Wednesday 29 April 2015

No Phones Please... We're Eating

Look around you in any restaurant you go to. How many phones do you see?

It seems now that many diners seem to find it impossible to be parted from their smart phones during lunch and dinner. It's not just taking photos of the food (of which I'm certainly guilty) but tweeting, texting, Instagramming...

In desperation a growing  number of pubs are tempting clients with free pints in exchange for confiscating their iPhones for a couple of hours in an effort to bring back the craic and redeem the art of conversation.

Apparently some cool, hip getaways are advertising internet-free hotels and restaurants as a bonus and unique selling point for tormented execs and super cool techies!

On a slightly different note, a friend who attended a photography conference in the UK recently just managed to get last minute accommodation in what he described as a lousy hotel with lousy food. But to top it all, each table in the dining room had its own TV and earphones - how sad and scary is that?

Where will it all end?

Monday 27 April 2015

Win Tickets for LitFest

It's nearly LitFest time again. I've shared some highlights of the event so far - the NewYork and Dublin launches, and the wonderful chefs we have giving demonstrations at the event. This year it's on the weekend of May 15th-17th. We'd love to see you there. Today I have two pairs of tickets to give away... so be sure to read on for HOW TO WIN

Once again we will be welcoming some of the world's biggest names in food and drinks to Ballymaloe House and Ballymaloe Cookery School, to share their knowledge and passion with you. 

We have discussions, readings, workshops, as well as cookery demonstrations galore. This year's giants of food and drinks literature attending include: Alice Waters, David Lebovitz, Jancis Robinson, Sam and Sam Clark, Allegra McEvedy, April Bloomfield, John and Sally McKenna, Roger Phillips, Fuchsia Dunlop, A Girl Called Jack, Hugo Arnold, Tom Doorley, Christian Puglisi, Joanna Blythman, Rachel Allen....

And that's just the beginning. With over fifty speakers from home and abroad touching on all aspects of food and drinks, as well as our Big Shed Fringe event, it promises to be a weekend to savour.

For a full listing of events, and to book, check out the website.


We are giving away two pairs of tickets to see Jack Monroe, blogger, Guardian columnist and author from the hit blog A Girl Called Jack. 

She will be demonstrating recipes from her blog and bestselling book. This will be an interactive event, so each prize winner is invited to bring along one of the younger members of the household (8-12 years of age) to attend the demonstration for free, and they will have the opportunity to join her at the demonstration counter for practical cooking fun (if they would like!)

HOW TO WIN... Just tell us in the comments below which food hero you'd most like to meet in real life!

1) Winners must be free to attend the LitFest event May 17th, 2-5.30 pm.
2) Entries close midnight (IST) Thursday April 30th.
Winners will be announced here on the blog on FRIDAY 1ST MAY. Winners must make contact with us by phone or email before May 5th to secure their tickets.

Sunday 26 April 2015

What's Hot? Toast

Toast is having its moment.

Yes, it's true!

Image: Yelp
Posh toast made with handmade artisan breads - natural sourdough, rye, spelt or brioche is all the rage. From San Francisco to New York, gourmet toast is popping up all over the place (pardon the pun!)

But it's not just in the US. At London's Brixton Market, Burnt Toast (@burnttoastcafe) provides diners with their own toaster at the table so they get to make their own toast.

From Flickr
Closeby, Breads Etcetera in Clapham (@BreadsEtc) and Brodys Breakfast Bistro in Exeter are also on trend.

Thursday 23 April 2015

Lit Fest - Dublin Launch

I've just got back from the Dublin launch of the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine. What fun we had. 

The event was held in The Fumbally with a fabulous menu put together by Kate Sanderson of canapés and drinks showcasing the best of Irish produce: all of it seasonal and much of it foraged and locally sourced. We had:

  • Cured sea trout with baby beets and celeriac
  • Gubbeen back fat lardo, served Hungarian style with onions and paprika on Fumbally sour dough 
  • Irish cheeses with homemade Dillisk crackers
  • Fumbally blood sausage with burnt onion aïoli
  • Avocado with fermented red cabbage on toast with artichoke oil & amaranth popcorn
  • ...and little shots of Carragheen pudding with Dublin rooftop honey, chocolate soil and sorrel juice.   

