Litfest 2016


They’ve all gone back to their respective countries now but it was such a buzz to have so many diverse top chefs from all over the world with us here at Ballymaloe for the Litfest.

Many like Frances Mallman, Eric Werner and Mya Henry from Mexico had never been to Ireland before. Neither had Cortney Burns and Nicolaus Balla from Bar Tartine in San Francisco. They are the pair who are passionate about fermented foods and have been rediscovering and experimenting since 2011. They gave a demonstration to a packed room of students eager to discover or to relearn the simple skills of one of the earth’s most natural processes. The interest in fermentation has become intense now that so many people have gut problems and realise that there is a connection between a healthy gut, the brain and our general wellbeing.

Katie Sanderson of the Dillisk Project also focused on fermented food.

She and Jasper O’ Connor  just two of the bright and brilliant new generation of young Ireland chefs who are passionate about fresh seasonable produce from the land, sea and the wild.

Ottolenghi was back this time with Ramael Scully, his business partner in the hugely successful NOPI restaurant in Warwick Street in London. They gave a super entertaining action, packed dem of recipes from their new book NOPI.

Claire Ptak, the gentle pastry queen from Violet Cakes in London’s Hackney enchanted her audience with a selection of the handmade cakes and cookies that make her little café famous. She used a variety of flours, spelt flour, oat flour, buckwheat flour, wholemeal spelt, kamut flour….. many suitable for those with a gluten intolerance. Her book published by Random House is called The Violet Bakery Cookbook.

Frances Mallman, the King of Fire from Argentina has a cult following all over the world ever since he appeared on The Chefs Table on Netflix. People flew in from Japan, Australia, the US, Spain the UK to see him. He cooked over ‘live fire’ in 5 different ways. Griddle, ashes, hung, iron cross, grill… He cooked dry aged ribs of beef from the farm, organic chickens, brined and stuffed with lemon and marjoram, a whole lamb, asador was also cooked to perfection. He went to the greenhouses and picked and collected a variety of fresh lettuce, vegetables spinach, swiss chard, kale, carrots and beetroot made them into a long roll and cooked them side by side with sweet breads on the plancha, an 8ft x 4ft metal plate. He told us it was his first time to try this vegetable roll but he was so moved by the beautiful fresh, new season’s vegetables that he wanted to cook them. The word had got out that he was starting at 4am so about 10or 12 enthusiasts turned up to watch him build the fires and start to get the lamb and joints of meats on cooking.

By noon, the  meats were cooked to perfection and I mean perfection, not an easy task but a skill honed over 30 years and Frances says he’s only beginning a journey of relearning how to cook over live fire as our ancestors did. He served several sauces to complement the meats, chimichurri, salsa criolla…

Frances loved the beautiful walk along the cliffs at Ballycotton, sea pinks and wild flowers in bloom and sky larks singing. He, like so many of the others long to return to Ireland.  We were so fortunate the sun shone, just two showers over the week end to remind us of what the weather could have been like. All the chefs and food writers were blown away and envious of the quality of the food from the land, sea and wild that we can produce in this country. They return to their country with a pen in their hand to spread the word of what’s happening on the food scene in Ireland.

Eric Werner and Mya Henry from Hartwood charmed their fans with the story of the restaurant they set up along a jungle road on the Carribbean sea in Tulum. The menu they write daily from the food of their gardens and neighbouring Mayan farms and the fish that is spearhunted by local fishermen. They consider sustainability first and foremost in their work and in every decision in the restaurant. Here again everything is cooked over wood fire and people travel from all over the world for the experience.


Hot Tips

East Cork Slow Food Event

Seventh generation miller, Robert Mosse from Kells Wholemeal will tell the story of their family mill in Bennettsbridge, County Kilkenny and explain the process and tell us all about the grains and flours at a time when there is a growing interest in different types of flour. Lots of samples of baked goods to taste. Don’t miss this fascinating evening.

Wednesday June 15th at 7pm at the Ballymaloe Cookery School

Tel: 021 4646785

Kaffir Lime Plants

Keen cooks should make a dash for Deelish Garden Centre outside Skibbereen. They have kaffir lime plants for sale as well as many other choice plants for adventurous chefs.

