And we're off :)

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And we're off .... This is my fist blog entry on the Cheffactor.ie site where it all began and I'm delighted to be up and running Smile

I've been doing a daily diary if ya like on my own site and I will now be doing it here also, which is great because I want to share my experiences and the opportunity that Chef Factor has given me with as many people as I can and hopefully that might inspire more people to get up or their, ahem, and enter the competition and just see how life changing this really is. Cully & Sully are doing a wonderful thing here and it certainly is worth entering, especially if you were like me a little unsure and nervous, there are so many like minded people out there and you will get to meet and share your experiences with so many others for that alone its worth every minute of time spent on it. Anyway thats enough of me waffling on about that Smile

For those of you who want to catch up I'm over at http://www.nomnomfood.com which has all last weeks blogs but for those of you who are happy to read on from here .... Day 6 & 7 for your entertainment Smile

I did a fair amount of cooking over the past 2 days, I know its only week 2 but the level seems to have stepped up a bit - maybe that's just me being a tad slow as I normally am Wink. Monday I done a Chocolate and Hazelnut tart and by christ I will be doing it again, its just delicious. Texturally it has a beautiful crunch from the hazelnuts and crumbly rich pastry and because the chocolate is mixed as a chopped and not melted you get nuggets of smooth melted chocolate as well as the rich filling that just give an incredible hit of chocolate ... Sooooo good, I almost forgot to take the picture and took a nibble off Tongue

I also made the Pasta Al Arrabiata (think that's the spelling), his is a tomato sauce pasta dish that has a kick to it from chili, there is no meat in this, I know I know, but it doesn't need it ! Believe me its so simple and the flavours of tomato and basil really come through with a lovely natural sweetness and then BOOOM, hello Senior Chili how are you getting on ! You really have to try it, I'm not entirely sure I can post up the recipes but I'll find out cause this is a must for any pasta lover. Mine could have done with a touch more chili but I like it hot so it may vary from serving to serving.

After class yesterday I was exhausted, came home done a hastily written order of work and went to bed, I put on the 2nd half of the City v Wigan match (Sky Go you are my hero) and I reckon I saw the kick off and that was me done - just could not keep me eyes open !

Today started with the alarm going off !! RESULT !! I have not slept to the alarm since the course started and I felt great ready to take on the world .... Or at least a Chickpea Stew Wink First things first however, I was on bread duty so my first attempt at making a White Soda Bread. I love Soda Bread, brings back fond memories of going to my Nanny Halloran's house when Dad was training for soccer (all very serious back then) and Nanny would have Soda bread and Scones, we'd heat them up and the butter and jam would melt right into them, sadly she isn't here anymore so it was a nice treat for me to get to make it today Smile

Not so sure she'd have approved though lol I combined everything and it was going well until I noticed the dough was a touch dry, I guess its hard to describe the texture of it pre cooked, its not a pizza dough texture, its more a sloppy mixture that just about holds its shape, so to tell it needed a touch more milk was difficult until I had it together - it turned out ok still quiet nice but just not a light as I would have liked. Attempt 2 coming on Thursday.

After this I went into full Chickpea mode, I must confess I'm not a fan, I can see the appeal that bean dishes have for people and I'm sure, like today's, that you can get some amazing flavours into them but it just didn't do it for me - I liked it, would I order it, no but I would happily eat it if there were not meat options available Wink For Vegans and the like these are incredible, the flavours can be in your face and punchy or subtle and delicate but it sure beats the usual salad option I've seen on a lot of menus. Mine had Cumin Seeds, Coriander Seeds, Tomato, Onion, Garlic, Chili, Fresh Mint, Fresh Coriander and of course Chickpeas, a lot going on in 1 dish but when balanced well and nice mouthful, not to hot not to spicy just enjoyable.

I followed that little number up with a very refreshing and sweet dessert of Caramel Tangerines with Pomegranate, this was a nice dessert to do although there was one serious draw back lol I actually had to peel the Tangerines, so what you might be thinking that's normal. Yes it is normal but I had to peel the outside skin off then with my wee little fruit knife peel all the white membrane that was left of the Tangerine off !! Next time you peel and orange or mandarin or tangerine for that matter just take a look at how much of that white pith is left on it, jebus it took me I'd say 30 minutes solid to do 10 little ones. Anyway I made a caramel sauce which I was quite proud of because I love caramel and this was a deep chestnut colour and really had lovely flavour cause I added cinnamon, cloves and star anise to the sugar and water before I started, noice Smile

This all went into a pot with the pomegranate seeds, which interestingly enough are a savage little fruit in season now, there are so many benefits to eating this fruit and I seem to have eaten a lot of it recently, anemia, arthritis, asthma, cancer, heart disease, blood pressure to name but a few that it can help with. Ripe pomegranates are really sweet and the pop in your mouth because its the seed part that you eat, not so ripe will have a sweet and sour element to them so try them now while they are in season - epic stuff.

Anyway all this went into a dish cooled an looked, if I do say so, brillaintly colourful and very appetising Smile

For the afternoon Rachel was back this time demo'ing some fish dishes and how to fillet & tell a decent fish from a s**t one basically. I enjoyed the demo and again she bounced about the kitchen and made everything look so easy, I'm quite looking forward to trying out the recipes on Thursday - No cookin tomorrow we have a cheese lecture tomorrow, not cheese's biggest fan, I have been working hard at it tasting and eating a lot of cheese that previously I had tasted and said no thanks, I'm getting my head and palette around it but its a struggle at times.

Another really exciting piece of news was Darina had told us about a demo coming up this Saturday by Mickael Viljanen. Mickael runs the Gregans Castle Hotel kitchen and does some molecular gastronomy, bringing the classic dishes into the 21st century and he is seen as one of the best chefs in Ireland at the minute. This was €100 to attend and out of my range currently, so I was disappointed not to get the chance but Darina today announced that all students could sit in on the demo free and this was a serious bonus to finish the day off - I wasted no time and signed myself up Smile

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @NomNomFoodIRL and Find me on Facebook NomNom Food or @ http://www.nomnomfood.com

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