ArchiveSeptember 28, 2013

30 Year Celebrations at Ballymaloe Cookery School

We recently celebrated 30 Years of the Ballymaloe Cookery School. The last three decades since we first opened our doors in 1983, seemed to have whizzed by in a blur. My brother Rory O’Connell and I started the cookery school together and welcomed the first Certificate Course students in September of that year. Since then students from over 40 countries have joined us and many of those returned from far and wide to celebrate the Ballymaloe Cookery School Gathering with us.

We started with one employee in 1983 and now thirty years later the enterprise in the midst of our organic farm and gardens now employs more than fifty people.

It was a joy to welcome so many past students from all over the world some of whom hadn’t been back to the school for over 25 years. They were gobsmacked by the changes not just in the school which moved into the old Apple Barn in 1989 from the initial farm building in the courtyard but also the farm and gardens – now organic, they loved the heritage pigs, chickens and our little herd of six Jersey cows. The dairy too was new as was the Shell House and Petal Folly in the maze. We did things very gradually but for those who haven’t had the opportunity to revisit there’s much to see and explore. It was a wonderful day with much hugging and reminiscing and catching up on the fascinating stories of how each student has used their cooking skills since they graduated.

There were literally hundreds of extraordinary tales, Siv Svolsbru from Norway told us about the bakery she has established in Porsgrunn where people queue around the corner for her breads, she brought one of her delicious Nordic loaves for us to taste.

Susan Leigh from Chicago told us about the impact of her project Fox Valley Food for Health which teaches troubled and disadvantaged teenagers how to cook delicious nourishing food which is then delivered to cancer patients in the area.

We set up seven stalls on the lawn between the Palais des Poulets and the vegetable garden. Many of our past students and teachers who do Farmers Markets or food trucks catered the event. Jack Crotty aka Rocket Man produced several beautiful salads and Arun and Olive Kapil of Green Saffron with their beautiful curries were also there. Friend and gardener Laurent Catinot’s stand Boeuf a Lolo did his legendary steak sandwich with béarnaise sauce.

Mark Kingston of Golden Bean coffee also had a constant queue for his freshly roasted coffee.

Debbie Shaw, Robert Cullinane and Seamus McGrath manned the wine, craft beer and homemade lemonade stall – there was also lots of chilled elderflower cordial.

Tracy Daly, Finola Roche and Niamh Switzer were in charge of the puddings, homemade praline ice cream, meringues, yogurt and cardamom creams, poached plums, fresh fruit popsicles and blackcurrant fool with shortbread hearts and stars.

Philip Dennhardt’s delicious strawberry, chocolate and vanilla cupcakes were piled high on a three tier cake stand.

Florrie Cullinane, Pam Black and Sue Cullinane tempted guests to freshly smoked mackerel still warm from our smoker, smoked salmon from Bill Casey, fresh shrimps from Ballycotton with homemade mayonnaise and fresh salads from the produce of our garden and greenhouses.

Emer Fitzgerald, served our slow roasted heritage pulled pork, with Bramley apple sauce and cucumber pickle, on freshly baked Arbutus ciabatta rolls. Annette Roche and Sorcha Moynihan grilled thick slices of sour dough bread on a barbecue, drizzled them with extra virgin olive oil and served them with delicious toppings.

Rupert Hugh-Jones and brothers, Sean and Col Kelleher sat on straw bales under the sycamore tree and played wonderful traditional and hip hop music – it was all magical.

The local GAA lent us their huge marquee to shelter the tables from the wind and rain that was forecast but somehow managed to avoid Shanagarry all afternoon. The long tables were decorated by Rory O’Connell and his team with apple branches, rosehips, pots of lavender and grapes.

The uralies were filled with huge organic cabbages which have since been made into sauerkraut and meanwhile graffiti artist Adam O’Connor painted a huge cockerel onto the door of the chicken shed.

Many past students stayed over for the week end. The Blackbird Pub in Ballycotton arranged a welcome back party for the students and we all joined up for a farewell breakfast on Sunday morning.  A week-end full of happy memories to cherish and lots more hugging.


