m going to have a stock bucket, I may as well have a bucket for citrus peels. Juiced lemons, oranges, and grapefruits are often tossed out, but you mightn’t have thought about the markup of candied lemon peel versus what you paid for the lemon! Ballymaloe is always thinking of ways to create added value for something that would otherwise be tossed aside (like many successful businesses do), and candied citrus peels are a perfect example of how an ingredient that’s headed to the trash can be transformed. Since it’s a process with quite a few steps, I’ll make it easy on myself and make it over a weekend.
How have I lived all my life without a place to drip stuff from? So many recipes, especially dairy-related recipes, require a hook to drain a mixture wrapped in muslin or cheese-cloth from. Our apple jelly with clove requires the cooked-down apple pulp to drip from a muslin sack, preferably overnight. Some jam recipes allow you to push the pulp through a nylon sieve, but with apple jelly, you’ll get a cloudy-looking jelly if you force it through. It likes a slow and steady drip. Labneh is a Middle Eastern strained yogurt that is everything tangy, creamy, and wonderful. What do you need to make it yourself? A good full-fat yogurt, muslin, and a hook. Done. Installing that the minute I’m home.
This will be a matter of particular importance once I get home with legitimately a thousand recipes (or more) from Ballymaloe that have a combination of grams, pounds and ounces, and cups. As much as I hate to say it as a stubborn American, grams are just the most accurate way of measuring ingredients. Here at the school, we have scales that have every different mode, making conversions as easy as pressing a button. It’s a must have.
Rendered Meat Fat and Drippings
Lately, you’ll see grilled bread smothered with meat drippings, or rendered meat fat, at fancy restaurants, maybe with a little sliced roasted marrow on top. Last week, I roasted a lamb shoulder and we followed the two principles of gravy making — degrease and deglaze. First, you need to separate the meat drippings from the rendered fat of the animal. Then you need to deglaze the pan to reincorporate the crusty brown bits — aka where all the flavor for your gravy comes from — by whisking hot stock all over your pan. There’s definitely a use for the fat you skimmed off, say if you’re roasting potatoes or sweating onions and want that extra depth of flavor. Save that fat! Ordinary things can go from a 6 to a 10 by involving a bit of animal fat, not to mention the different things you could confit (a way of preserving something by submerging it in fat, like a duck leg). This also goes along with the Ballymaloe values of not getting rid of something you could utilize elsewhere.
Short Tumbler Glass Tree
There’s a vantage point in the school that literally stops me in my tracks every single morning — it’s the feature photo for this post. Every day, I look out, walk past, and have to go back to look a little longer. It looks out on a beautifully maintained little garden, covered with early morning dew. You can see some of the farm in the distance and, to the right, sunlight splits across the sky. It’s the most enchanting view I’ve ever been graced with seeing everyday. The point of sharing that with you is that, there’s a window in the Demo kitchen that also shares that view. On the window sill, there are stacks of short tumbler glasses on a rusty “glass tree,” for lack of a better term. These are the water glasses that are used all over Ballymaloe. We all drink water, kefir, lemonade, kombucha, mint tea, coffee, etc. out of them. The little glass tree has become associated with that view for me and I want to put it somewhere beautiful in my home too! Besides being associated with the view, it’s so cute and makes grabbing a glass for water so handy. First world problems right? I don’t care, I want it!
An Abram Lyle & Sons Tin of Treacle
As you might expect, at cooking school, there are tablespoons and teaspoons everywhere for all manners of stirring, tasting, scooping, and serving. Not American tablespoons and teaspoons, but please don’t ask me to spout the conversion for you right now. An Irish tablespoon is just a huge spoon, probably two American tablespoons, and a teaspoon is a small spoon you might use for tea. Makes sense. Anyway, they have all the teaspoons in the Demo kitchen in a short little red tin of treacle, the first generation molasses, that’s used in the basic Irish brown soda bread and many other recipes. It’s so Irish and sweet and I think I’ll try to track one down at a specialty shop to store my teaspoons in at home.
I’m sure as the weeks go on, I’ll notice more and more tools, decor, or values that I’ll want to implement in my future kitchens, domestic or professional, but for now, these are the ones that regularly catch my eye.