Tel: 028 21374

Charles Dowding of No Dig Gardening fame in Shepton Mallet, Somerset is coming to the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Saturday June 18th.  I was so inspired by his garden in Alhampton when I visited last year that I invited Charles to teach a course here. We have been experimenting ever since with the No Dig method on the farm and in the gardens with very encouraging results.

In this one day workshop, Charles will share his skills, experience and passion for this alternative way of growing. Participants will also see a slide show of the spectacular results in his own garden which continues to be a work in progress.



Elderflower is in bloom all over the countryside, make syrups, fritters, cordial, elderflower champagne.



Francis Mallmann’s Whole Boneless Rib Eye with Chimichurri

Serves 20

I usually cook roasts on the bone because I like the way bones gently conduct heat into the meat. But when you slather a coating of chimichurri on a boneless rib roast, the result is the most heavenly crust you can imagine. Just keep an eye on the cooking time and the internal temperature. Since all ovens vary, the timings given below are just guidelines that you may need to adjust in your own oven.


1 boneless rib-eye roast, 6-10 lbs

Coarse salt

2 cups chimichurri, or more if desired (see recipe)

6 bay leaves


Preheat the oven to 450F, with the rack positioned in the lower third of the oven.

Pat the meat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with coarse salt and coat on all sides with half the chimichurri (reserve the rest for serving). Scatter the bay leaves over the meat. Place on a rack in  large roasting pan and roast for 20 minutes.  Lower the heat to 350F and roast for approximately 10 minutes more per pound for rare (120F). transfer to a carving board and let rest for at least 10 minutes.

Carve the beef and serve with the remaining chimichurri.


For the Salmuera


Makes about 2 cups


1 cup water

1 tablespoon coarse salt



1 head garlic, separated into cloves and peeled

1 cup packed flat leaf parsley leaves

1 cup fresh oregano leaves

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

¼ cup red wine vinegar

½ cup extra virgin olive oil


To make the salmuera, bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the salt and stir until it dissolves. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Mince the garlic very fine and put in a medium bowl. Mince the parsley and oregano and add to the garlic, along with the red pepper flakes. Whisk in the red wine vinegar and then the olive oil. Whisk in the salmuera. Transfer to a jar with a tight fitting lid, and keep in the refrigerator. Chimichurri is best prepared at least 1 day in advance, so that the flavours have a chance to blend. The chimichurri can be kept refrigerated for up to 2 to 3 weeks.


Bar Tartine’s Green Chili Fisherman’s Stew

Serves 4 to 6

55g (2oz/2 cups) packed fresh flat leaf parsley leaves

2 litres (3½ pints/8 cups) fish stock

2 teaspoons filtered sunflower oil

2 small sweet white onions, thinly sliced

8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

115g (4oz) hen of the woods or oyster mushrooms, stemmed

1 x 225g (8oz) fennel bulb, halved, cored, and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons Hatch or other green chile powder (any green chilli powder is fine)

450g (1lb) skinless sturgeon, carp, or catfish fillets, cut into 1cm (1/2 inch) pieces – use Hake

115g (4oz) young collard greens, stemmed and torn into 2.5cm (1 inch) pieces

60ml (2 1/2fl oz/1/4 cup) fish sauce

12 oil packed anchovy fillets, minced

1 lemon, halved

green onions, white and tender green parts, thinly sliced, for garnish

fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish

freshly ground black pepper


In a blender or food processor, combine 40g (1 1/2oz) of the parsley leaves and 480ml (2 cups) of the stock and puree until smooth. Set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the remaining stock to a simmer. Heat a medium sauté pan over the medium heat until a drop of water flicked onto the surface sizzles gently on contact. Add the sunflower oil to the sauté pan and then immediately add the onions, garlic, mushrooms, fennel and 1tsp of the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the chile powder and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer the cooked vegetables to the simmering stock along with the fish pieces, collard greens, fish sauce, anchovies, and remaining 2 teaspoons salt. Simmer until the fish is cooked and the collards are tender, about 5 minutes. Note that the carp and catfish are more delicate than sturgeon. They will fall apart if cooked for more than 5 minutes or if stirred too vigorously. Stir in the pureed parsley mixture and remove from the heat.

