Saturday 7 May 2022

Ballymaloe May Fair

We've all missed in-person events over the last two years. We're delighted to announce the Ballymaloe May Fair! 

Lá Bealtaine (May Day) is one of Ireland’s most important and ancient festivals and celebrates the beginning of summer. Traditionally a festival for optimism and renewal, Lá Bealtaine was a time filled with feasts and flowers. 

The Ballymaloe May Fair is a celebration of this ancient heritage… but with a few modern twists! 
Our newest festival is an ode to all things good food, gardening, green-living, home, health, fashion and summer fun.

There will be cookery demonstrations from myself, Paul Flynn, Rory O'Connell, Arun Kapil and more, walks and talks, walled garden fitness classes, workshops for all ages - fancy making soap, or beeswax candles or macrame? - a Writer's Corner, a cocktail class and wine tasting, great shopping and so much more. Don't miss a walk around the sculpture exhibition with Ritchie Scott as he discusses the art and the work that goes into putting the exhibition together.

The May Fair is our most colourful festival yet! It is an interactive event centred on sharing a wealth of talent and knowledge from all around the country. The festival will be one of innovation and collaboration, celebrating a fusion of exciting lifestyle experiences. Ireland’s finest gardeners, food experts, craft- makers and artists will come together to showcase their produce, skills and share their expertise.

May 20th, 21st and 22nd 2022
Friday 5pm to 10pm 
Saturday 10am 'til late 
Sunday 10am to 5pm.

Free entry for children under 12. 
Drop your kids off for an hour of fun at our Children's Activity Area on Saturday and Sunday. 

Dogs on leads are very welcome.

Monday 2 May 2022

Auntie Florence

My Auntie Florence was quite the character, tiny in stature but a huge presence. We used to call her Mrs. Tiggywinkle after the famous character in Beatrix Potter’s tales in the Lake District.

In her later years she seems to have shrunk in stature but certainly not in personality.

When she passed away recently at the age of 88, tributes poured in from all over the world from people whose paths had crossed with her in life and particularly from the students for whom she was a familiar presence at the Cookery School.

Numerous mentions of ‘a warm welcome from this colourful character’, ‘always ready to party’, ‘always up to mischief with a glint in her eye’. ‘A much-loved social butterfly’.

Always beautifully dressed in her imitable quirky style, she loved bright colours - pink, orange, rose, colourful beads, stripy socks, jaunty scarves, sun hats in summer, furry hats in winter, she even had a pink one…

All her life she had a passion for horses and the races - even in her last days, a mention of Cheltenham brought a smile to her face.

Her interests were wide and varied – she loved to entertain, play bridge, the archaeological society, the Georgian society, watching the stormy seas…

She travelled all over the world rekindling treasured friendships, making new friends everywhere she went and always genuinely interested in people. She had an uncanny way, particularly in later life, of managing to get people to do things for her. In one of the many memorable messages on Instagram, a past student wrote she even ‘had him and his friend washing her Yaris outside the school on the last day of exams’! My response was ‘Just as well I didn’t catch her’!

Auntie Florence will be remembered for many things, but we’ll also remember her through her recipes, she loved to cook. Auntie Florence’s orange cake is the stuff of legends - it was chosen to celebrate the anniversary of the European Parliament and is a favourite birthday cake for many. 

I can still see her standing by the Aga, flipping her famous crumpets, the standby treat for any unexpected guests. She even made the occasional loaf of soda bread up to a few weeks before she passed away.

Back in the 1950’s, before electricity had arrived in the village of Cullohill in County Laois where I was born, she would peddle her little bike all the way from Johnstown (8 miles) with a brick of HB Ice-cream carefully wrapped in layers of newspaper and a pack of wafers. You can’t imagine the joy and excitement when we saw her coming over the hill. Later we’d made raspberry buns from ‘All in the Cooking’ together at the kitchen table, a perfect first cooking lesson for a child eager to cook. There are so many memories connected to food.

I remember helping to clean the wild field mushrooms we collected together and then watching her stewing them in milk on the old ESSE cooker – I can still taste the flavour….

Another random thought - she loved lambs’ kidneys and would sidle up to the students during butchery class here at the school and say, ‘I’ll have those please’! She loved them dipped simply in seasoned flour, seasoned with salt, a few blobs of butter, a little water and cooked in the oven between two Pyrex plates. Try it – delicious!

And of course broth, Auntie Florence loved broth and certainly knew the value of it, she made a few attempts to die in recent years but each time, we brought her back from ‘near dead’ with organic chicken broth. Sadly it didn’t work this time, but, when we see the stock pots bubbling, they will always remind us of Auntie Florence