Ballymoe Cookery School
Shanagarry • County Cork, Ireland P25 R274
+ 353 21 464 6785 • cookingisfun.ie
The anticipation builds, as guests make their way through the beautiful countryside in Shanagarry, County Cork in Ireland’s Ancient East into the final stretch: an evergreen oak-lined road leading to the one and only Ballymaloe Cookery School. The internationally renowned, multi-award-winning academy has shaped generations of Irish chefs and bakers and the island’s culinary culture as we know it today. The best part about Ballymaloe? All are welcome. Visitors stopping through and culinary professionals alike can partake in the magic of this cookery school.
A beautifully restored collection of pink and gray farm cottages surrounds the charming gravel courtyard—mind the hens!—and the small herd of Jersey cows lining up at the dairy for their morning milking moos their greeting in the distance. Ballymaloe is the only cookery school in the world situated on its own extensive, certified-organic farm in one of the most fertile parts of Ireland.
Full-time students clad in their chef’s whites rush by, and a few of founders Darina and Tim Allen’s grandchildren smile and skip past in their farm boots. Ballymaloe has been a family affair since 1948, when Tim’s parents bought the property. It was Tim’s mother, Myrtle Allen, who Darina—Ireland’s best-known food ambassador—first came to work under in the restaurant Myrtle ran from their country home, Ballymaloe House. In 1983, Darina and Tim started the cookery school with Darina’s brother Rory O’Connell, and most of Darina and Tim’s now-grown children are involved with the school today. Along with a slew of talented on-site instructors and celebrity guest chefs, Darina, Tim, Rory, and Darina and Tim’s daughter-in-law Rachel—who also happens to be a TV chef and cookbook author—teach cooking and baking classes as well as a five-day course on how to open a tea shop, among others. Their son Toby oversees the 100-acre organic farm, including its various gardens.
Guests can stroll Ballymaloe’s picturesque country lanes lined with elder trees, ancient beech hedges, and heirloom apple varieties, taking in all of the farm’s wonders, from The Old Pleasure Garden to the formal Celtic Maze and Herb Garden based on the formal vegetable gardens at Villandry Palace in Loire Valley, leading to the house covered in shells. In the acre of glass greenhouses, the Ballymaloe team and students farm a variety of crops, like tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, and salad greens along with exotic fruits like kiwi and nectarines. In the fields lined with organic vegetables, visitors might spot Tim, a horticulture specialist, speaking animatedly about sea kale to a group of eager students, who are in the gardens to pick the produce for the morning’s cooking classes. The menus students will learn from are written daily around seasonal vegetables grown on the farm, and the recipes that are collaboratively cooked in each class are driven by the seasons and availability of ingredients. At Ballymaloe, the ingredients have always been of paramount importance.
In the classroom, surrounded by massive windows overlooking the orchards and gardens, students gather around two huge islands to learn not only to cook and bake but also how to utilize and appreciate the landscape around them, working in harmony with nature and its seasons. Light and love pour in, and Darina, a 72-year-old with a silvery bob and signature bright-rimmed glasses, is right in the midst. In Darina’s presence, it’s hard not to feel the magnitude of her passion and dedication to the Slow Food movement she pioneered in Ireland. She introduced farmers’ markets to Ireland 30 years ago (there are more than 170 in Ireland today) and has authored 18 best-selling cookbooks, among a slew of other accolades, but in this classroom kitchen, she thrives. This is her primary passion, educating the hundreds of students who pass through the doors of Ballymaloe every year.
Darina talks about food like she’s telling a grand tale that she’s sharing for the first time, a captivating secret that no one else is in on. She’ll share why the fairies have to be let out of the soda bread and teach students how to make scones the same way her mother taught her.
Although times may have changed and the school has doubled in size since its start and more classes are being offered virtually, the essential spirit and magic of Ballymaloe is still just as alive as it was from the beginning.
- ¼ cup (50 grams) demerara or other coarse sugar
- 1½ large eggs (75 grams)
- 1 cup (240 grams) whole milk
- 3½ cups plus 2 tablespoons (454 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons (24 grams) castor sugar
- 4 teaspoons (20 grams) baking powder
- 1 pinch salt
- 6 tablespoons (85 grams) cold salted butter, grated
- Jam and whipped cream or jam and butter, for serving
- Preheat oven to 475°F (250°C).
- In a small bowl, place demerara sugar; set aside.
- In a 2-cup liquid-measuring cup, whisk together eggs. Add enough milk to measure 1¼ cups. Whisk well to combine. Reserve 2½ tablespoons (37 grams) egg mixture for egg wash.
- In a large bowl, sift together flour, castor sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add cold butter, and toss lightly to coat with flour. Using fingertips,rub butter into mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in center. Add remaining egg mixture. Using a fork, stir together until a soft dough forms.
- Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. (Do not knead.) Shape dough into a round, and roll to 1-inch thickness. Using a floured 3-inch round cutter, cut dough, rerolling scraps once. Brush tops with reserved egg wash. Dip tops in demerara sugar. Place on a baking sheet.
- Bake until tops are golden brown, 9 to 11 minutes. Remove from pan, and let cool completely on a wire rack. Serve with jam and whipped cream or jam and butter.
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