Ladle the stew into individual bowls. Tear the remaining parsley leaves directly into each serving. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to each bowl and garnish with green onions, parsley and pepper. Leftover stew will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.


Katie Sanderson’s Peas, Summer Kale and Dashi Broth

I tend to use Dashi as the basis for stews and soups now over vegetable stock. I like the lightness and that I’m getting seaweed into my tummy.


2 onions

40g (1 3/4oz) ginger

2 cloves garlic

olive oil (a fair bit)

300g (10oz) Cavolo Nero – alternative is perfect

600g (1 1/4lb) peas (fresh or frozen)

1.2 litres (2 pints) Dashi (see recipe)

salt and pepper



pea shoots



Japanese Kombu, Irish Kelp, Alaria (Wakame)


dried Shitake (optional)

1 litre (1 3/4 pints) of water


First make the dashi.  Place the cut up seaweed in the cold water and allow to steep for half hour, place on a gentle heat for approx. 20 minutes not letting the temperature rise above 60˚C/140˚F.


Prepare dashi the night before by leaving seaweed in room temp water and allowing to steep overnight. This will keep in your fridge for 3-5 days.

Next, sweat your onions, garlic and ginger in your olive oil in a medium sized pot. Once the onions are translucent and cooked, add the kale and cook further for about a minute or so. Lastly add your peas and then dashi and leave on medium heat for about five minutes.

Season with lots of salt and pepper.

In a high speed blender whizz 3/4 of the mixture and pour back into your pot.

Grate some roasted walnuts on top (looks like Parmesan)

Serve warm with pea shoots.

Note: Dashi is a type of cooking stock that is sometimes considered the backbone of Japanese cuisine. I personally think it’s about time that we started incorporating it more into our diets too. It’s the simplest way of extracting the flavour of seaweed, an instant pick me up and a great source of iron and nutrients.

By cutting the seaweed up there is an increase of approximately 35per cent more umami and very obviously a greater tasting stock. Don’t wipe the white-ish powder off the seaweed. Seaweeds are a great source of Glutamic acid and thus naturally occurring MSG. (that’s what the white stuff is).

Japanese kelp is different to the types we have along our coastline, Dillisk is considered better alternative then Irish kelp for making broth BUT picking seaweed and using it in the kitchen is really an amazing experience. Tasting the Irish sea is always WIN.


Claire Ptak’s Rhubarb Roulade


Rhubarb is a great match for sweet meringue. This version is really easy and quick to make, as the meringue and rhubarb can be baked ahead.

For the meringue
4 egg whites
250g (9oz) caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoon cornflour

For the rhubarb
500g (18oz) rhubarb, topped and tailed
1 vanilla pod
100g (3 1/2oz) caster sugar
zest of 1 orange
a splash of orange blossom water
500ml (18fl oz) double cream
2 teaspoons  caster sugar
2 tablespoons rhubarb syrup, from roasting

Heat your oven to 160ËšC/325ËšC/Gas Mark 3.

Butter and line a 20x30cm (8×11 inch) Swiss roll tin with baking parchment, so the paper is coming right up the sides.

Put the egg whites in a squeaky-clean mixing bowl and, using an electric whisk, beat into soft peaks. Add the caster sugar a tablespoon at a time with the whisk running, until all the sugar is incorporated and you have soft, glossy peaks. Fold in the vanilla extract, vinegar and cornflour. Spread into the lined tin, then bake for 30 minutes until it has formed a crust on the surface. Let it cool in the tin

Arrange the rhubarb in a baking dish, and top with the vanilla pod (seeds scraped), sugar and orange zest. Cover the dish with kitchen foil and roast for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and roast for a further 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and add the orange blossom water.

Separately, pour the cream into a large bowl and whisk until it is just thickening. Do not overwhip it, as it will continue to thicken as it rests. Add the sugar and 2 tablespoons roasting syrup from the rhubarb.

To assemble the roulade, transfer the meringue from the tin on to a work surface. Spread with the cream, leaving a small border around the edge. Top with the rhubarb, then roll tightly away from yourself. The edge of the meringue should be at the bottom of the roulade for a prettier finish.

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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