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Darina Allen

On this page:

A Year at Ballymaloe Cookery School

Irish Traditional Cooking

Easy Entertaining

Ballymaloe Cookery Course


A Year at Ballymaloe Cookery SchoolA Year at Ballymaloe Cookery School

The very name “Ballymaloe” sounds poetic and conjures visions of green and idyllic hills. Not far from the truth according to Antony Worrall Thompson who says, “I’m often asked which is my favourite cookery school. Without question Ballymaloe Cookery School near Cork in Southern Ireland would be my choice... At Ballymaloe you have everything, an exquisite property set in acres of wonderful organic gardens surrounded by fabulous countryside... Idyllic is a word rarely used but in Ballymaloe’s case it is the word that sums up what this cookery school is about.”

A Year at Ballymaloe Cookery School is a lovely reflection of Darina Allen’s celebrated school. It’s a large-format volume with amazing photographs by Melanie Eclare, Michelle Garrett and Timmy Allen (hmm, another of the famous dynasty?). The overall impression is of comfort and calm. Probably just what we need in these times of crunching credit and creeping prices.

Darina is justifiably well regarded as not only a teacher but also an author. I have reviewed most of her books over these last weeks and they are all of a universally high standard but more importantly they are all a good read. A Year at Ballymaloe Cookery School will be appreciated by lovers of her friendly and warm-hearted style.

This particular book focuses on the use of fresh and seasonal produce. We might not all have access to a good market but we can all, at least, chose the best that the change of seasons has to offer. It makes sense to buy vegetables when they are plentiful and at a good (one hopes) price. Darina's book will give you an idea of what you should be looking for as the months go by.

The recipes are divided, as you would expect, by the four seasons. Those chapters each list Starters, Main Courses, Vegetables and Puddings. It’s nice to see those sweet things referred to as “puddings”. Sounds old-fashioned, cheering and comfy, although the puds here are trendy.

Steak and Oyster Pie is a classic and it’s good to see that combination of traditional and modern in the same collection. Thai Chicken, Galingale and Coriander Soup is a good example of the newer face of cooking. A Year at Ballymaloe Cookery School represents how both the Irish and British eat (or would like to eat) these days.

Darina's recipe for Christmas Semi-freddo with Raisins and Marrons Glacés is so good that it would be worth buying this book just for that. It’s one of those desserts that is simple to prepare, stunning to look at and delicious. A light change from the usual Christmas Pudding and the beauty of it is that you can make this ages in advance.

A Year at Ballymaloe Cookery School is a joy and another Allen family triumph!

A Year at Ballymaloe Cookery School
Author: Darina Allen
Published: Kyle Cathie
Price: £14.99
ISBN 978-1-85626-709-0
Mostly Food and Travel Journal Darina Allen

Irish Traditional Cooking

Irish Traditional Cooking

Darina Allen is surely one of the most celebrated Irish cooks of our time. If she isn’t then it’s probable that whoever you might consider worthy of that accolade also has the name of Allen: it’s quite a dynasty. There is no doubt though that Darina must win the contest of quickest smile and she has been described as the Irish Delia Smith.

Irish Traditional Cooking is a lovely book which Nigel Slater says “...is the equivalent of being given a big hug.” It might sound a strange thing to say of a cookbook but turn a few pages and you will feel a real glow as you imagine these comforting dishes. It’s not only this humble writer that has appreciated its quality. Irish Traditional Cooking has won the acclaimed Langhe Ceretto-SEI prize.

This is a marvellous collection of over 300 recipes. The charm of it is that we hear a little of the history of many of these dishes and learn something of the people that have passed these recipes on to Darina. Food is, after all, a catalyst for memories of special events and loved ones. Irish Traditional Cooking has contributions from frayed and ancient cookbooks as well as friends, family and professionals.

These recipes are a treat. The ingredients are simple but the dishes are flavourful, comforting, not over-taxing to prepare. Traditional recipes are sure to be good as they have already withstood the test of time. There is even a recipe for tripe that sounds tempting and I didn’t think you would ever hear me say that!

I will, over the next weeks, be grazing my way through this book. I’ll probably start with Beef and Guinness Stew or will it be Ballymaloe Spiced Beef? No, no, I’ll go with the Pot Roasted Pork Steaks. It’s not that easy to pick favourites. Buy the book and you’ll work your way from cover to cover just as I intend to.

Irish Traditional Cooking has all the usual suspects, those dishes you would have heard of, but there are so many more that have obviously been regulars on Irish tables for years. Plum Cakes, home-made cheeses, Goose Pudding and Irish Stew Pie are just some of the dishes that are a bit different from the potatoes that you were no doubt expecting.

Darina has penned what is probably the definitive Irish Cookbook. Anyone who recognises the value of traditional cooking will enjoy this. This is home cooking at its best.

