Last week we had a special celebration in O’Connell’s Restaurant in Dublin for the launch of two new cookbooks – my latest tome entitled the Darina Allen Ballymaloe Cookery Course and the Ballymaloe Bread Book written by my husband Tim. For Michael Gill of Gill & Macmillan who published the books in Ireland, it was the first time a husband and wife had launched their work on the same day. In fact it was very much a family affair. My mother-in-law Myrtle Allen who started it all was there to celebrate with us. My brother Tom O’Connell and his wife Annette manage O’Connell’s Restaurant where we hosted the event. Another brother Rory O’Connell, chef at Ballymaloe House cooked the lunch.
We ate Potato Soup with Fingal Ferguson’s Gubbeen chorizo sausage, Roast organic saddleback pork with crackling (from our farm here in Shanagarry), Tomato and coriander fondue, Buttered runner beans, a Salad of Autumn leaves, Rustic roast potatoes, Ballymaloe praline ice-cream with blueberries followed by Irish farmhouse cheese.
For a number of years now Tim has become more and more passionate about bread. Here at the cookery school he has fired up a whole generation of young chefs and cooks with his infectious enthusiasm. “My awareness of bread-making goes right back to when I was a tiny child…. I remember being able to just peer over the top of the work counter in the kitchen…. I could see the tea-towels draped mysteriously over the dome of the bread tin. No mystery now – of course, this was the brown yeast bread rising by the warmth of the Aga.” Nonetheless Tim came to bread-making fairly late in life. He always says that his interest in bread-making was kindled almost by accident. One day (circa 1974) when I had gone off on a skite, he found himself without a car and with no bread in the bin, (such neglect!). Instead of nipping down to the village to buy a sliced pan, he decided to attempt to make a loaf himself. He knew almost instinctively how to make bread, having watched his mother mixing the dough on a daily basis as a child. He had often been asked to keep an eye on the bread as it rose in the tins and to alert somebody when it was ready for baking. That was second nature but he didn’t know the exact quantities, so he rang his Mum. Armed with the recipe, he made his first loaf of Ballymaloe Brown Yeast bread, popped it into the Aga and waited with bated breath – the loaf was crusty and delicious, he was hooked.
He eagerly progressed from one bread to another, soda breads, yeast breads, sour dough breads, flat breads, ethnic breads. … He hugely enjoyed passing on his knowledge and passion for bread-making to friends, and of course to the students here at the school. He delights in their pleasure as they take their first loaf of bread out of the oven. “The look on their faces and the joy and amazement that lights up their eyes”, gives him huge satisfaction. Past pupils have been sending their good wishes and thanking him for kindling their interest in bread-making ‘More often than not I find myself at home, in the middle of the country with my babies, my Aga, flour and baking soda for company. I bake bread every day thanks to your instruction, encouragement and inspiration’ writes one of our girls who has since married and has three small daughters.
He’s been experimenting with a wide variety of breads and is determined to take the mystery out of bread-making and to encourage as many busy people as possible to have a go and to realize that a loaf of soda bread or a few scones can literally be made in minutes. Even yeast breads and sourdough breads which take longer to make – “take time but not your time”. While the bread is rising one can simply get on with other things. Tim’s Ballymaloe Bread Book has more than 100 delicious recipes for all kinds of breads including pizza, focaccia and some exotic ethnic breads. I just think it’s a terrific book, and that’s not just because I’m biased or because he dedicated it to me!
The final chapter is specially devoted to the author’s essential bread companions like raspberry jam, garlic butter, chocolate butter and roasted tomato sauce – irresistible!
The Ballymaloe Bread Book by Tim Allen, published by Gill and Macmillan,
£12.99 Click here to order
Teeny, Weenie, Spicy Cheese and Onion Scones
These scones are made with cayenne pepper to give them a real kick. Try
eating them with a soft creamy goats cheese, they are ideal for serving
as a canapé with drinks. The scones freeze very well and will defrost
within about half an hour so they are a great stand by. Especially good
to have some frozen around Christmas time for those unexpected guest
that arrive on your doorstep calling in for Christmas cheer.
Makes approximately 50 small scones
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, very finely chopped
450g 1lb plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 rounded teaspoon English mustard powder
1 level teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
50g 2 oz butter
40g 1½ oz Parmesan cheese
40g 1½oz mature cheddar cheese
225 ml 8 floz milk
1 large egg
30g 1oz Parmesan cheese
2 Lightly greased baking sheets
Fully preheat the oven to 200ºC 400ºF regulo 6
In a large heavy based frying pan heat the olive oil, add the finely
chopped onions. Cook on a high heat for about ten minutes, stirring
frequently. The onions need to be just beginning to turn a golden
colour and have started to caramelise around the edges. Turn out onto a
plate and leave to cool.
While the onions are cooling sieve the flour, salt, mustard and cayenne
pepper into a large wide mixing bowl. Add the freshly ground black
pepper and rub in the butter. Stir in the freshly grated cheeses and
the onions. Combine all these ingredients really well together.
