Wednesday 24 November 2021

Christmas Cooking Classes

We have several Christmas cooking classes coming up at the Ballymaloe Cookery School to get you in the festive mood - some live streamed and others in person.

Christmas Cooking with Rory O'Connell and Darina Allen
Monday 13th December 10-5 

This course may only last a single day but it is life changing: turning a potentially fraught and tedious annual task into a stress-free and pleasurable experience. You’ll learn dozens and dozens of seasonal recipes, and even more importantly how to plan ahead so that you can eat, drink and be merry for the whole holiday without worrying about how you are also going to feed everyone. For this reason many of the dishes are designed so that they can be prepared ahead of time.

The course covers both traditional and more innovative recipes including

- Scrumptious starters from seafood to warming soups

- Main dishes including the Roast

- Traditional Roast with all the trimmings

- An array of side dishes from bubbling gratins to seasonal salads

- Delicious desserts

- And festive drinks Can't make it in person? Then join Darina and Rory for a wonderful morning of Christmas Cooking and get into the festive cheer. via the Live Stream of this class from 10am-1pm.

Just Cook It, Christmas with Rory O’Connell at Ballymaloe Cookery School

Tuesday, 14th December from 2pm – 7pm.

This half day course gives you a tantalising taste of the Ballymaloe Cookery School and provides inspiration for anyone eager to cook a variety of festive dishes with greater confidence.

Limited numbers, complying with all government and NEPHET regulations. Recipes and tasting of all dishes included.

Just Cook It, Christmas with Rachel Allen

This half day course gives you a tantalising taste of the Ballymaloe Cookery School and provides inspiration for anyone eager to cook a variety of festive dishes with greater confidence.

Limited numbers, complying with all government and NEPHET regulations. Recipes and tasting of all dishes included.

Wednesday, 15th December from 2pm – 7pm

More Christmas Cooking with Darina Allen & Rory O Connell

Monday December 20, 2021 from 2-5 pm

Live Stream

For Live Stream classes see

For more information and booking see or telephone 021 4646 785

Thursday 18 November 2021

Claire Ptak visits Ballymaloe Cookery School

We were all super excited at Ballymaloe Cookery School last week, as we had our first guest chef for almost two years.

Claire Ptak from Violet Cakes and Café on London’s Wilton Way taught a sparkling class for the current 12 Week Course students and it was beamed out to her many fans all over the world on Ballymaloe Cookery School Online.

Claire, who comes from California, started her career on a market stall in Broadway Market in Hackney. This was in 2005, soon she became known as the Cupcake Queen. People flocked to buy her adorable mini cupcakes in many flavours, made with beautiful, mostly organic ingredients. All were cooked in her tiny home kitchen but in 2010 Violet Bakery and Café was born. 

Claire baked a range of beautiful cakes with exquisitely pure ingredients, best Madagascar vanilla pods, pure cane molasses, Valrhona chocolate and limited-edition buttercream flavoured with freshly brewed espresso, homemade fruit cordials and dark caramel with sea salt. The flavours of the cakes reflect the season. She constantly experiments with flavour combinations as new foods become available.

Claire has a very unique flamboyant icing style which looks effortlessly rustic but is quite difficult to achieve. She is the acknowledged master of the delicious ‘imperfect cake’ – no fondant icing here…!

Claire didn’t just ‘pop-up’. She’s been obsessed with baking since she was little, she had her first holiday job at a local bakery in Point Reyes in California when she was just 14. Some years later, when Alice Waters tasted her baking, she offered her a job on the spot and so Claire became pastry chef at the iconic Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse. Here, she was intrigued by the variety of exquisite seasonal berries and peaches, five different types of limes, and the nuanced flavours that influenced the food.

Word of the flavour of Claire’s cakes and café food spread around London like wildfire. She developed a cult following but it wasn’t until she was chosen to make Harry and Meaghan’s cake that her fame went global.

Claire introduced us to several new ingredients in her class. She used blonde chocolate from Valrhona to make her Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies – it tastes like caramelised white chocolate – a new flavour for me but destined to become a new favourite…

She loves to use spelt and kamut flour and dark brown sugar for some of her cakes and is really into sheet pan cakes at present. Sheet pan cakes are made in a rectangular tin with approx. 5cm (2 inch) and are brilliant for portioning and icing. Her bubble cake blew everyone away at the class. The Roast Quince and Mascarpone Cake took quite a bit of making but was so worth the effort for a really special cake. You’ll also love the Autumn Carrot Cake with prunes and walnuts and the killer Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies.

If you’d like to watch Claire’s class, you can sign up on the website to view the recording via or call the Cookery School on 021 4646785 for more information.