Irish Traditional Cooking
Author: Darina Allen
Published by: Kyle Cathie
Price: £14.99
ISBN 978-1-85626-497-6
Mostly Food and Travel Journal Darina Allen

Easy Entertaining

The words “easy” and “entertaining” are not often found in close proximity to each other but here they are in cosy partnership as the title for this wonderful book from Ireland’s Queen of Cuisine Darina Allen. This lady never disappoints, and the photography by Peter Cassidy is crisp and stunning. Easy Entertaining

Easy Entertaining is not only a cookbook, it also has styling and presentation suggestions. It’s a one-stop entertaining manual that will give the novice party-giver some confidence and the seasoned bash-thrower a different perspective. There are over 250 stress-free recipes to enhance any occasion.

Darina offers advice on menu planning, creating atmosphere (I personally am not keen on mirror disco balls), getting the party going, and choosing wine and drinks. If you are new to entertaining then you should read these chapters before you buy the crate of Newcastle Brown and the cheese puffs.

The most challenging element of your venture will be deciding what type of “do” will be most appropriate for your guests. If the average age of those friends is 5 ¾ years then you might consider looking at the Children's Food chapter rather than Formal Suppers. A Big Brunch could be the way to go if you have family who have a long drive home, and Prepare-ahead Suppers will give you no-fuss dishes for those evenings when time is an issue.

The recipes are broad-based and exciting. You can mix and match all of these. Icky Sticky Sausage Wraps from the Children’s Food chapter could be used as part of an adult brunch. Gateau Pithivier with Gruyere and Ham from the Portable Food chapter could easily be enjoyed as part of a formal supper. Darina Allen isn’t going to come round and smack your leg (not legal now) if you have your own menu combinations.

I’d be happy to munch my way through all these recipes. There are stylish snacks like Rory’s Spicy Popcorn which couldn’t be easier. The spices in question are chilli, pepper, cumin, curry powder, fresh ginger and garlic. Mouth-watering! Temari Sushi (Clingfilm Sushi) is new to me but what a great idea. Sushi rice is formed using the aforementioned clingfilm. Attractive little balls are simple to produce and a lot less terrifying than the usual rolled varieties of sushi.

The Slow Food chapter has some comforting winter warmers. Beef and Oxtail Stew with Parsnip Mash isn’t difficult to make and has a rich texture and flavour. What could be better on a cold night, followed by Steamed Sultana Pudding? Then there is Slow-roasted Shoulder of Lamb with Cumin Seeds. Now, this is almost no-cooking cooking. Put in a low oven and leave for a few hours. Your kitchen will be filled with the most delicious aromas.

Easy Entertaining isn’t just for entertaining. It’s simply a great cookbook with inspiring recipes that will become family favourites. Another success, Darina!

Easy Entertaining
Author: Darina Allen
Published by: Kyle Cathie
Price: £16.99
ISBN 978-1-85626-761-8
Mostly Food and Travel Journal Darina Allen

Ballymaloe Cookery CourseBallymaloe Cookery Course

If you only want to own and use one cookbook then you should consider the Ballymaloe Cookery Course. It’s a hefty tome but it’s big for a reason. It’s got probably more information than most of us will ever need. A real one-stop cooking manual.


Darina Allen has endeared herself to millions all over the world with her on-screen charm and sunny disposition. Her Ballymaloe cookery school has been a resounding success and this book is the portable version of that popular establishment.

There is nothing missing, nothing left to chance. Nigel Slater of the Observer says “Lovely recipes and plenty of help for the new cook.” It has a solid and convincing feel. Darina has a fine reputation and writes in a style which is clear and conversational. The photographs by Ray Main and Peter Cassidy are many and marvellous with ample step-by-step illustrations. Storecupboard ingredients and temperature and weight conversion charts, as well as basic stock recipes are also included.

Apart from looking at the pretty pictures you will probably want to cook from this book. Although this is a complete cookery bible it’s not old-fashioned and the recipes cover not only the traditional but also newer trends and ethnic dishes. There is everything here from oranges to offal. The choice of recipes is staggering: 1100 delicious dishes should be enough to keep even the keenest cook going for a good while.

So let’s eat! Some recipes are Ballymaloe Cookery School originals but there are a thousand others as well. There are some traditional Irish dishes but lots of other international recipes. North Indian Fruit Chat, Petits Pots de Gibier (a savoury custard), Yakiniku (marinated beef), Vietnamese Pork and Lemongrass Patties are just a few of the more exotic offerings.

Ballymaloe Cookery Course is just what the title says. It’s a book that takes you through a wide spectrum of kitchen skills. You are supplied with all the technical advice and culinary support that you’ll need to become a confident and competent cook. Include this book on your “must have” list of cookbooks. This would make an ideal gift for anyone leaving home and starting a life without mum as a kitchen fixture.

Ballymaloe Cookery Course
Author: Darina Allen
Published by: Kyle Cathie
Price: £30.00
ISBN 978-1-85626-729-8





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