Tag Archives: Cookery School

Ballymaloe Day 24: Roll of thunder, hear my cry

The palette knife made its way across the top of the sponge with slivers of raspberry filling the grooves. It was my very first time making a cake and I wanted it to look beautiful.

Every morning I wake up and for a moment I completely forget that I’m in Ballymaloe. As I slip on my chef whites and pick up my knife case, there’s a sense of calm that settles in my stomach.

Today I had not just a Victoria sponge cake on the agenda but also a tomato granita, homemade mayonnaise, crab mayonnaise and a brown bread soda to make.

Gary is my teacher this week, and with his guidance and enthusiastic manner, he helped me get myself in order and fine-tune my dishes and flavourings.

Sweet things, desserts and treats have never been my forte and apart from my secret brownie recipe, I never thought that I had skill to showcase something delicate.

With a light and fluffy sponge I was absolutely thrilled with how my cake turned out (especially considering the previous disaster with my lemon meringue tart).

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(First-time lucky!)

It’s something that I always wanted to do but never had the tools to really do it – so if you see me with oodles of flour in the supermarket, you’ll know what I’m at.

We had the lovely Pam Black taking us for demo today and she put together all sorts of scrumptious treats for us to enjoy.

Before we began we were warned about the possibility of the electricity being cut because of the storm outside, but regardless of the lack of light, the demo would go on!

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The thunder pounded and the lightning struck, and though we had a few wobbly power moments, Pam worked her magic and tackled each dish with gusto.

Demonstrating a delightful array of cakes (the chocolate one with chocolate shavings was stunning), and taking a culinary trip around the world, she brought it all together.

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I’ll say this, fair play to her, it’s not easy to do a demo when there’s a storm howling, the thunder is screaming and the lightning is bursting in the windows.

My partner David will be on cake duty tomorrow and I’ll be rustling up a Thai-spiced squash soup with noodles, chicken couscous salad with pomegranate and creamed curly kale! Our culinary abilities are constantly being tested and I LOVE it.

(I must go, my roommate Maddie has cooked up an unbelievably-awesome-smelling curry and the aromas are inspiring me to cook)

Some random things I learned today:

  • Never stir things like couscous or rice with a spoon. It clumps together, so instead use a fork!
  • When you’re decorating cakes, consider looking in a mirror after you’ve designed it. Sometimes when you’ve been looking at something for a long time, your vision is skewed. So a mirror is like fresh eyes on your creation.
  • Crystallising flowers isn’t as difficult as it sounds. All you need is an egg white, castor sugar and whatever leaf you’d like to do. Lightly stir the egg white with a fork and simply paint the leaf with it. Dip it in the sugar and leave it be. Leave them to dry overnight.
  • Sponges will take years to make and will be destroyed if you keep opening the oven. Resist the temptation and just keep an eye on it through the glass. I resisted for 20 minutes.
  • I can actually make cakes!

Ballymaloe Day 0: “Leave your Prada and Gucci at home!”

As I’m writing this, I’m tucked away in the comfort of my cottage-esque home for the next three months –  That’s right folks I’m finally here at Ballymaloe Cookery School!

Apart from the occasional mumblings from people outside in the courtyard, everything is pretty quiet – even the chickens are hushed in their coup.

I made my way to the Rebel County early this morning and armed with my suitcases and personal chauffeur (aka Mammy!), we made Ballymaloe in good time – if not slightly embarrassed at the amount of stuff I had jammed in the boot.

For those who don’t know, the cookery is situated off a wee place called Shanagarry in the west of Cork, tucked away in the heart of the countryside. The school hosts a vast variety of flowers and food, and acres of glasshouses stocked with a cook’s ultimate pickings.

Dragging my suitcases to my new home, my body was filled with the sense of anticipation and after a heartfelt “goodbye” to both my Mam and other half, I waved them away.

(These doves live above the house and have been scaring the beejezus out of me)

I’m living in the “Coach House” and there are about eight of us hanging about here, coming from all sorts of backgrounds.

At 6pm we were invited for food a la jardin at the main cookery school demo room where we got to mingle with our fellow food lovers and food heroes Darina Allen and Rory O’Connell.

