Thursday, 12 January 2012

Week 1 in Ballymaloe Cookery School!

Day 1: Settling into my new home in Ballymaloe

Hello everyone from the beautiful Shanagarry, County Cork!! It has been an amazing few days down here in Ballymaloe Cookery School and I am definitely in my element here. I am living in the 'Barn' House with 10 other students and we are already having great craic together so I'm really looking forward to the next 12 weeks together.

This is our lovely big kitchen.

The girls in the house have taken it easy this week cooking in the evenings (I guess because we have been so stuffed!!) but the guys have been busy cooking roasts and pasta dishes so I think our kitchen will be a great place in the next few weeks!

I drove down Monday morning from Dublin, leaving at 5am, so Monday was a bit of a whirlwind for me and I think I was in dream land!! We had a briefing the first morning with Darina and then we all headed out to the gardens for a tour and to plant our own cos lettuce and sweet geranium which we have to nurture and look after while we are here.

The school, grow as much as they can during the winter months and take advantage of the huge green house they have here. I was quite surprised at how alive the garden is still. They have lots and lots of different types of lettuce and herbs, carrots, turnips, jerusalem artichokes, onions, garlic and lots more. I love that everything we eat, Darina has explained the source of the food and who has grown it, teaching us to really appreciate and support local produce.

Day 2: Fist day cooking!

We have certainly been bombarded with information over the last few days so I think it will take a few days to get into the swing of things and figure out all our different rotas and duties that we have to do!!

The day starts at roughly 8.30am in the kitchen. Thats if you don't have vegetable and salad picking or stock making duties beforehand at 7.30am! We have one teacher for every 6 people so we are getting very close tuition and help. We come in in our chef whites and gather our ingredients and start cooking by 9 and finish just in time for lunch at 12 when we then get to sit down and eat it all!!!

Demonstration starts then at 1.45, with a quick change and tidy up of the kitchens in between, and continues till about 5pm or just after.

Each day we have to do an order of work, to schedule everything we have to do that day. We each have a partner for the week and divide between the two of us recipes we have to cook for that day. We then also have a duty or two for the day which could be serving dessert, polishing cutlery, cleaning the ovens or making stock. As one of the teachers Pam explained, we are all little cogs in a large wheel! It just shows you how much it takes to organise the course and how well they have thought through everything to make it work so well.

Ballymaloe is a place which I admire so much for the dedication they put in day in and day out to their holistic attitude to daily life. Not only are people learning life skills here, but it is a whole cycle of daily life that we are learning. Everything is recycled, reused, fed to the hens, if the hens don't eat it the pigs will have it. With healthy and well fed hens they get amazingly tasting eggs. With the great compost they make, they have very rich fertile soils where they grow all their amazing organic vegetables and herbs. They dry out used lemons for fire lighters, generate their own electricity with PV panels and support every local producer they can. Even in our house we don't have a normal bin, we have so many recycling bins that everything goes somewhere and gets re-used or recycled.

Day 3: Getting into the swing of things!

Today was a really great day. Incredibly busy but I love the buzz down here. I made some Ballymaloe brown bread, dill and gruyere tart and fork biscuits. The teacher must taste each of our dishes before serving and we are marked out of 6 for them. I am delighted to say I got a 6 for my tart and 5.5 for my bread and biscuits. I was very proud of myself!!

Rachel Allen taught us this afternoon which was fabulous. I absolutely love her. Funny enough pheasant was on the menu -  after all the stick she had! She just laughed it off and got on with it and she really cooked up some amazing things.

Demo finished at 5.45 and I had to make a dash to the house to change back into my whites and down to the dairy for 6pm to make cheese. Obviously I was the first to throw up my hand to go, (I'm obsessed with cheese if any of you don't know!!) and I am so excited that I will have a cheese ready to eat in a few months with a lot of care and looking after. The cheese must be turned for the first few days every few hours so at 7.30pm we turned them, then 8.30pm and I am just back from my 10.30pm run. Tomorrow I will have to run to the dairy a few times too!!


  1. Hi Laura, have just found your blog it is a great one -well done! I have heard about the course you are writing about but apparently it is quite expensive - is that true? Do you think that taking a part will secure one a job or are you hoping to open your own thing; if what I have heard is correct then spending 12k is quite a risk in this current climate...but I guess doing something one loves is priceless!

  2. Thanks very much, I am glad you like it :-) Yes.. it is true that it is very expensive. It is one of the most well reknowned courses though and I have no doubt you would secure a job afterwards in some area of food. Ballymaloe has an amazing reputation and we are really taught by the best here so I think it is worth it! You are totally immersed and we definately will leave here know A LOT!! What are you doing yourself?

  3. I was hoping to talk to you. I am attending Ballymaloe in January of 2014. I just graduated high school last year and am taking a year off before going to college. And I have so many questions I was hoping you could answer. Like: Do I need to bring my own Chef's coat. Or could you describe and average day? like what time do you wake up to exercise to studying. anything and everything you could share would be great. Thanks so much.

  4. Hi Sara, How are you? If you'd like to email me on I will answer any questions you have. Think it would be easier to answer by email then commenting on here. Ballymaloe is amazing!