Top chefs reflect on what Darina Allen means to them

Drawn by Darina’s endless enthusiasm and passion for good food, the greatest minds of the global food scene come to Ballymaloe to teach, and leave having learned a lesson of their own.

Top chefs reflect on what Darina Allen means to them

Drawn by Darina’s endless enthusiasm and passion for good food, the greatest minds of the global food scene come to Ballymaloe to teach, and leave having learned a lesson of their own.

"Three or five times a year we invite a chef whose food we admire and enjoy to the Ballymaloe Cookery School to teach a course and give us a taste of their food.

"Everyone has their own style and quirky personality to keep us entertained.”

- Saturday August 17, 2013

Skye Gyngell

Originally from Australia, Skye, left, is one of the UK’s most acclaimed chefs. She incorporates the kind of zero-waste, ingredient-led style of cooking that Darina champions at her beautiful London restaurant Spring.

“Darina has more energy, enthusiasm and curiosity than anyone else I know! In or outside the food world. She always has her finger on the pulse! There is not a new restaurants that she hasn’t been too whether it be in Ireland, New York, London or far up the north coast of New South Wales.

"I’ve known her come to London and eat three lunches in one day just so she doesn’t miss out on a thing. She is a brilliant and generous teacher, a forward thinker and a great supporter of young people in our industry.

Over the years I have had many Ballymaloe students through the kitchen both at Petersham and at Spring. They always arrive with true respect and love of beautiful, raw ingredients which is all I ever look for!

"Her warm hearted and infectious enthusiasm for young cooks is important and vital. Ballymaloe is constantly transforming and moving forward while at the same time maintaining all the charm of years past.

"I find that gorgeous contradiction to be completely unique. Ballymaloe is a happy and inspiring place for me. I jump at any chance to go.

"Her importance in the food world cannot be under estimated. She is without doubt one of the most important people working in the food world today. She is a total inspiration for me, I could only ever aspire to be her!

"This recipe comes from my book Spring and is inspired by the summer pudding they make at Ballymaloes.”


Serves 8–10

  • For the sponge:
  • 15g unsalted butter, plus extra to grease
  • 7 free-range medium eggs, separated
  • 375g caster sugar
  • Small pinch of salt
  • 360g plain flour, sifted
  • 5 tbsp warm water
  • For the fruit:
  • 300g blackcurrants
  • 250g caster sugar
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 200g blackberries
  • 200g raspberries
  • 100g strawberries
    • [/factbox]

      For the sponge, heat the oven to 180˚C/Gas 4 and grease a 33 by 23cm baking tin. Melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat; set aside to cool. Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg yolks with half the sugar until pale and thick enough to leave aribbon trail on the surface when the whisk is lifted.

      In a separate, clean bowl, whisk the eggs whites with a pinch of salt and remaining sugar, whisking slowly to begin with, then increasing the speed slightly after a minute or two.

      Continue to whisk until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Carefully fold the flour into the egg yolk and sugar mix, a third at a time, alternately with the water. Fold in the whisked whites, third at a time. Finally, fold in the melted butter.

      Spread the mixture thinly and evenly in the preparedbaking tin. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for eight to10 minutes or until the sponge is just golden and dry to touch. Leave in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out and cool on a wire rack while you prepare the fruit.

      Place the black and redcurrants in a saucepan with the sugar and lemon juice and cook over a medium heat untilthe fruit just starts to release its juices. Remove from heat and add the rest of the fruit and the lemon zest. Let stand for a few minutes to allow the flavours to develop.

      Line a one-litre pudding basin with cling film, leaving plenty overhanging all round. Using a pastry cutter, cut two rounds of sponge, one to fit the bottom of the basin and one the diameter of the top.

      Place the smaller disc in the bottom of the basin. Now cut long, tapering strips of sponge and use to line the sides of the basin, overlapping them slightly and pressing tightly to ensure there are no gaps.

      Using a slotted spoon, spoon the fruit into the sponge-lined basin, filling it to the brim. Spoon on the juices, reserving a few spoonfuls for serving. Lay the other sponge disc on top. Fold over the clingfilm to seal and place a saucer on top that just fits inside the rim of the basin.

