The indefatigable Darina Allen is a whirlwind of energy, multitasking at every turn. Leading a group on a tour of the showcase gardens of the Ballymaloe Cookery School, Allen is busy picking up a leaf here, discarding a twig there as she talks about her food philosophy.
The celebrated founder of the Ballymaloe Cookery School, Allen’s is the most recognized name in Irish cooking outside of Ireland. Among her many awards is Teacher of the Year from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), whose 35,000 worldwide membership includes virtually every culinary profession.
The Ballymaloe Cookery School is more than about the act of cooking – it embraces a farm-to-fork philosophy of growing food in sustainable ways and celebrating the bounty of the land. It means cooking in season with just-picked produce from the garden, fish caught hours before from surrounding waters and cream skimmed off milk from the farm’s own cows.
The school sits in the middle of a hundred-acre organic farm with its organic market gardens, greenhouses and orchards. The classrooms have been carved out of farm buildings with rooms that are airy, cheerful, and bright with whimsical contemporary and traditional art. It exudes vitality, as students bustle to lectures, cook what they’ve learned in the student kitchens or eat their creations in the sprawling dining room.
The school offers a comprehensive professional 12-week certificate course. Shorter courses of a half day to a week cover specialty areas, including bee keeping, organic gardening or how to keep chickens at home. In addition, the school offers more than 200 afternoon demonstrations for the food-interested and custom courses for groups.
For St. Patrick’s Day, Allen shared two recipes that can be adapted to fresh local ingredients in any area. Irish butter is available throughout the United States in supermarkets and specialty stores under the Kerrygold brand. The butter is made from Ireland’s grass-fed cows with no growth hormones. The intense gold color of the butter is not from artificial coloring, but from the beta-carotene in the Irish grass.
“In Ireland we can grow grass like nowhere else in the world. Many of our best foods like our butter come from this lush green grass,” Allen said.
Irish butter has a rich and distinctive taste, very evident when slathered on Mummy’s Brown Soda Bread, from the recipe collection of the Ballymaloe Cookery School.
Mummy’s Brown Soda Bread