Long before it became fashionable, TV chef, Irish food ambassador, farmer's market champion and cookbook writer Darina Allen was promoting seasonal and local foods. In the introduction to 'A Year at Ballymaloe Cookery School' she talks about cooking in harmony with the seasons, sourcing a lot of the ingredients from the Ballymaloe gardens, farm and greenhouses or from local suppliers.
While being able to source such a variety of foodstuffs - Ballycotton tuna, fresh lemongrass, Pink Fir Apple potatoes and newly plucked sweetcorn - from your own garden or locality is only a pipe dream for many, 'A Year at Ballymaloe Cookery School' is nevertheless a useful book to have on hand for anyone with their own veggie patch or access to a farmer's market.
This book, inspired by and structured around the four seasons - each of the four chapters having sections on starters, mains, vegetables, puddings and teatime - celebrates great ingredients. If you have a glut of spring rhubarb, mushrooms, blackcurrant leaves or raspberries on hand, Allen has a stylish recipe to suit (Rhubarb Bread and Butter Pudding, Field Mushroom Soup, Blackcurrant Leaf Sorbet, Autumn Raspberry Jellies with Fresh Mint Cream). There are also several dishes which use some more unusual vegetables, including cardoons, seakale and cottier's kale.
With influences that include well known food writers Madhur Jaffrey, Claudia Roden, Jane Grigson, Marcella Hazan and Sri Owen, as well as Ballymaloe matriarch Myrtle Allen and Allen's own mother, Elizabeth O'Connell, 'A Year at Ballymaloe Cookery School' includes international as well as Irish recipes. Stories about the cookery school, the ingredients and valued suppliers are scattered throughout the book and each of the chapters begins with a friendly, accessible introduction.
With beautiful photographs of the dishes, the school and the gardens alongside plenty of appealing recipes - all well tested by generations of students - 'A Year at Ballymaloe Cookery School' is an inspirational read.
Buy 'A Year at Ballymaloe Cookery School' from the RTÉ eShop here.