      Weigh down with a tin(or something similar) and refrigerate overnight.To serve, fold back the clingfilm and invert the pudding onto a deep plate. Smear any pale areas of sponge with the reserved juice.


      ONE of the most respected and most loved food writers in the business, Claudia Roden says that it is Darina’s excitement and enthusiasm that brings the magic to Ballymaloe.

      “When Darina called some 36-years ago to ask me to give a class I wondered what the Irish would make of Middle Eastern food. It was not then fashionable as it is now, and Ireland was not then known for its interest in food.

      "Darina visited me in London and we went through my books to decide what I would demonstrate. She made a giant list. I kept saying ‘that’s too much’, and she kept saying ‘I’ll help you’.

      "At Ballymaloe she was ready with all the ingredients, vegetables just out of the ground, wild things just picked, perfect meat, freshly delivered fish, barely known spices and aromatics.

      When she thought we might have time to do one more thing we rushed to Ballycotton and got a monkfish.

      "I felt then that this is where I could choose to live for ever. Being around Darina was a lesson about the enjoyment of good food, respect for ingredients and the land, for farmers and fishermen and artisanal producers — unusual back then.

      "Here is the Moroccan sauce we made for the fish.”


      Serves 6

    • Bunch of coriander (around 75g with stalks), leaves only, chopped
    • 2-4 garlic cloves, crushed
    • 1 tsp ground cumin
    • 1 tsp paprika
    • Salt
    • The juice of 1 lemon
    • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • Pinch chilli pepper (optional)
      • [/factbox]

        Mix all the ingredients together. Store in a covered container in the fridge.

        Yotam Ottolenghi

        Renowned food writer and restauranteur, Yotam Ottolenghi says Darina’s drive makes others want to contribute more than they thought possible.

        “Darina has the most unusual ability to demand the absolute most fromthe people around her. Normally, when I give a demonstration, I’d cook two to three recipes, tops.

        "During our day at Ballymaloe, Darina had Sami and I demonstrate 15 recipes. This was unheard of in the world of chefs! I guess what makes this possible is Darina’s total commitment to ‘the cause’.

        "She would never ask anyone to do anything she wouldn’t do herself, threefold. Her ability to demand is surpassed only by her ability to give. Darina is one of the most generous and the most exacting people I have ever met.

        "This is a version of the koftas that we cooked that day.”


        Serves 6, Makes 18 kofta

      • 400g minced lamb
      • 400g minced veal or beef
      • 150g onion, finely chopped
      • 2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
      • 50g toasted pine nuts, roughly chopped, plus extra whole ones to garnish
      • 30g flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, plus extra to serve
      • 1 large medium-hot red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
      • 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
      • 1.5 tsp ground allspice
      • .75 tsp grated nutmeg
      • 1.5 tsp ground black pepper
      • 1.5 tsp salt
      • For the sauce:
      • 150g light tahini paste
      • 3 tbsp lemon juice
      • 1 medium clove of garlic, crushed
      • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
      • 30g unsalted butter or ghee (optional)
      • sweet paprika, to garnish
        • [/factbox]

          Put all the kofta ingredients in a bowl and use your hands to mix everything together well. Now shape into long, torpedo-like fingers, roughly 8cm long (about 60g each).

          Press the mix to compress it and ensure the kofta is tight and keeps its shape. Arrange on a plate and chill until you are ready to cook them, for up to one day.

          Heat the oven to 220˚C/gas mark 7.

          In a medium bowl whisk together the tahini paste, lemon juice, 120ml water, garlic and a quarter of a teaspoon of salt. The sauce should be a bitrunnier than honey; add one or two tablespoons of water if needed.

          Heat the sunflower oil in a large frying-pan and sear the kofta over a high heat; do this in batches so they are not cramped together. Sear them on all sides until golden brown, about six minutes for each batch.

          At this point they should be medium-rare. Lift out of the pan and arrange on an oven tray. If you want them medium or well-done, put the tray in the oven for two to four minutes.

