Please wait, the site is loading...

Ryan Riley learns a few trade secrets at Ballymaloe, Ireland’s most famous culinary school.

Sunday

I’m the first arrival for my five-day cookery course at Ballymaloe. It’s home to an award-winning restaurant, a hotel, 100-acre farm, and the famous cookery school, which is run by Darina Allen. Darina’s son Toby shows me to my room in a beautifully restored 18th-century, coral-pink cottage within the grounds. Downstairs, I find a loaf of Darina’s famous brown yeast bread, a block of Irish Kerrygold and some fresh tomatoes from the farm.

Monday

At breakfast, I meet my classmates who come from all over the world, including Spain, America and the Philippines. Most are enthusiastic home cooks looking to up their game. I hit it off with Seamus, a butcher from Mullingar in Co Westmeath. He has won his place through a cookery competition: it turns out he makes the best beef bourguignon in Mullingar. Darina and her brother Rory make stuffed courgette flowers with goat’s cheese, pesto and tomato fondue, roast chicken with saffron and more, then we tuck into the feast for lunch. The demonstrations and tastings roll on all afternoon. As the sun sets, we take chairs outside, stick candles into empty wine bottles and chat into the night.

Tuesday

My morning task is to prepare Grand Marnier soufflé (to get the perfect head, run your thumb around the edge of the ramekin, giving it a top-hat effect and allowing it to rise evenly), as well as chicken with Gruyère and thyme, and the great Irish staple, soda bread. The rest of the course follows the format of demonstrations in the afternoon, then replicating your favourites the following morning. That night, a few of us opt for an excursion by boat to tiny Ballycotton Island, where we clamber up the lighthouse to look out across beautiful County Cork.

Wednesday

Today, we prepare and eat my favourite thing: a gratin of hake with tomatoes, basil, cream, olives and Parmesan. Luxurious and comforting, I love it. TV chef Rachel Allen, who is married to Darina’s son Isaac, leads the afternoon demonstrations. After school, some of us go fishing. Peter, the skipper, takes us a mile or so out to sea, throws down a line from the edge of the boat (no bait) and instantly reels up three large mackerel. We do the same with equal success and plan to have them for lunch the following day.

Friday

I’m gutted to be leaving today. The morning cooking session passes in a flash. The afternoon demonstrations are showstoppers – a stunning tarte tatin, spiced and butterflied leg of lamb and, a Ballymaloe signature, hot buttered lobster. At 5pm my taxi arrives. Rachel hugs me and Darina wishes me well. I speed off with a full stomach, already planning my return.

A single room in a self-catering cottage from €65. Visit cookingisfun.ie.

 

About the author

Ryan Riley

We value your privacy

We use cookies to help give you the best experience on our site and to allow us and third parties to customise the marketing content you see across websites and social media. For more information see our cookie policy.

Cookie Preference Centre

Learn more about what each cookie category does and choose your settings (toggle right to opt in or left to opt out). Cookie policy


Strictly Necessary

These technologies are needed to enable our websites and apps to run and to keep it secure.

Sainsbury's Magazine

These technologies tell us how customers use our sites and apps and provide information to help us improve the website, apps and your browsing experience.

Cookie name Duration
PHPSESSID Until the browsing session ends
device_view 1 month
recentlyViewedRecipes 1 year
subscription-{popup-version-date}-PopupClosed 12 days

Vimeo

Enables Vimeo videos on the site

Cookie name Duration
_derived_epik 1 year

Constant Commerce

Enables shopping tools for recipe ingredients

Cookie name Duration
cc_a_h 10 years
cc_a_s Until the browsing session ends

DoubleClick

DoubleClick Digital Marketing (DDM) is an integrated ad-technology platform that enables us to more effectively create, manage and grow high-impact digital marketing campaigns.

Cookie name Duration
DSID 10 days
IDE 1 year
RUL 11 months

Performance/Analytics

These technologies tell us how customers use our sites and apps and provide information to help us improve the website, apps and your browsing experience.

Google

Google Analytics tell us how customers use our sites and apps and provide information to help us improve the website, apps and your browsing experience.

Cookie name Duration
__gads 13 months
_ga 28 months
_gat 1 minute
_gid 1 day
1P_JAR 1 month
ANID 10 days
CONSENT 18 years
NID 6 months
__Secure-3PAPISID 2 years
__Secure-3PSID 2 years
__Secure-3PSIDCC 1 year

Marketing/Targeting

These technologies help us decide which products, services and offers may be relevant for you. We use this data to customise the marketing content you see on websites, apps and social media. They also help us understand the performance of our marketing activities. These cookies are set by us or our carefully-selected third parties.

Pinterest

Pinterest conversion tracking gathers conversion insights and builds audiences to target based on actions our visitors have taken on the site.

Cookie name Duration
_pinterest_ct_rt 1 year
_pinterest_ct_ua 1 year
_pin_unauth 1 year

Outbrain

These technologies tell us how customers use our sites and apps and provide information to help us improve the website, apps and your browsing experience.

Cookie name Duration
outbrain_cid_fetch 5 minutes
adrl 5 weeks
apnxs 6 weeks
criteo 2 months
obuid 6 months

Twitter

Twitter conversion tracking enables us to measure our return on ad spend by tracking the actions people take after viewing or engaging with our ads on Twitter.

Cookie name Duration
personalization_id 2 years
muc 2 years
ads_prefs 5 years
auth_token 5 years
dnt 5 years
guest_id 2 years
twid 5 years