JR Ryall, head pastry chef at Ballymaloe House, gives us a masterclass in Christmas baking with his mouthwatering mince pie recipe …
There are many Christmas traditions that mark the start of the festive season. At Ballymaloe House the unmistakable scent of citrus peel slowly candying in late October marks it for me. This might seem unimaginably early to get into the mood for Christmas carols and roasting chestnuts on an open fire, but with the task of Christmas baking ahead it is the perfect opportunity to ease into the spirit of things.
We are all looking forward to welcoming Maximilian Riedel to Ballymaloe for a Riedel glass comparative wine tasting taking place on Thursday 12th November, 7.30pm in the Grainstore at Ballymaloe. Maximilian Riedel represents the 11th generation of the Riedel family who have been making wine glasses. The Riedel company specialise in wine glasses as well as glasses for all other types of drinks, something they have fine tuned over the past 11 generations.
An Indian summer of dry, bright and unseasonal mild weather has helped with garden jobs and extending the shorts-wearing season! After a disappointing summer the autumn months are slowly preparing us for the winter ahead.
In the herbaceous borders we’ve begun to tidy and redesign before the frost knocks back the foliage and it gets harder to tell what’s what. It’s also a great time to clear ahead of bulb planting which will go in in early November. Watch out for hibernating hedgehogs!
I have high hopes that weather warnings are on hold ‘til winter and there will be enough sunshine to ripen and sweeten the garden’s bounty.
This time of year the main job in the garden is staying ahead of the weeds that are growing with the same vigor as the crops. Amongst the produce in season are courgettes, peas and mangetout beans, blackcurrants, raspberries and peaches. Yes! Peaches – growing in the warmest, most protected (and admired!) corner of the garden.
Apple, pear, hawthorn blossoms are all signaling the warming air and soil. The potential for a sting of frost in the air should be gone completely once May is out. In the garden, we’re busy hardening off annual flowers and planting out vegetables we started in modules in the glasshouse.
Much of the work being done now in the garden is in preparation for things to come! Most of the garden is empty now except for perennial vegetables like sea kale, asparagus and rhubarb. But in the wings…or the glasshouse….seedlings are beginning to show promise. In modules and pots is sown lettuce, Japanese greens, oriental mustards, brussel sprouts, red and green cabbages. In gutters, the tender tips of mangetout and peas are popping up.
Ballycotton is a famous fishing village situated approximately 40km (25 miles) east of Cork City. The village is set on a rocky-ledge overlooking Ballycotton Bay. There is a busy fishing pier, working lighthouse and a world-famous lifeboat. As well as a shop & post office, pubs, restaurants, B&Bs and a hotel.
Emerging from the hibernation of January and the potential of the growing year ahead begins to germinate! The first demand is to feed the soil that gave us so much last year – the ‘heavy’ machinery was rolled in and made light work of spreading well-rotted manure over the entire garden and ploughed.
It was almost a case of … last person in Ballymaloe, turn of the lights as many staff, family & friends headed off to the sunny destination of South Africa. Well, Sun city & Capetown to be more precise! Off to celebrate the wedding of my wonderful friend and colleague and well known receptionist, Lyndsay Greer to her sweetheart, Michael Cashman.
And from the moment we arrived, Lyndsay’s uniqueness and impeccable attention to detail shone.
This winter we got off to an early start. Christmas baking is usually in full swing by the first week of December. However this year the smell of candied peel, dried fruit and local whiskey filled the kitchen during early November too. It was all hands on deck to make the hundreds of puddings, cakes and mince pies that help make Christmas at Ballymaloe extra special. Anne, Stephan, Breda and Rebecca have been working very hard to ensure all of the Christmas baking goes to plan.