Leaving yet another wonderful Castle experience in Ireland, Momma and I hit the road for about an hour drive East from Blarney Castle to reach our Culinary Dream Destination: Ballymaloe Cookery School Organic Farm and Gardens,
where we were about to witness famous Irish Chef Darina Allen in the kitchen, whipping up a feast/spread of Irish Breakfasts. The recommendation to visit this Culinary School came from the Lonely Planet guidebook, and I must say, the purchase to attend was worth every penny. Paying 135 Euros per person (sounds pricey I know, but again WELL WORTH IT), we were treated to a Lunch buffet FEAST upon our arrival, followed by a 5 hour demonstration of Irish cooking from the Master herself. . .
all in the theme of Breakfast foods, which we were also priveleged to sample throughout the afternoon and into the evening.
As my momma and I are food lovers and lovers of Cooking, I knew we could not pass this opportunity up. It was even a surprise, something I kept from my mom for a bit so as to build up the excitement of learning from a renowned and colorful Irish Chef.
We arrived QUITE ON TIME for our session, which was a miracle for us two who were so used to getting lost and taking un-expected detours (This was only our 4th day of Driving around in Ireland and I was so very proud of what we were accomplishing each day getting around the Country). We were ready for a great hot meal and we were not disappointed. Our Lunch Buffet was prepared by students of the Culinary School, who also served us and explained all the dishes.
I started with an appetizer plate of CHEESE (or QUESO, pronounced KE-SO en español). WELL I HAD TO! Ireland had already in such a short time proven to me that its dairy and especially CHEESES were quite Superior to anything we have in the States.
That big Block of Cheddar cheese in the far left corner was one of my favorites, maybe EVER, of cheeses I have eaten in my 28 years. Happy stomach, happy Me! I wasn’t the only happy one either, as we were also accompanied by two lovely Irish locals/Food Lovers/Cooking Fanatics, Desmond & Bernie, who made the meal that much more enjoyable. We chatted about where we were all from, & oooooo-ed and awwww-ed at the variety of foods and flavors we experienced. My plate looked something like this (picture below) during the main course: Shepherd’s pie made with Lamb, different collards and veggies, and more deliciousness all cooked superbly (I should have written down what everything was, but I was too focused on the taste of the foods in my Mouth). We had nothing but Praise for Darina’s students/chefs in training.
After a great meal, well you really must move on to a great dessert, and luckily we did just that. Again, I wish I could tell you with greater certainty what each item was, but to do that I should have written this blog post back in February when it was all still fresh on the mind. Procrastination sucks. I can say for certain that pictured below was a scrumptious Walnut Cake I savored (my mom even stole some from my plate it was so yummy/her plate was full already) and the white fluffy stuff and the sugary liquid on the sides was heaven in mouth (unknown delicious item).
My mom had a slice of carrot cake and coffee, while I had my black tea with milk and a pinch of sugar, quickly becoming one of my favorite things about Ireland. Finally it’s not all about the Coffee!! Having had a great meal and with great company, we were all ready to be inspired in the Kitchen.
Darina’s setup was Impressive to say the least; it was a whole lotta Kitchen. A giant mirror above and several TV screens that projected close ups of the preparation of the ingredients, I felt like I was watching Iron Chef of America & I would be the judge rating all the completed dishes.
I’ll tell you, Life in Ireland doesn’t get much better than this.
Accompanied by a small army of sous chefs (talented hustlers in the Kitchen), they whipped up for us. . .
-various jams from scratch like Blackcurrant, Wild Damsom, & Kumquat Marmalade (all with LOCAL INGREDIENTS from the school’s farmlands or sourced locally in the town),
-pancakes, waffles and apple muffins,
-the Typical “Irish Breakfast” we have all grown so fond of,
-“Spotted Dog” Soda Bread,
-a Nut and Grain Muesli,
-Granola, Porridge, a grapefruit salad,
-Egg Varieties like baked eggs and Scrambles, she even made “Mexican Scrambled Eggs” (or Huevos a la Mexicana). . .
The cooking session took somewhere between 4-5hours with one Intermission period where we snacked on some of the goods. But we were quite patient for that moment we could FEAST. At the end of the demonstration, all the dishes came back out to us warm, and we were served taster plates of any and all the dishes. I must have eaten a half dozen mini muffins with jams all by myself. They were just so tasty! Perfection even. To this day, I don’t know what Wild Damson Jam is, but I ate some on the muffins and breads, and I was happy, and more importantly, so was my momma! She loved the whole Experience. We couldn’t have asked for a better one. We were stuffed, Happy, Nearly sleepy. We drank some tea and coffee because believe it or not, we had nearly a two hour drive to Kenmare, in County Kerry where we had booked our B&B for that night, and IT WAS LATE. Darina Allen herself actually made sure we called the owner of the B&B to let her know we would be arriving later than expected. This really touched us. The Irish people have treated us so well, better than good even, and Darina was just another example.
She even sent us with more muffins and scones for the road. So off we went, back on the Road, with full bellies and EVEN FULLER HEARTS! Until the next!!!