Beat the egg in a bowl and add it to the milk. Make a well in the
centre of the flour, cheese and onion mixture and pour in almost all the
liquid. Using one hand with the fingers open and stiff, mix in a full
circle drawing in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk
if necessary. Bring gently together into a soft dough.
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Pat lightly, just enough
to tidy the dough.
Gently press the scone dough into a rectangle about 2.5cm 1inch high.
Paint the dough with egg wash and scatter with the grated parmesan
cheese. With a metal dough scraper cut the dough into teeny scones,
about 2.5cm 1 inch square.
Place the scones on to a lightly oiled and floured baking sheet cheese
side up. Put in to your preheated oven for 10-12 minutes. Cool on a wire
Coffee & Walnut Scones
Theses are a really quick and easy scone to serve with afternoon tea.
Instead of baking a cake these scones can be ready from start to finish
in under half an hour. As everyone is getting busier all the time these
days it is great to have a few staple recipes that can be made with very
little effort and even less time. So no excuse for not baking!
450g 1lb plain white flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
30g 1oz castor sugar
85g 3oz butter, chilled
70g 2½oz walnuts – coarsely chopped
2 medium eggs
6 – 7 floz fresh milk
1-2 tablespoons coffee essence
225g 7½oz icing sugar
1 tablespoon coffee essence
2 tablespoons boiling water
Fully preheated the oven 250°c/475°f/regulo 9
In a large wide plastic mixing bowl sieve the flour baking powder and
salt together. Add in the castor sugar. Cut the chilled butter in to
cubes. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients. Mix in the chopped
walnuts. Make a well in the centre.
In a measuring jug break the eggs and whisk lightly, add the coffee
essence and the milk bringing the liquid measurement up to the 285ml
10floz mark. Pour nearly all of the milk and egg mixture into the
Using one hand with the fingers open and stiff, mix in a full circle
drawing in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if
necessary. Bring gently together into a soft dough.
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Pat lightly, just enough
to bring together.
Gently roll the scone dough into a rectangle about 2cm ¾ inch high.
With a metal dough cutter lightly dusted with flour cut the scone dough
into about 16 scones 4cm x 4cm 1½ x 1½ inches.
Place the scones on to a lightly floured baking sheet. Put in to your
preheated oven for 5 minutes then turn down the heat to
230°c/450°f/regulo 8 for a further 5 – 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
While the scones are cooling make the coffee icing, sieve the icing
sugar into a medium size mixing bowl. Add in the coffee essence and
whisk in the boiling water a tablespoon at a time.
How thick a consistency you want the icing to be is very much down to
personal preference, but if is generally best if not too runny. When
the scones have cooled spread the top of each scone generously with the
Makes one loaf
When Paul and Jeannie Rankin taught at the school some years ago their
two eldest children were in the kitchen with me while I was making
spotted dog. They asked me if I ever used chocolate instead of raisin
in my spotted dog. Always happy to try anything once I set about
creating this bread. Once it was out of the oven and by all accounts a
success I asked the girls what should I call it, “Stripy Cat of course”
they declared in unison. So Stripy Cat was born.
450g 1lb plain white flour, preferably unbleached
1 level teaspoon salt
1 level teaspoon bread soda, (finely sieved)
1 dessertspoon sugar
85-110g 3-4oz dark chocolate, roughly chopped
350-425 ml 12-14fl oz approximately butter milk
1 free-range egg (your egg is part of your liquid measurement)
First fully preheat your oven to 220°C/425°F/regulo 7.
In a large mixing bowl sieve in the flour and breadsoda. Add the salt,
sugar and chocolate. Mix well by lifting the flour and chocolate up in
to your hands and then letting them fall back into the bowl through your
fingers. This adds more air and therefore hopefully more lightness to
your finished bread.
Now make a well in the centre of the flour.
Break the egg into the bottom of your measuring jug add the buttermilk
to the 425ml 14floz line (your egg is part of your liquid measurement).
Pour most of this milk and egg into the flour. Using one hand with the
fingers open and stiff, mix in a full circle drawing in the flour from
the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should
be softish, not too wet and sticky. The trick with all soda breads is
not to over mix the dough. Mix it as quickly and as gently as possible
thus keeping it light and airy.
When the dough all comes together, turn it out onto a well floured work
surface. Wash and dry your hands.
Place the dough on to a baking tray dusted lightly with flour. With a
sharp knife cut a deep cross on it, let the cuts go over the sides of
the bread. Prick with knife at the four triangles as according to Irish
Folklore this is to let the fairies out!
Put in to the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then turn down the oven to
200°C/400°F/regulo 6, for 35 minutes or until cooked. If you are in
doubt about the bread being cooked, tap the bottom: if it is cooked it
will sound hollow.
Serve freshly baked, cut into thick slices and smeared with butter.