Broadcaster and historian and good friend of the festival, John Bowman, launched the event. Our guests included many well-known chefs, writers, journalists and columnists, ex-Ballymaloe Cookery School pupils, as well as number of our speakers from this year's LitFest. We had Sunil Chai, Executive Chef of Ananda; Aileesh Carew, Irish Year of Design; Paul O’Brien, the International Marketing Director of Kerrygold; Margaret Jeffares from Good Food Ireland; Sophie Morris, Kooky Dough...

It's less than a month to go to LitFest 2015 - May 15-17th. Do come along and join world-famous chefs and authors, boutique coffee roasters and guerrilla gardeners, cocktail specialists to renowned wine makers, movers and shakers, icons and the next big thing at the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine 2015

Friday 17 April 2015

Culinary Superstars at LitFest 2015

Here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School LitFest HQ is hopping. There's just one month until the third Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine kicks off. Becks, Rory and Evelyn are working away behind the scenes like whirling dervishes. We've had lots of great publicity - including a five page spread in the Wall Street Journal magazine which has had a terrific reaction.

I just want to take a moment to flag up the culinary superstars giving cookery demonstrations during the LitFest this year. How about this for a line-up? April Bloomfield, Sam and Sam Clark of Moro, Allegra McEvedy, Fuchsia Dunlop, A Girl Called Jack, Hugo Arnold & Leylie Hayes of Avoca Cafe and Christian PuglisiA once in a life-time opportunity perhaps to learn from some more of my favourite chefs and cooks... and taste their food.

What to do? I've just had someone on the phone who wanted to book onto all seven, but could only choose two. An unbearable choice! So here's a little background on each one - and there's lots more information on the website. Tickets are selling out fast, with a bare handful of places left on some... so don't say I didn't warn you!

April Bloomfield is considered by many to be the best woman chef in America and this is a rare opportunity to see her cook.

April burst on to the New York culinary scene with her cooking at The Spotted Pig gastro-pub in the West Village. Her food is a fusion of the comforting food she remembers from her childhood in Birmingham in England and the Italian influences she picked up cooking at the River Café in London and further influences gleaned at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California.

You can expect fabulous, seasonal, stylish, cool and above all, delicious food from the “queen” of New York cooking.

Sam & Sam Clark of 'Moro' 
Moro and Morito have a cult following: cool, convivial, trendy surroundings with an atmosphere “that hits you like a wall of joy”. Then of course there is the food with a deliciousness that can only have been created by cooks who love the straight between the two eyes approach to flavour. Lucky for us that the two Sams took off in a camper van before opening Moro, to explore and learn the secrets to the true flavour of the great foods of Spain, Morocco and the Sahara. 

Allegra McEvedy, described by The Independent as "a caterer with conscience" is a chef and author of six books and number of television programs. Allegra has won a whole host of loyal fans for her fresh, quirky dishes made with the freshest, ethically sourced produce - all with a twist. The co-founder of the Leon restaurant group, she has worked in many of London’s best restaurants: Green’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar, The Belvedere in Holland Park, The Groucho Club and The River Café. She got her first Head Chef position at Tom Conran’s The Cow in Notting Hill, at the age of 24. 

Expect a hugely entertaining as well as informative class, with delicious tastings at the end.

Fuchsia Dunlop has been described by the Sunday Telegraph as “the best writer in the west on Chinese food” and by Observer Food Monthly as “a world authority on Chinese cooking”.
The London Independent ranked her alongside the great literary food writers Elizabeth David and Claudia Roden and Heston Blumenthal.

This is a unique opportunity to watch, listen, learn and taste some of the foods of China from one of the world’s greatest experts on the subject.

