Suzi's Blog

Cookbook Review: 30 Years at Ballymaloe

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Darina Allen has been called the Julia Child of Ireland. Ireland is actually smallish. The importance of Darina Allen is enormous. For thirty years, she led, taught, and grown her cooking school in Ireland. Now that experience is celebrated in 30 Years at Ballymaloe, a compendium of recipes, memories, and some incredible photographs.

Organized as a year by year history, 30 Years displays the grace and power of Ballymaloe. Of course, there is Irish fare here, but long ago Ballymaloe became an international center for learning and teaching. So, you’ll find curries here and pizza and a Chilaquiles Verde recipe that will have you dashing out the door to buy ingredients. There is the complete story here of the founding of the school, of its evolution over time, and of this history of visiting chefs and culinary celebrities.

There a simple things here: a Fork Cookie [sugar cookie with orange] from her childhood. There are incredible things here: Rabbit and Prune Terrine with Cleriac Remoulade. The picture is astonishing, more Renaissance painting than mere photograph [no disrespect intended to anyone!].

Because of its year by year organization, as you turn the pages you will find main courses mixed with soups and jam and desserts and other gems. It’s one surprise after another. Out of 100 recipes in the book, on my first pass I flagged 25 as “gotta try this” including:

  • Ardsallagh Goat Cheese and Thyme Leaf Soufflé
  • Caramel Ice Cream with Salted Peanuts, Caramel Popcorn, and Dark Chocolate Sauce
  • Crab and Asparagus with Thai Mayonnaise on Sourdough
  • Tomato and Chile Jam
  • Lemon Posset with Rose Geranium
  • Mother’s Sweet White Scones
  • Parsnip and Maple Syrup Cake
  • Pumpkin, Goat Cheese and Kale Tart
  • Wild Garlic Custards

Some things are simple, some are new — like the posset. Originally, a posset was a drink made from curdled milk. Now, thank God, a posset is a custard or pudding made with a handful ingredients that miraculously create a smoothness rivaling crème brulee. You may have read about possets in high school. Lady Macbeth uses poison possets in her slippery climb to power. Just, just stick with the pudding.

Ireland is not famous for desserts of fancy. But that Parsnip and Maple Syrup Cake is something we’ll try in the fall. From the picture, it’s peasanty, rustic and suited to a holiday table. Maple syrup is in the cake and in the mascarpone filling. Darina dusts the cake with powdered sugar, but I’m doubling the filling recipe and frosting the top, too.

The recipes here reflect the years of development and teaching. They have been used so many times that the instructions easily roll from the pages to your fingertips. The ingredients usually top a dozen, the instructions a few paragraphs. The writing style is clear and direct. You can follow the recipe as you go and have confidence that success awaits your effort.

Suzen and I will be visiting my daughter in Seattle soon. I have copies of the recipes for Wild Garlic Custards and, since it’s Seattle, the Crab and Asparagus with Thai Mayonnaise on Sourdough. That’s a feast readily concocted and enjoyed on any day, sunning or showery. The Seattle forecast is for rain, what else, so Suzie and I plan on some kitchen time. Armed with these recipes from 30 Years at Ballymaloe we are sure to have a sunny time, no matter what is happening outdoors.

You want to look at 30 Years, if only to enjoy a tour of the photos. Once you’ve opened the book, it’s hard to put it down or not begin meal planning.

 

 

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