Wednesday 28 July 2021

Foraging Summer's Bounty

Here at Ballymaloe Cookery School, we’ve been doing Foraging courses throughout the seasons for over twenty years and we all continue to add to our knowledge of the abundance of wild and free food all round us.

Apart from the fun and extra dimension foraging adds to a walk collecting food in the wild, there’s an even more important reason to become more knowledgeable about the free bounty of nature. A high percentage of foods, berries and nuts in the wild are edible. Unlike many conventional foods they have not been tampered with to produce maximum yields at minimum costs so their full complement of vitamins and minerals and trace elements are intact making them highly nutritious and nutrient dense, up to twenty times, more than in the ultra-processed food on which so many of us depend nowadays.

One can forage all year but there are particularly rich pickings at present both in the countryside and along the seashore! So let’s mention a few, succulent marsh samphire (salicornia europaea) which is also known as glasswort because it was used in the fourteenth century by glass makers, grows in marshy areas close to the sea. It’s at the peak of perfection as present, full of Vitamin A, calcium and iron, nibble raw or blanch it in lightly salted water – it’s salty crunch is great with fish or indeed with lamb. Sea Purslane which grows close is also abundant at present.

Pretty much everyone recognises dandelions, I regularly urge people to nibble at least one dandelion leaf a day or pop some into a green salad – full of vitamins A, C, and K, calcium and iron.

Gardeners will be cursing chickweed at present, it romps around the garden between the vegetables and in flower beds. Where others ‘see weeds, we see dinner’. Pick the chickweed and add to salads or wilt it like spinach, add to mashed potato, risotto or pasta. It too is highly nutritious. There’s several varieties of wild sorrel about too, buckler leaf sorrel, lambs tongue sorrel and common field sorrel. There’s masses of fluffy meadow sweet along the roadside at present, it will last into early autumn – use to flavour panna cotta, lemonade, custards…

Watch out for wild mushrooms too, I found just one ‘field’ mushroom yesterday but they usually pop up in warm muggy weather in fields or even on lawns that haven’t had chemicals added. The flavour is exquisite, don’t waste a scrap. Chop or slice a glut (including the stalks), sautĂ© and freeze to add to a stew or make into a ketchup.

If you’d like to learn more about foraging on land and along the seashore, perhaps you would like to join me on August 6th for a Summer Foraging course. You’ll learn how to identify and use over forty seasonal wild food plants, flowers, as well as many foraged foods from the hedgerows. Free ingredients, fresher and tastier and often more nutritious than almost anything you will find in the shops. A walk in the countryside will never be the same again. Where you previously saw weeds, you’ll now see dinner!

Suitable for chefs, professional foragers or for anyone with an interest in foraging for pleasure.

Numbers are limited, so booking essential - book online or by phone 021 4646785


If you’re a newbie to foraging, be careful – don’t nibble anything you are unsure of, and introduce foraged food gradually into your menu, better not to binge at first.

Buy a good beginner's guide to foraging.

Wild Food

Tuesday 20 July 2021

Aeolian Dreams

I am just longing to jump on a plane and spend a few days in Greece or puttering around the Aeolian Islands. Imagine those clear skies and azure blue seas and little tavernas by the seas with spanking fresh grilled fish, sizzling saganaki, a freshly chopped Greek salad - gorgeous sunny Summer food. I've never been to Greece in Winter but I also love those rich bean soups, lamb and beef stifados, and an occasional pork or wild boar and butter bean stew...

The closest I'll come to that in the near future is a trip down memory lane with Rosemary Barron's Flavours of Greece, originally published in 1991 but it has never gone out of print and has recently been republished by Grub Street.

Many books have been written on Greek food since then but Rosemary's book is still considered to be the most authentic and authoritative collection of Greek recipes.
In the 1980’s, Rosemary owned a cooking school in a 450 year old village house on the island of Crete, the first of its kind in Greece and described by Vogue as one of the best cooking schools in Europe. Her recent courses on Santorini explore the foods and flavours of Greek antiquity.

Greek summer dishes are just the sort of food I am loving at present. A selection of mezze to set taste buds tingling.

Mezze can be a simple or an elaborate selection, so easy to put
 together – 5 to 25 dishes...marinated Kalamata olives, chunks of feta or kefalotiri cheese, radishes, toasted salted almonds, taramasalata, hummus, broad beans, aubergine in many guises, spanakopittas (little filo pastry pies) stuffed with meat, vegetables or cheese, peppered figs, dolma wrapped in grape leaves, octopus, smoked eel, tiny fried fish....serve with lots of pitta or flat bread and a glass of crisp Greek wine. I’m also dreaming of Avgolemono - a delicate and comforting chicken and rice soup, light and refreshing for Summer evenings. 

I can virtually smell Souvlaki – chunks of pork marinated with juniper and coriander, a dash of red wine and lots of garlic and oregano charring over the charcoal…
Grilled Kephtedes (spicy beef and lamb patties) are also irresistible with a dollop of Tsatsiki and of course a Greek Salad - chunks of sweet ripe tomato, cucumber and spring onion dressed with gutsy Greek olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice. (Try making your own using one of my favourite recipes.)

A quick aside on marjoram and oregano, as there seems to be considerable confusion between them. There are several different forms: Common marjoram is a perennial, it re-emerges every year, but annual marjoram has an infinitely superior flavour and is closest to the Greek oregano. (see photograph). Annual marjoram, also known as knotty marjoram is closest in flavour to the Greek oregano. 