Leylie Hayes & Hugo Arnold 
Devotees of the Avoca Cafés will know that apart from the wonderful interiors that await, the next and immediate visual experience is the generous array of colourful food – bejewelled salads of all descriptions, savoury tarts, luscious soups packed with exotic ingredients, relishes, great baskets overflowing with breads, cakes, buns, bracks, ices, sweet tarts, meringues and so much more.

Leylie and Hugo will recreate some of that magic during this demonstration. Expect the sort of generous, modern, stylish, health giving food that has kept the Avoca Cafés rocking with very happy and well fed customers for the last three decades.

Jack Monroe 
Jack is “a breath of fresh air in the cooking world” – so said Nigel Slater and I quite agree.

Jack started writing her blog, A Girl Called Jack, in February 2012, in response to a local councillor who claimed that ‘druggies, drunks and single mums are ruining the High Street.’ What started as a local politics blog developed into budget food and recipes, which were picked up with interest by the national press as she detailed living with her son on a food budget of just £10 a week.

She will demonstrate recipes that were recorded on her blog and subsequently in her book also called A Girl Called Jack.

This will be an interactive event, so parents are invited to bring along one of the younger members of the household (8-12 years of age) to attend the demonstration for free and Jack will call on some of the enthusiastic juniors to join her at the demonstration counter for practical cooking fun (if they would like!)

Christian Puglisi 

Copenhagen has been the "go to" city in the world for the last few years for those in search of the most interesting, cutting edge and forward thinking food. The Nordic Food Revolution is now well documented and Christian Puglisi has been part of that movement of chefs who have made the whole world sit up and listen and look on in awe as they created a new style of cooking that can leave the diner breathless by the sheer wizardry of their creations.

From this cookery demonstration you can expect sensational dishes created by one of the new masters of world cuisine – dishes that will make you look again at food in a way that you may not have done for a long time. Don't miss this!

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Urgent Action Required By All Food Lovers

Have you heard of the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership)? I know I hadn't until a couple of days ago, when I found out about it via the Slow Food Movement. It's MAJOR, and it matters to you and me right now. 

It is a proposal which seeks to standardise systems and standards of food production between the EU and US. 

On the surface it sounds a little dull. But look a little closer, and you'll see why it matters to us all. I am deeply uneasy about the proposals and their implications.

The TTIP has massive, potentially cataclysmic repercussions for food producers and consumers not only in Ireland but throughout Europe. 

Here are some of the impacts it will have:
  • Currently chemicals and pesticides in the EU must be proven safe for animals and humans prior to use. In the USA the opposite is the case, and many cancer-causing and hormone- disrupting chemicals are used there, which are banned in Europe. We would no longer be able to ban these chemicals.
  • Higher European safety measures throughout the chain of food production, including meat production, would be down-graded to US levels which are less stringent.
  • The US factory food system produces food at a lower cost, with more chemical inputs and higher capital costs of production than in Europe. 
  • In the US, growth-hormone-injected beef is cheaper to produce - but is lower quality with associated human and animal health implications. Current restrictions on the sale of unlabelled hormone-injected beef and GMO products would be lifted. Consumers will no longer know exactly what they are buying... or eating.
  • And perhaps most worrying is a new legal system will be established for foreign investors, so that they can bypass the Irish, European and American judicial systems if they feel their current - or future - profits are threatened by "unnecessarily restrictive barriers to trade". This would include everything from what constitutes organic food standards, to correct food allergy labelling.
All these changes put profit before food quality. And the interests of mass-production and corporations above those of the people eating it. It will see food information for consumers weakened, and smaller, local producers further marginalised. According to Slow Food: "the controversial trade deal could give unprecedented power to international corporations and thus threatens to overrule democracy and the rule of law, as well as environmental and consumer protection."

Did you know that this was proposed? I certainly didn't. If this worries you too, do take time to raise your voice against it. Take a moment to sign the online petitions to stop TTIP. This one has already cleared the necessary million signatures to enable it to be formally presented for consideration by the EU but a million or two more signatures couldn’t hurt, so that our legislators know just how important an issue this is!

There is a global day of action this Saturday, 18th April, with workshops, protests and networking events.


On Twitter: @TTIPInfoNetwork     

Want to know more?