Ballymaloe Cookery School….Week 6: I wanna know what Lovage!

♫ And I want you to show me…..♫


Ending week 6 at Ballymaloe with our first exam. We had our herb and salad leaf identification exam on Friday afternoon followed by a technique exam. 20 minutes before the exam, my nerves decided to kick in, leaving me all a fluster in the exam but I got there in the end. I was extremely lucky to have Rachel Allen as my examiner and when she saw me struggle she was there to give me that push of encouragement that I needed. By the time I walked out of the kitchen over an hour later, I was ready for a drink  the weekend.

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Week 1 at Ballymaloe….Ballymaloe Farm & Gardens

Pink Cottage

Settling in to my new home for the next 3 months took no time at all and made all the more comfortable by living on the grounds of the Ballymaloe Cookery School. A tranquil oasis full of clucking hens, acres of gorgeous green gardens and beautiful farm animals only too eager to come and say hello. Our first week was so wonderful. Meeting new people and learning, sharing and inspiring so many creative ideas with food. We have had some amazing demo’s from Darina Allen and her brother Rory O’Connell. Simplicity is the key with these two chefs. Simple, honest food without the bells and whistles is what it is all about. After our first day touring the farm with Darina and being introduced to the Ballymaloe teachers, we donned our chef whites on Tuesday morning and set off on an adventure in the kitchen that is only going to get more exciting!

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The place which I call home is a majestic, rugged land of wild haired beauties, fireside chats and welcome faces. This place is Sligo. Sligo sits snugly into the North West of Ireland.  A coastal town home to magnificent waves and a hive of activity when it comes to artisanal food producers. I love telling people about this magical land.

I have been living away from home for nearly three years now and the further I move and the longer I stay away the more I long to be back having fireside chats with my folks, embracing the wild winds of Strandhill. What I do love hearing though is of the magnificent happenings in Sligo these days. People are harnessing their skills and working together to show Sligo off to it’s full potential. Some of these are the likes of Jane and Myles Chambers in Shell’s Cafe who frequently show off fresh local produce paired with style and a bounty of taste.. Shells is of the first places I go to when I get a chance to go home.

Others like Peter Clyne are joining the local surf talent and showing the world what is sitting on the shores of our beaches. Peter caught the action during last winter 2011 and teamed it up with ‘It’s Ok to be Normal’ from The Gorgeous Colours (they are actually pretty gorgeous too). I hope you enjoy is as much as I did. I may have had a little tear watching the stunning images and how amazing Peter portrayed the true beauty of the surf, Sligo and the good times.


Last week our school granted us with a surprise week off so with no further delay, I was on the phone and booking my flights homeward bound. Usually I would be hopping on the next plane eastwards but this time, I felt a calling to go home. I was missing something or someone! I was almost nervous at the idea of going home but more excited really.

My first stop was to Dublin. 24 hours with the sister and suss out what was going down around Dublin. The minute she found out I was coming home, she booked me in for a night with The Gorgeos Colours in Crawdaddy. It was a beautiful gig, and my first time seeing the gorgeous boys in action. I was looking forward to it and they didn’t let me down. I had been listening to their album, which I got my hands on at Christmas time and was very excited to be seeing the real thing. The colours work so well together on stage and really impressed at their very first headliner gig. Watch this space.



On Saturday morning, after much pottering about of course,  it was up, dressed and out the door. After indulging myself in a Cosmopolitan or two the night before, I needed a good hearty breakfast, but not before a mini stroll through Dublin to catch the morning sun and the canoers on The Liffey.







Eventually, the hunger was getting the better of all of us, so it was off to Cafe Irie for a steaming cup of tea and French Toast with extra bacon 😉 lathered in Maple Syrup before we gobbled every last bite. I love Cafe Irie, it’s so quaint and full of colourful cheer. It set us up for the day and put a pep in our step.






Myself and Denise headed off for the shops and down to Temple Bar Food Market. I hadn’t been there since the move and was dying to check out the new locations. The smells from Curved Street would have you weak at the knees. As you get closer you can smell Hick’s Bratwurst sizzling on the pan  and towards East Essex Street, where you can pick up some hot food or fresh cheeses from Paddy Jack’s Real Farm food or wander on down towards Cow’s Lane and the aromas of the freshly made breads and cakes from Noirins Bakehouse will have your tummy rumbling. We indulged in some chocolate biscuit cake and mars bar crispies and while I was munching on my biscuit cake I thought to pick up some brownies for the in-laws. Which went down a treat, from what I hear! (Brownie points in the bag :p)





Cow’s Lane is also brimming with brightly coloured fresh fruit and veg from McNally’s Farm and the lads at The Corleggy Cheese Farm stall are only delighted to give you some advice on the best cheeses for your evenings events. The Real Olive Company’s stall shows off some exquisite looking delights, a range of olives, chorizo and cheeses. Natasha’s Living Food stall is full of freshly made live foods and snacks.






In and around the Temple Bar Food Market, you find yourself pleasantly stumbling upon some truly beautiful furniture and crafts shops. Cow’s Lane Crafts is full of handmade jewellery and clothes and other striking pieces such as oak tables and transformer/robot models made from recycled steel. Retrospect, also on Cow’s Lane offers a collection of high quality one of a kind vintage furniture and other household accessories. Industry, on Smock Allley,  offers an eclectic mix of upcycled, vintage furniture, gifts and nik naks for around the house.






The day ended with a trip to the Gallery of Photography with the in-laws. Steve McCurry, world famous photographer is holding his Worlds of Colour Exhibition here from 17th – 27th Feb. I had seen his documentary based on the Search for the Afghan Girl and was dying to see the full show. The images strike you at your very core. They are vivid shots taken from all over the world of the difficulties and joys faced by different culture. This was followed by a heart warming cuppa in Joy of Chá” and some scones to keep hunger at bay.

A trip to Dublin is always a treat for me, it’s purely based on self-indulgence. I get to nibble on goodies, meet up with the good people who always make me appreciate coming home more and more and it always puts a pep in my step.