ballymaloe cookery school – afternoon demonstration
One of my highlights of our trip to Ireland was an afternoon demonstration at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Note how they say ‘Cookery’ school instead of ‘Cooking’ school. I love the Irish grasp of the English language. Now don’t ask me why their website is: cookingisfun.ie because after the demonstration, I thought – cooking is a hell of a lot of work, even if you have a sous chef and a dishwasher.
Rory O’Connell was the chef in charge of the demonstration. This guy is a serious chef and knows how to cook. He did not pause once in the three hour afternoon demonstration. He was the perfect combination of being personable and professional. We watched him pull together:
- Mussels in Tin Foil with Homemade Flat Parsley Mayonnaise
- Sticky Sausages
- Lamb Tikki Kebabs with Tzatziki
- Garam Masala
- Spatchcock Chicken
- Chargrilled Potatoes with Thyme Leaves
- Cucumber, Radish, Feta, Flat Parsley and Nigella Seeds
- Kimoith Summer Garden Salad
- Blackberry, Apple and Rose Geranium Tart
The whole thing was like watching Food Network, Ireland, live. The obedient audience sat on chairs, and watched the cooking action via a large mirror and two television screens. Rory had a graceful mindreader of a sous chef who prepped everything for him, and magically handed him everything he needed at the right time. It was like watching a surgeon work with his assistant. Or a conductor conducting a symphony. Amazing.
It took a full 3.5 hours to cook all this food. And this didn’t include prep or clean up. It was quite the feat to watch. I was totally mesmerized and sat motionless the entire time. It made me realize the work it takes to make a good meal. Planning, shopping, prepping, assembling, cooking, plating.
I loved that Rory only used food in season, and he talked about using every bit of the ingredients so as not to waste. He obviously loves and respects food. Really, Ireland seems ahead of the game with this philosophy. Maybe because farms are so accessible on this relatively small, fertile island? There was apple blackberry tart only because apples and blackberries were in season. At another time, it might have been cranberries or raspberries instead.
Rory O’Connell’s gift of language was my favourite part of the demonstration. Except for the eating part. To be truthful, the eating was my favourite part.
But here’s a snippet of What Rory Said:
Radishes are good natured.
It is not the Olympics. Take your time.
Don’t get too cheeky.
And my favourite:
See if the tart is being a little bit amorous with the tin.
I calculated all the money the school was collecting for a demonstration (30 participants at 55 Euros each for three hours…but I see via the website that it has now gone up to 70 Euros each), but in the end, it was good value and money well spent. Everything in Ireland is crazy expensive. I dare say that it is more expensive in Ireland than it is in Italy. Truly. Especially in the countryside…
I got a full plate of food, and three hours of my own live celebrity entertainment. Rory O’Connell is the brother of Darina Allen – of the very famous Irish cooking dynasty.
To be perfectly honest, the afternoon demonstration plate of food at Ballymaloe was the best I ate in two weeks in Ireland. I ate it standing up, looking out the window into the gardens. I especially loved the Lamb Tikki Kebobs with Tzatziki. There’s nothing like lambs from Ireland – they are succulent creatures (sorry little lamb). I went back for seconds of that.
The building that houses the Cookery School is gorgeous – all white walls and open beams and funky folk art everywhere.
The gardens are available for touring, and include farm animals and a herb farm. And there’s a food shop, where I bought thyme and Italian parsley for our little cottage kitchen. And some whiskey sauce. Because you can never have enough whiskey sauce. Especially when you are in Ireland.
Ballymaloe Cookery School