Follow with a platter of deliciously ripe
 fresh summer fruit and berries on a 
bed of fig or grape leaves served with some Mizithra cheese and Hymettus honey - divine.

Simple as it sounds, it can be very difficult to reproduce here in Ireland when it's so difficult to find ripe figs and stone fruit in summer but a platter of ripe fresh local berries would be sublime if you can find them. 

Saturday 10 July 2021

Food Trucks

Food trucks are popping up everywhere to liven up our lives. The past year has seen an explosion of them here in Ireland, as restaurants and cafes were forced to close due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions and we all had to get used to eating al fresco in all weathers. I want to share just a few of my favourites here...

The Ballymaloe Cookery School Field CafĂ© has reopened for the summer season. Serving delicious savoury and sweet treats, a killer affogato with our own homemade ice-cream and coffee from The Golden Bean Roastery. Open Monday to Saturday from 10am – 4.30pm with lots of outdoor space to sit and enjoy.

How wonderful to find so many delicious hidden surprises at Niamh's Larder, a 15 minute walk along Ballybrannigan Strand...a stunning beach off the beaten track here in East Cork, not too far from Whitegate. 

Niamh did the 5 week cookery course here at the Cookery School and is the founder of Midleton Neighbourfood, which connected local people to local food producers during the pandemic when markets were closed. Find her on Instagram @niamhs_larder

Niamh's is one of six food trucks featured on the RTE series Battle of the Food Trucks available to watch on the RTE player online.

Here in Shanagarry we also have Trawler Boyz down at Ardnahinch Strand and Fry Guys outside the Goal Post serving up fresh local fish, seafood and chips.

There's also Fred's Food Truck outside the Jameson Distillery in Midleton. I haven’t eaten there yet but apparently their BLT with smoked Irish bacon in a Jameson glaze is worth a try as well as many other tempting bites. Check out @freds_foodtruck on Instagram

If you’re in the sunny South East, check out The Tin Roof Food Stand in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford. They have a green area and picnic tables and have a food truck serving toasted sandwiches, sausage rolls and great coffee. They also have new season’s Wexford strawberries and new potatoes on sale. Every Saturday from 9am – 2pm on the Fair Green.

Camus Farm is a 30-acre organic farm with 3 large stone-built dating from 1850 and supporting rare breed cattle, native tree/hedge species and traditional grassland meadows. Camus is in rural West Cork close to Inchydoney and the town of Clonakilty. Look out for their pop-up diner in their outdoor Field Kitchen Restaurant – delicious no-choice menu cooked from produce grown on the farm and local area.

Wednesday 7 July 2021

Midleton Farmers Market Turns 21

Customers piled into Midleton Farmers Market recently to wish the stallholders to celebrate 21 years of selling a huge selection of local produce to local people.

Bouquets of home-grown flowers, organic vegetables and fruit, multi-ethic food, seafood, lobsters, farmhouse cheese, home baking, gluten-free options, artisan bread and smoked fish...

Organic raw milk, local pork sausages, spit roasted chicken, salads, summer currants and berries from Rose Cottage, apples and freshly pressed juice from Little Orchard...

And a tantalizing choice of take out…from tacos to Fizzy’s utterly delicious Ethiopian vegetarian and vegan dishes and so much more.

Friday 2 July 2021

Summer Cooking Classes at Ballymaloe Cookery School

The Ballymaloe Cookery School Farm and Gardens are bursting with wonderful fruit and vegetables - it is a joyous time of the year to cook. 

We are looking forward to offering some afternoon classes later this summer with limited numbers following all Government guidelines.

First up on Friday, 23rd July will be 
Summer Cooking with Rory O' Connell. 

Rory will be using the best of the season's produce along with lots of herbs and edible flowers.

Rory will grill Mackerel and serve with a Nasturtium Leaf and Flower Butter, Peppery Courgette Carpaccio with Rocket Leaves and Parmesan will pair beautifully with this.

For main course, how about a Roast Chicken Salad with French Beans and Tarragon, served with New Potatoes and Roast Aubergines, Ricotta and Mint.

Peaches will be made into an ice and popsicles served with a compote of Cherries and Pistachio Nougatine. Strawberries will be stuffed with Lemon Basil and Peppermint Leaves will be dipped into chocolate and served iced from the freezer.

Then on Friday 30th July, come and join Rachel Allen for inspiration and fun, she will share recipes and tips for a memorable Summer Evening Dinner Party at home with friends.

On Friday 6th August, come join me for a summer foraging adventure. Foraged foods from local woods, fields, hedgerows and seashore have been an integral part of the menu at Ballymaloe House for over forty years, several decades before the current trend for foraging emerged.

I will take you for a walk in the countryside in search of wild and foraged foods. You’ll be amazed at what can be found even within walking distance. You’ll learn how to identify and use over forty seasonal wild food plants, flowers, as well as many foraged foods from the hedgerows. Free ingredients, fresher and tastier and often more nutritious than almost anything you will find in the shops. A walk in the countryside will never be the same again. Where you previously saw weeds, you’ll now see dinner! This course is suitable for chefs, professional foragers or for anyone with an interest in foraging for pleasure.

Then on
Friday August 20th, Rachel shares an amazing afternoon 
of terrific tarts to wow your friends - sweet and savory.

And if you've more time and want to dive deeper on your culinary adventures, we also have our 5 week cookery course starting on July 12th.

For more information and to book, see the Ballymaloe Cookery School website or telephone 021 4646 785