Saturday 4 May 2013

Last chance to see...

LitFest has started! What a brilliant night we had at the opening party last night! It was so great to see so many there - a fine mix of locals and people who have travelled from far and wide, all drawn by their passion for food, wine and words. But it's not too late to join us, there are still a few tickets available (at the time of writing!!) to some of the events on Sunday and Monday - it'd be so great to see you there!

From aromatic Thai delicacies with celebrated chef David Thompson, to Madhur Jaffrey talking curry. From the Grassroots of the Edible Food Revolution to the guru of  fermentation Sandor Katz. There is so much not to be missed.

We have the Evolution of Food Writing with John McKenna and Matthew Fort and a treat of Irish fictional culinary heritage from Maria Edgeworth's books.

If you work in hospitality or are thinking of running a restaurant then you won't want to miss Nick Lander, Tom Doorley, Hazel Allen and John McKenna talking straight about the restaurant business.

Come for a walk on the wild side with celebrated gardener Alys Fowler and David Tanis will guide you round our glasshouses.

If you're into wine you simply must come to Jancis Robinson's literary conversation and wine tasting on her master work: Wine Grapes. 

Our action-packed long weekend finishes with Fusing Culinary Cultures, as some of the biggest names in world food, including David Thompson, Madhur Jaffrey and Claudia Roden are joined by specialists from Scandinavia, UK and Australia to discuss the modern phenomenon of fusion food and global eating.

Don't miss this opportunity to feast your mind... and body with all these delights! The sun is shining again - may it shine on us all weekend!

Friday 3 May 2013

Did I tell you about... ?

I know I have been talking about LitFest now for weeks - and you know what, I STILL haven't covered everything. Can you believe it?! That gives you a sense of just how much good stuff and exciting people we have lined up for your enjoyment. So I wanted to let you know about a few more events that are close to my heart, before we dive head first into the weekend. 

One very special event is Dorothy Cashman's Old Books to Treasure. Dorothy is a food historian and past graduate of the Cookery School. The weekend is all about food writing, but you don't have to be published to be a food writer. Most of us have treasured books of family recipes, with stains and jottings in them, which document what we have cooked, eaten and loved over generations,  and markers of how tastes have changed. So bring yours along to show Dorothy, she is eager to unearth some hidden gems, in a sort of Literary Antiques Roadshow. This is a free event, held in the beautiful Blue Dining Room of Ballymaloe House.

John Bowman is a giant in the field of broadcasting and a personal friend for whom I have immense admiration. Presenter of the RTE's Questions and Answers for 21 years, I am delighted to have him chair what is sure to be an enthralling Question and Answers session on Food and Wine on Saturday evening, with a hugely knowledgeable panel of Jancis Robinson MW, Margaret Jeffares, Margot Slattery, Nick Lander, John Wilson, Michael Kelly and myself. Whatever your burning food and wine questions, this is your chance to grill the panel and get answers. Or you can catch him on Monday when he chairs a discussion on Food Programmes on Television - are they entertainment, educational or empowerment. He will be joined by Ella McSweeney, John McKenna, Martin Shanahan, David Hare and myself.

And if you've ever wondered how Ballymaloe started out nearly fifty years ago, be sure to attend food historian Regina Sexton's event on Early Food Writing of Myrtle Allen, or grab this rare opportunity to enjoy a sumptuous afternoon tea with her on Saturday or Sunday, and hear her talk about life at Ballymaloe.

The sun is shining, sky is blue, and spring, though it has been slow to come is finally in the air, so we're anticipating a glorious Bank Holiday weekend here. Many congratulations to the winners of yesterday's giveaway, The Baking Batchelor and Maire, I hope you have a wonderful time at LitFest.

Thursday 2 May 2013

The excitement builds for LitFest (and a giveaway).

Only a day and a half to go until the LitFest kicks off. There's a frenzy of activity everywhere. Make sure you read to the end because I have a really exciting giveaway for you!

I've just been over to the Big Shed where the FRINGE events will take place, it's crazy over there. A couple of the lads are making twenty "banqueting" tables out of recycled pallets with drills and nail guns. There's a huge chandelier made out of the oak staves from the whiskey barrels. Camilla's kids corner looks so exciting with balloons, bunting and coloured baubles of all shapes and sizes - she's got so many fun things planned throughout the weekend. A barista area and several restaurants are popping up as we speak. Lolo's papier mache cow is watching in general amusement over the proceedings. The graffiti artists are in their element with acres of bare wall to adorn. I was just overwhelmed by the excitement, everyone is just having the best fun, working together with the music blasting out.

And then to the main event. Stephanie Alexander has just arrived in from Australia. I met her this morning and understandably her body-clock is topsy-turvy and she was wide awake at 4 o'clock this morning, and had had breakfast and been out for a walk by the time I phoned her at Ballymaloe at 8.30. Madhur Jaffrey and her husband, Sanford, are on their way down from Dublin Airport as we speak. Several others will arrive later on in the day.

Of course some events are already sold out  but there are still lots of opportunities to attend events in the Grain Store and Carrigaun Room. My co-director at the festival, Rory O'Connell, thinks that David Thompson's  demo here at the School and talk in The Grain Store on Thai Food are not to be missed. His name is not so well known over here as Madhur Jaffrey and Claudia Roden, though many of you will have seen him as a mentor on Masterchef 2012. I have been a huge fan since I ate at Darley Street Thai in Sydney over ten years ago, and more recently at his Michelin starred Nahm in Bangkok, and we are so excited to have him over here for the weekend.

Apart from all the mega-stars coming from all over the world for this festival, which has already caught the eye of the New York Times, Herald Tribune and Malaysian Times... I am so proud to have so many rising stars: Take Three Past Students and New Voices in Food, many of whom are past students at Ballymaloe Cookery School. I'm so excited about this that I'd love to offer a pair of tickets for each event. To be in with a chance to win you need to:

  • Be able to travel to Co. Cork this weekend for the event.
  • Leave a comment below: tell us what you're most excited about LitFest, and which event you'd like to win tickets for. 
  • Entries close at 7pm tonight, Thursday May 2nd, British Summer Time. Winners will contacted by email, so be sure to choose a commenting option which provides us with your email address - these will NOT be used for future marketing). 
  • The prize is a ticket for you and a friend, for the stated event, either (Take Three Past Students (demo) or New Voices in Food (talk). Not including travel or accommodation.
I look forward to seeing you there!