Grilled Sourdough Bread with Garlic, Tomato and Basil


Grilled bread can be a revelation.  Sourdough Bread, olive oil, garlic and sea salt are all that are needed for the simplest version of this dish. However, the quality of each of these four ingredients must be beyond reproach if you are to have one of “those”, food moments. Add fresh ripe tomatoes and basil and it’s delicious.


Serves 4


4 slices of best quality sour dough bread

extra virgin olive oil, best quality

1 clove of peeled garlic, cut in half

sea salt

1 tomato, cut in half

2 ripe tomatoes chopped

a little lemon juice

freshly cracked black pepper

fresh basil leaves



Choose a heavy cast iron grill-pan to cook the bread on. Heat the grill-pan until very hot and grill the bread on both sides, allowing lots of richly toasted colour to develop.

Remove the bread from the pan and rub one side with the garlic, no more than a couple of gentle swipes. Season with a little Maldon sea salt. Rub the halved tomato onto the bread, squeezing gently to release the tomato juice to be soaked into the bread. Chop the remaining two tomatoes and add extra virgin olive oil, Maldon sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper, sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice and torn pieces of fresh basil. Taste and correct seasoning, spoon the tomato mixture onto each slice of grilled bread. Drizzle generously with olive oil and cut the bread into manageable sized pieces, making sure each piece of bread has a generous piece of the crust attached. Serve immediately.


The Rocket Man’s Beetroot and Farro Salad with Caramelised Onion

Past student Jack Crotty shared this recipe with us.


Serves 6-8


1kg (2 ½ lbs) fresh raw beetroot


For the caramelised red onion;


2 red onions – peeled and sliced into .5mm Rings

100mls (3fl oz) balsamic vinegar

40g (1 ½ oz) sugar

50mls (2floz) olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper


500g (18oz) farro (pearled spelt) preferably Irish. We use Dunany Farro.




3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp sherry vinegar (optional)

1 tbsp of chopped preserved lemon

1 tsp of Dijon mustard

sea salt and pepper


2 large handfuls of red veined sorrel or any other salad leaves with punch, like rocket or mizuna.


Tabasco and Lime Yoghurt



500mls (18fl oz) natural Greek style yoghurt

2 limes – zest and juice

2 splashes of tabasco to taste

a dash of extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper



Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/ Mark 4. Roast onions with balsamic vinegar, sugar and generous pinch of sea salt and pepper for 40 minutes or until they taste sweet and glisten.


Wash and roast beets in tin foil until they fall off a skewer. Peel by rubbing skins. Wear gloves to avoid stained hands.  Chop and while warm add to roasted onions.


Wash farro well and bring to the boil in plenty of cold water. Cook for 30-40 minutes until the grain swells and retains a bite. Strain.


Combine dressing ingredients and pulse to emulsify. Add to warm farro. Once beets and farro are cool, combine and add dressed greens to garnish.


Drizzle the tabasco and lime yoghurt over the salad and serve,


Pulled Pork Sandwiches in Baps with Rocket Leaves and Cucumber Pickle


2.2-2.6kg (5-6lbs) shoulder of free-range range

Sea salt

a little fennel seeds, lightly crushed


To Serve

fresh baps

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Rocket leaves

Cucumber Pickle

Bramley Apple Sauce (see recipe)


Score the skin of a shoulder of free range, preferably heritage pork, Rub lots of salt and a little crushed fennel seed into the cuts. Roast for 18 hours at 90°C/194°F, the meat should be almost falling off the bones and the skin crackly. Remove the crackling, preheat the oven to 250°C/500°F, put the crackling on a tray and cook for a few minutes until bubbly and crisp.
To Serve

Split the fresh baps, pull the warm meat off the bone, season with Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, add any meat juices, maybe a few chilli flakes, taste. Fill the warm baps with a few rocket leaves or a mixture of salad leaves, some pulled pork, and a few pieces of crunchy crackling, cucumber pickle, and a dollop of Bramley sauce.


Serve immediately.

Bramley Apple Sauce

The secret of really good apple sauce is to use a heavy-based saucepan and very little water. The apples should break down into a fluff during the cooking.


