30 Years at Ballymaloe
by Darina Allen
Book Review by Kam Williams
Foreword by Alice Waters
Photographs by Laura Edwards
320 pages, Illustrated
“Ballymaloe is Ireland’s longest established cookery school and a Mecca of international acclaim for those with a passion for food. Since it first opened in 1983, it has played host to an internationally diverse range of pupils from 16-69 years old and an impressive array of guest chefs…
Over the past 30 years the School has expanded its repertoire and now offers over 100 courses… Students can learn how to cure meat, make gluten-free meals and sushi, as well as discover forgotten skills such as producing butter and cheese, and beekeeping…
Featuring over 100 recipes, this book showcases the best of the Cookery School... [It] is a tribute to this unique place and the people that teach work and learn there.”
-- Excerpted from the Introduction (page vii)
What is an Irish seven-course meal? If you grew up prior to the arrival of political correctness, you probably know that the punch line of that ethnic joke is “A six-pack of beer and a potato.”
Of course, the Irish aren’t all alcoholics and they eat a lot more than taters when they sit down at the dinner table. Still, most of us are undoubtedly influenced in our thinking by the very limited menu most restaurants offer on St. Patrick’s Day, specifically, spuds, corned beef and cabbage, and Irish Soda Bread.
Truth be told, their cuisine is much more refined than mere meat and potatoes. In fact, corned beef and cabbage is an American invention which most Irish natives never try before arriving in the States.
If you want to get a sense of the best that Ireland has to offer in terms of culinary delights, check out 30 Years at Ballymaloe, a combination memoir and cookbook replete with recipes, history lessons and glorious photographs of both mouth-watering dishes and lush photographs of the Emerald Isle’s verdant countryside.
The elegant and practical coffee table opus is the labor of love of Darina Allen, co-founder with her brother Rory of the famed Ballymaloe Cookery School. Long esteemed as the Julia Child of Ireland, Darina staked her career ages ago on a health-oriented, “Slow Food” approach emphasizing organic, locally-grown, seasonal produce and cooking in wood-burning stoves.
So, the sort of Irish food you’ll see trumpeted here ranges from “Ballycotton Shrimp with Watercress and Homemade Mayonnaise” to “Carrageen Moss Pudding with Poached Apricot and Sweet Geranium Compote.” The author also offers tips on keeping cows which, in turn, enables her to make such fresh favorites as “Virgin Jersey Butter” and “Caramel Ice Cream.”
Darina has a fruit garden, too, of course, where figs, gooseberries, raspberries, figs, plums and green almonds can be found in abundance. And she bakes everything from brown bread to a chicken pot pie that sticks to the ribs, although the irresistible entrée that I just have to attempt is the pizza with roast peppers, olives and gremolata.
A practical primer on the farm to fork philosophy proving Irish culinary fare to be far more sophisticated than the sorry slop and green beer celebrated all across the U.S. every St. Patty’s Day.
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