Meanwhile, check out Violet Cakes on Instagram - @violetcakeslondon

Thursday 11 November 2021

Irish Cookbook of the Year Awards

Rachel has just launched her newest cookbook ‘Soup, Broth, Bread’ published by Michael Joseph Penguin – it’s a gorgeous collection of 120 delicious recipes.

‘A bowl of soup can do so many things.  A cosy, comforting meal on a cold, dark winter’s day.  A gentle broth to heal and soothe.  A fresh, vibrant celebration of spring produce, or a simple and nourishing way to use up leftovers.  For feeding many mouths, for lunch in a hurry, for a dinner-party starter, or for filling the freezer: no matter your need, there’s soup to solve it’.

‘Rachel also shares an array of wonderful homemade breads to serve alongside, as well as easy and delicious garnishes, drizzles, salsas, croutons and crumbs to add the perfect finishing touch’.

I love the photos too and guess what, I’ve voted for it in the An Post Irish Cookbook of the Year Awards and deservedly so!

My own latest book ‘How To Cook’ has been shortlisted for the An Post Irish Book Awards 2021!

Vote for your favourite book and be in with a chance of winning €100 of National Book Tokens.

How to vote:
Go to
Enter your name and email
Tap on your book of choice

Sunday 7 November 2021

Food On The Edge

Recently, I spent an amazing two days at Food On The Edge, meeting and listening to an inspirational group of chefs, food activists, artisan bakers, millers, heirloom seed producers, food archaeologists and leading thinkers chosen for their passion and drive and their ability to inspire chefs around the world. The theme this year was Social Gastronomy.

Some speakers like Bill Schindler, Arlene Stein from Canada, Gísli Matt from Iceland, Petra and Paul Moinea from Romania and Anissa Helou were present in person. Others like Bertrand Grébaut and Théophile Pourriat flew in from Septime in Paris to deliver their presentations while others like Alice Waters from Chez Panisse delivered their fifteen-minute talk virtually from San Francisco, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Mexico, Ghana, India, Peru and London…The Happy Pear twins, Stephen and David Flynn were there, exuding energy as ever, living examples of the benefits of eating real food and living the good life, while spreading the message of a plant-based diet.

The seventh edition of FOTE, the brainchild of Michelin chef, JP McMahon was appropriately held at Airfield Estate, a working urban farm of 38 acres in Dundrum. A superb educational facility with a mission ‘to inspire and enable people to make food choices that benefit people, planet and pockets’. Much of the delicious food for the event came directly from the farm and gardens and was curated by Luke Matthews in conjunction with Gather and Gather.

Virtually all the speakers referred to the lessons learnt during the Pandemic by a sector that hitherto considered itself to be ‘unshakeable’. There was a realisation that much of the current staff shortage crisis had been brought on by the industry itself over many years of unacceptable kitchen culture and poor conditions. A chastened industry is now determined to create optimum working conditions for our ‘second family’, so they feel valued and fulfilled! ‘The job must be rebooted – it’s all about the team’. Other speakers shone a light on the challenges for women chefs, the ‘Me Too’ movement and LGBT issues.

There was an emphasis on sharing and exchanging knowledge. Chefs were also focusing on reducing food waste in restaurant kitchens. Joshua Evans of the Novel Fermentations Research Group and senior researcher at the Danish Technical University’s Center for Biosustainability in Copenhagen urged chefs to be leaders and rethink waste – ‘No such thing as waste, just another product’. Joshua, along with his colleagues at The Nordic Food Lab has spent years researching and relearning and experimenting with fermentation techniques, preserving and enhancing the nutrient value of what many would hitherto consider to be waste food.

Incorporating wild foraged and fermented foods into menu’s is an exciting ‘new’ area for a growing number of cool chefs.

Ellie Kisyombe and Michelle Darmody who created the ‘Our Table’ project where refugees and asylum seekers can cook and share their food, focused on the importance of creating cooking facilities in direct provision centres so residents can cook their indigenous food for their children and themselves. 

 Dee Laffan, Mei Chin and Blanca Valencia of ‘Spice Bags’ also highlighted the not to be missed opportunity for the sharing of food cultures with the ‘new Irish’ and the conditions needed for that to become a reality.

Several other speakers including myself focused on the vital importance of teaching children to cook from an early age so they experience the joy of delicious food and are equipped with the practical life skills to feed themselves properly.

Others like Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills in South Carolina were making valiant efforts to recover heirloom and landrace varieties of grains and seeds that withstand the rapidly changing conditions as climate change accelerates.

There was so much more – 40 speakers in total, all the presentations are now available online -