Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Cloughjordan guest house + cookery school

We arrived late on Friday evening the twinkly lights that hung from the trees led me up the stoney driveway. I knew instantly I was in for a treat. You see for me its all about the character and story behind the venue that makes a place unforgettable . 

Cloughjordan house just so happened to be one of those uniquely stunning places. It had an incredible French feel to the exterior, I think the term effortlessly chic comes to mind, it turns out the original building is over 400 years old and has been in the Baker family since 1914. How amazing is that.

As it was late when we arrived we were welcomed by a roaring fire in the large living room where I might add the Baker family have an honesty bar that is just tops in my books.

For the short time I was there it was obvious to see that this guesthouse and cookery school was run like a finely tuned engine all thanks to Sarah and Peter. Sarah is a Ballymaloe trained cook and holds the reigns firmly for their state of the art cookery school which was once the coach house back in the day. 

Upstairs from the cookery school are two large guest rooms with beautifully spacious en suites and to my delight had underfloor heating. Not only that but their was a full range of the Burren Perfumery products for us to tuck into, if you are not familiar with this Irish company they make gorgeous body products using organic essential oils. With combinations like Bergamot and lemon or fennel and mint I found no need for perfume, and if I'm brutally honest I may have used more of the body lotion than needed.

The next morning we set off to the main house for breakfast snapping pics along the way. It was then we got a guided tour by The man himself Peter, he showed us the impressive ball room where wedding season gets into full swing from May. And what a venue for your wedding with their over sized open fire and burlap bunting not to mention the large marquee, how whimsical how romantic.

Now breakfast in Cloughjordan house can't be over looked we started with gorgeous organic Glenisk yogurts such as Mango and blueberry followed by a full Irish but the trick with this full Irish is Peter and Sarah rear the pigs on their own farm that you then have the privilege of enjoying for your breakfast. 

When Sarah popped out from the kitchen I had to ask where her sausages were from and she proudly told us all they were their own produce along with the eggs, bread and when in season the tomatoes and mushrooms. You can't get better than that.

On to the best part, the baking class. As an avid baker and creative cake maker this course was right up my alley. On the agenda for the day was a wide range of recipes which pleasantly surprised me as the course would only be four hours long. For a cooking course that is plenty of time but for what Sarah had planned for us that day it just showed her skill of time management and an obvious art of keeping her cool..

We made a yeast bread in the form of cumin and cheese baguettes and honey bagels. Then it was on to puff pastry these two genres take time to develop so in between proving and rolling we made chocolate eclairs with Glenisk cream filling and lastly an apricot and walnut soda bread. 

Now I'm sure you can understand my amazement at Sarah's ability to multitask without breaking a sweat.

During the class everyone got stuck in, the atmosphere was fantastic we all had the craic and every few hours we were fuelled by coffee and the promise of enjoying the fruits of our labour.

With each recipe came different techniques and tricks for the class to absorb, and when it comes to teaching you either have the ability to translate it to others or you don't I don't think I need to tell you if Sarah has that ability. 

She did say though that bakers are born not taught and I would whole heartily concur. There is a science to baking and I think if you have patience and precision your half way there.

At the end not only did we get to bring home out masterpieces that weren't devoured at lunch but everyone received a more than generous gift bag full of Glenisk's organic yogurts, creams and milk range.

When I was chatting to Sarah before I left she was telling me how in May she will have a guest speaker Emer O'Connor a nutritionist at the cookery school where she and Sarah will be focusing on baby and toddlers nutrition in the class. which myself and Laura are big advocates of as we have three young girls between us.

I was also introduced to Peter and Sarah's daughter Julie who is in her second year in UCC where she's studying food marketing and entrepreneurship. Julie also teaches cookery classes and hosts parties for young children how perfect would that be for birthday parties. It really is a family run business.

Family establishments like Cloughjordan house and Glenisk will only get stronger and stronger in their field as they strive for excellence in what they produce and I am delighted to have been apart of their baking weekend.

Rebecca x

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