          Spoon the tahini sauce around the kofta, so it covers the base of the tray. If you like, also drizzle some over the kofta but leave some of the meat exposed. Place in the oven for a minute or two, just to warm up the sauce a little.

          Meanwhile, if you are using the butter, melt it in a small saucepan and allow it to brown a little, taking care that it doesn’t burn. Spoon the butter over the kofta as soon as they come out of the oven.

          Scatter with pine nuts and parsley and finally sprinkle some paprika on top. Serve at once.

          Jerusalem A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (Ebury) is out now

          Alice Waters

          THE chef, who many say broke the mould and started America’s farm-to-table revolution, Alice Waters makes Darina’s soda bread every Christmas morning.

          “There are few places in the world where I feel more at home than at Ballymaloe. Darina has created a magical community there, one deeply connected to family, the beauty of the land, and the rich culture of Ireland.

          "I treasure our friendship and have learned so much from her — which is why every Christmas morning, my daughter Fanny and I now have a tradition of making our own Irish breakfast: scrambled eggs, sustainable smoked Irish salmon, a little champagne, and, of course, Darina’s famous soda bread.

          "Through the years, we have taken our own liberties with the recipe — sometimes we make our soda bread with half white flour and half whole wheat, sometimes we bake it in a Dutch oven in the fireplace.

          "One year, we realized we even forgot to put the baking soda in!

          “We hastily pulled the still-uncooked loaf from the oven and stirred in the soda after the fact; shockingly, the bread came out all right, which shows how utterly forgiving that recipe is.

          “Hot from the oven and slicked with a little butter, Darina’s soda bread is the perfect food: delicate yet hearty, celebratory, simple, delicious.

          "Most importantly, it invokes the warm and generous spirit of Darina, bringing us together around the table to give thanks for all that we have.”


          Makes one loaf

        • 450g (white flour, preferably unbleached
        • 1 level tsp salt
        • 1 level tsp bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)
        • Sour milk or buttermilk to mix- 350-400ml (12-14fl oz) approx.
          • [/factbox]

            First fully preheat your oven to 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8. Sieve the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre. Pour most of the milk in at once.

            Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky.

            When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured worked surface. Wash and dry your hands. Tidy it up and flip over gently.

            Pat the dough into a round, about 2.5cm (1 1/2 inches) deep and cut a cross on it to let the fairies out! Let the cuts go over the sides of the bread to make sure of this.

            Bake in a hot oven, 230ºC/gas mark 8 for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6 for 30 minutes or until cooked.

            If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: if it is cooked it will sound hollow.


            Renowned for his passion when it comes to local,seasonal ingredients, chef Richard Corrigan says that Darina is “quite a lady — an inspiration to us all. She is both gourmand and gourmet.”

            “I always remember a particular day that I saw Darina at a farmer’s market in Midleton. It was a Saturday morning in the most howling of gales! She was at her usual best, talking up the artisan small stallholders and their produce.

            "Watching her, you couldn’t not be inspired by her dedication and enthusiasm for food and produce in Ireland. She is a true inspiration. This recipe reminds me of her, it epitomises comfort and respect for ingredients.

            "I make it for my family when they’re in need of a little heartening, and I can just picture her heading home that day to make it for her own.”


            Serves 4

          • 1 leek
          • some thyme, parsley stalks and 2 bay leaves for a bouquet garni
          • 1 free-range chicken
          • 1 carrot
          • 1 stick celery
          • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
          • 1 onion
          • salsa verde, to serve
          • Herb dumplings:
          • a little butter
          • Half onion, very finely chopped
          • 1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
          • 50g plain flour
          • 50g semolina
          • 4 egg yolks
          • 450g plain mashed potatoes
          • 2 tbsp each tarragon and parsley, very finely chopped
          • a pinch of salt
            • [/factbox]

              First make the dumplings. Heat the butter in a pan and sweat the onion and garlic until soft. In a bowl, mix the flour and semolina, make a well in the centre and mix in the egg yolks, then the mashed potato and herbs. Season with salt.

              Flour your hands well, take pieces of the mixture (it will be quite sticky) and roll into balls, about the size of a golf ball. The trick to keeping the dumplings in one piece is to twice-cook them, otherwise they are liable to break up.

