day 17

Wednesday is organic gardening day, meeting up with Tim at 7.45am at the cookery school. Margaret and I were running a teensy bit late so we met up with him on his way to greenhouse with the rest of the group. We stopped off at the soft fruit bushes – the gooseberry bushes have chives planted between them to keep the bugs away but there were caterpillars on the blackcurrant bushes so I guess someone will have to pick them off cos they were on a mammoth munch! Quick hello to the pigs (not that they were in the least bit interested) and then into the one acre greenhouse. The vegetables grown here are superb. This morning one of the girls dug up some new potatoes – something she’d never done before and thought it awesome. We walked and talked passing by the tomatoes, peas, broad beans and courgettes. We even had time to plant a few radishes which should be ready in a couple of weeks!

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If you think you spot a dog in there, you do. Just have a look at this!

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Biscuits of the week were choc chip with the dreaded hazelnuts and peanut butter cookies. I was praying for a nut-free snack with coffee and was rewarded with scones! Yes! I was starving – tummy rumbling at 9.30 – comes from being up so early. Darina talked about preserving – flavoured oils, vinegars, dried tomatoes and preserved lemons. We also looked at blue cheeses – Stilton, Cashel Blue, Gorgonzola and Roquefort to name but a few. Hope they’re on the cheeseboard at lunchtime. I L-O-V-E cheese.

We had a real treat in the afternoon – afternoon tea at Ballymaloe House. Darina and Tim had organised a tour of the house – a few bedrooms, the kitchen, The Grainstore (function room) and, most importantly, the wine cellar! The highlight for me was a bottle of Cristal champagne produced by Louis Roederer. It’s in a clear bottle with a flat bottom and is packed in an anti-uv cellophane wrapper. I’ve never seen a bottle before and I’m not surprised – £240 a bottle! Afternoon tea was hosted by Hazel Allen (married to Tim’s brother) and she gave us a brief history of how Myrtle Allen started the restaurant and turned Ballymaloe House into a country house hotel.

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