450g (1lb) bramley cooking apples

2 teaspoons water

50g (2oz) sugar, or more depending on tartness of the apples


Peel, quarter and core the apples, then cut the quarters in two and put in a small stainless steel or cast iron saucepan. Add the sugar and water, cover and cook over a low heat. As soon as the apple has broken down, stir so it’s a uniform texture and

taste for sweetness. Serve warm.


Yoghurt and Cardamon Cream with Poached Plums


Serves 8-10


425ml (15 fl ozs) natural yoghurt

230ml (8 fl ozs) milk

200ml (7 fl ozs) cream

175g (6 ozs) castor sugar (could be reduced to 5oz)

1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds, freshly ground – you’ll need about 8-10 green cardamom pods depending on size

3 rounded teaspoons powdered gelatin


Poached Plums (see recipe)



Sweet geranium or mint leaves


Ring mould or 8-10 individual bowls.


Remove the seeds from 8-10 green cardamom pods, crush in a pestle and mortar.


Put the milk, sugar and cream into a stainless steel saucepan with the ground cardamom, stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch.  Remove from the heat and leave to infuse while you dissolve the gelatin.


Put 3 tablespoons of cold water into a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water, allow to ‘sponge’ for a few minutes.  Put the bowl into a saucepan of simmering water until the gelatin has melted and is completely clear.  Add a little of the cardamom infused milk mixture, stir well and then mix this into the rest.  Whisk the yoghurt lightly until smooth and creamy, stir into the cardamom mixture.


Pour into a wide serving dish or a lightly oiled ring mould, or individual bowls or glasses and allow to set for several hours, preferably overnight.


Serve with chilled poached plums.


Compote of Plums – Poached Plums


Poach the plums whole, they’ll taste better but quite apart from that you’ll have the fun of playing – He loves me – he loves me not!  You could just fix it by making sure you take an uneven number!  Greengages are delicious cooked in this way also.


Serves 4


400g (14ozs) sugar

450ml (16 fl ozs) cold water

900g (2 lbs) fresh Plums, Victoria, Opal or those dark Italian plums that come into the shops in Autumn


Put the sugar and water into a saucepan, bring slowly to the boil. Tip in the plums and poach, cover the saucepan and simmer until they begin to burst.  Turn into a bowl, serve warm with a blob of softly whipped cream.  Divine!


*The poached plums keep very well in the fridge and are delicious for breakfast without the cream!


Note: If plums are sweet use less sugar in syrup

Hot Tips

Urru Culinary Store in Bandon, West Cork celebrates its 10th Anniversary with their Irish Food Producers’ Limited Edition Food Hamper. A celebration of 10 years of food collaboration between Urru and Irish food producers, emerging and award winning producers including Patisserie Regale Crackers (Clonakilty), Seymour’s Fine Foods Cookies (Bandon), Big Red Kitchen Preserves & Chutneys (Meath), Lorge Chocolates (Kenmare), Green Saffron Spices (Midleton), Ballyhoura Apple Farm (Ballyhoura), Filligans (Donegal), Peppermint Farm Tea (Bantry), Mc Cabes Coffee (Wicklow), Ummera Smoked West Cork Garlic (Timoleague/ Dunmanway) and more. The anniversary hamper is beautifully presented and shows off the creative skills of our Irish food producers.

Available to order from 1st October and for collection/ delivery between 21st October and 30th December 2013

Highbank Orchard Harvest Picnic and Artisan Food Market is on tomorrow, pack a picnic lunch or graze your way through the artisan food stalls, enjoy a butter and jam making demonstration and witness the first ever National Onion Hanking Competition – Sunday 29th September -10am to 6pm at Highbank Organic Farm, Cuffesgrange, Kilkenny – 056 7729918

Coinciding with the UK Fungus Day 2013 the International Mushroom Festival 2013 will bring together mushroom experts and mushroom lovers from all over the world to the beautiful, centuries-old, Killegar Estate in County Leitrim to exchange scientific knowledge and celebrate our natural environment. Phone


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