I have never hidden my admiration for Darina Allen, the High Queen of Irish cooking. As a cook and as a person she is pretty amazing and has borne certain domestic issues with a remarkable stoicism. It is perhaps her photogenic daughter in law Rachael who is better known but it is Darina who is the real deal as a cook and as a late birthday present for the Mrs we are off to see her this weekend in Cork, in the “The Old Country”, that is to say Eire.
It was Darina’s mother in law Myrtle Allen who started the phenomena that is Ballymaloe. It is a stunning country house – now containing an amazing restaurant – near Cork. Up the road is the cooking school which is surrounded by acres of organic gardens in the style of an old Country house. The fish comes in fresh from the sea at nearby Ballycotton and Darina is a champion of all things organic and locally produced. Natch that brings her into conflict with the regulation mad Evil Empire – Brussels edicts are the death of the small scale producers of foods such as cheese.
I’ve done a couple of courses there and one day shall shock you all by taking three months away from serious full time writing to do the full time course as a little treat for myself. Perhaps that could be my bonus from pizza hard man Darren Atwater when Quindell goes bust?
On this occasion it is the Mrs who is being treated to a half day course – I shall sit tapping away on my laptop outside. I think the deluded lefty pals if the Mrs think that me giving her a cooking course as a Birthday present is a sign of my patriarchy or some such nonsenses but the Mrs – not a bad cook at all – says she is looking forward to it. And so she should – what an amazing birthday present!
I too am looking forward to going back to Cork and to Ballymaloe. The last time I was there I was just wandering through the gardens and bumped into Darina and we spent a good while chatting about, I think, apples and cheeses. She’s the real deal not only as a cook but as a person.