“Leave the Prada and Gucci at home!” – Darina said enthusiastically to the sixty-odd faces staring back at her – we’re in real welly territory now!

(Ballymaloe salad rocks: complete with fresh kale, courgette flowers, radishes and basil)

(Tomatoes fresh from the glass houses)

So far it’s been a bit of a whirlwind and new faces with names that have flown in and out at a million miles a second! The age range is fascinating with the youngest being 16 and oldest at 60+ and many coming from over the pond in the UK, US and as close as Cobh.

We’ve already been given a large folder with the first week’s worth of classes and what we’ll be doing but it’s all a bit daunting if I’m being totally honest.

But let’s get back to the present. My chef whites are hanging up, my bag is unpacked and I’ve set my alarm for 8.00am – Let’s see what tomorrow brings…

Pre-panic: More preparation underway for Ballymaloe Cookery School

It’s been a crazy few days, so I apologise for the lack of updates on site.

I’m currently doing mountains of research for Ballymaloe and trying to do some extra studying. I have this intense fear that I’m going to make an arse of myself during the first week of the course so I’m desperately trying to do some more practical work (why do I own so many cookery books?!).

Aside for experimenting in the kitchen, I’m reading a lot of blogs from past students and overall it all sounds very intense (but awesome). Some of the blogs are incredibly detailed and give some fantastic lowdowns, including forkandfizz, The Seasonal Kitchen ad Borrowed Salt.

I’m actually getting more nervous by the day and despite the school exam element to it – about 3 hours practical, with 6 hours written, mid-terms and wine exams – I’m looking forward to pushing myself and soaking it up (plus, people who know me, know that I’m most at ease at home in Kerry in my wellies, so this should be very enriching!).

It’s a strange feeling but there’s no way in hell that I’m backing out now.

Hopefully will get back to updating things soon. If you did do the course, I’d love to hear from you! And if you’re heading along this year I’d also love to get in touch with you.

Nerves, stress and excitement: preparing for Ballymaloe Cookery School

There are just 28 days to go until I embark on a life-changing new adventure…

This year I left my full-time job as a staff writer with Her.ie to pursue a passion that had been bubbling in me for the past few years.

Ballymaloe Cookery School, a three-month intensive course that would hopefully propel myself properly into the food world and give my life more purpose.

This was a dream that I had been holding off because of money restraints, sorting out my personal life and the genuine worry that I wouldn’t be able to make a career out of food (still a worry I might add!).

I’d be lying if I said it was an easy decision. The course is incredibly expensive and I had to take out a significant loan to attend and aside from the course itself I had to fork out more funds for a brand new set of knives, get them engraved, and buy two pairs of chef whites, pants and shoes.

I had to say goodbye to my colleagues who I had worked with for a year and had to move out of my Dublin apartment – an amazing home – where I had been living my other half for two years (he’s been so supportive of my decision and his parents have been so generous in helping me get off my feet).


But, that being said – I’m glad. As I’m writing this, it’s my first time living back home in Kerry since about 2009. It’s home and in my heart I know if I didn’t take the leap this year I would’ve been very down.

My mom has also made preparing for Ballymaloe that bit easier too from helping me move out, being an emotional support, to fueling my passion for organic food and eating well.

And what can I say about my friends? Well – you know who you are, and I can’t say enough about how much I love you all.

This is a journey that I’m going to savour, and while I’m absolutely terrified, I’m hoping it will all work out in the end… I hope.


I’m going to try and do a week-to-week blog while I’m training there, documenting ups and downs and maybe I’ll find out what I can really do. Hope you tune in.



Ballymaloe Cookery School’s Long Table Dinner to take place on July 22nd

Food lovers, this one’s for you. Ballymaloe Cookery School will be hosting a Long Table Dinner in one of their famous glasshouses on July 22nd.

The event begins in the late afternoon with a glass of bubbly, then followed by a stroll through the grounds and gardens where guests will eventually end up in the glasshouses (home to a vast array of vegetables and herbs).

Rory O’Connell and his team will cook up a storm and will serve an exclusive meal for 100 guests.

Now an annual meal at the school, tickets for the prestigious event are €120 and can be booked online here, or you can call the Cookery School Tel: + 353 21 4646785 or email: info@cookingisfun.ie

(Image via Cooking is Fun)