              So bring a pan of salted water to the boil, put in the dumplings and cook until they rise to the top.

              Drain carefully, refresh gently under the cold tap, then put them on a tray or plate and leave in the fridge until the chicken is done.

              Use part of the outer layers of the leek (washed well) to wrap around the herbs and make abouquet garni. Tie with string and then tie the string to the handle of a large pot.

              Put the chicken in the pot with the whole vegetables, bouquet garni and enough water to cover, then bring to the boil, skim and turn down the heat.

              Simmer gently for an hour, then check that the juices of the chicken run clear when you pierce one of thethighs with a fork. Discard thevegetables, as all their flavourwill have been sapped into the broth.

              Lift the chicken out of the broth and put it on a warm platter. Take the dumplings from the fridgeand drop them into the broth. Simmer for about three minutes, until heated through. Lift out with a slotted spoon and arrange around the chicken.

              Spoon a little of the broth over the chicken and dumplings and serve the rest separately in ajug. Serve with the salsa verde.

              The Clatter of Forks and Spoons by Richard Corrigan (Harper Collins) is out now.

              Christian Puglisi

              Puglisi is one of the Nordic region’s most inspirational chefs. His restaurant Relae is in the World’s Top 50 restaurants and he also owns Manfred and Baest; a pizzeria with a difference, where the mozzarella is made from the raw milk of the Jersey cows and the cured meats and salami are all handmade and cured in the kitchen.

              He says that Darina inspired his way of cooking.

              “When I had my first opportunity to visit the LitFest and Ballymaloe was also the first time I got to truly see Darina in her right element — as a phenomenal host surrounded by what she and her family had built together.

              "Ballymaloe was a revelation to me and an embodiment of her and her family’s fascination for tasty food and heartfelt and pragmatic activism to defend it.

              “I was curious about how I as a chef could have an influence on the quality of food beyond the restaurant and when I saw how the Litfest gathered profiled chefs, winemakers, brewers and journalists alongside local potato farmers around the joy of food I knew this was the way.

              "I realised that my cooking had to be closer connected to farming to truly make a difference. I returned to Denmark inspired and established the Farm of Ideas the following year.

              "We need more people to advocate the case for good food with the same tenacious passion, knowledge and palate as Darina Allen."


              Serves 6

            • Blanched spring onions
            • 1kg small white spring onions, peeled and halved lengthwise
            • Extra virgin olive oil
            • Freshly squeezed lemon juice
            • Fine grain salt
            • Finishing
            • 60g buttermilk and crème fraiche Dressing see recipe
            • 2 bunches nasturtium, leaved picked and torn, stems cut into 1cm lengths
            • Extra virgin olive oil
            • Freshly squeezed lemon juice
            • Sea salt
            • Buttermilk and crème fraîche dressing:
            • 100 g crème fraîche
            • 15 g freshly squeezed lemon juice
            • 200 g buttermilk
            • Fine grain salt
              • [/factbox]

                Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over a high heat. Add the onions to the boiling water and allow the pot to come back to a boil. Decrease the heat to low and simmer until the onions are just cooked, but still slightly crunchy, 8-10 minutes.

                Transfer the onions to ice water to cool. Drain the onions in a colander and pick apart the onion shells, discarding the tougher outer layers. Transfer the onions to a large bowl and dress with olive oil, lemon juice and salt.

                Next make the dressing. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the crème fraiche and the lemon juice to combine.

                Slowly pour in the buttermilk, continuing to whisk, until the mixture is slightly thickened,approximately five minutes.

                Season with salt.

                For each serving, place a spoonful of the buttermilk and crème fraiche dressing in the centre of the plate. Place a torn nasturtium leaf inside each onion shell and place on top of the dressing.

                Starting from the left side, place 10 to 12 onion shells, one behind the other, until the dressing is covered. Place 5or 6 nasturtium stem piecesbetween the onions, slightly angled upward. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil, 3 sprays of lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt.

                Reprinted with permission from Relae: A Book of Ideas by Christian F Puglisi copyright ©2014. Photographs copyright ©2014 by Per-Anders Jorgensen

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