Darina Allen: A sample of some of the exquisite food cooked during Litfest

We’re sitting on the bouncy grass on the cliffs above Ballyandreen Strand watching the waves crashing onto the rocks below. 

It’s a beautiful day, the sea pinks and mallow are in full bloom. 

It has become a tradition to have a breakfast picnic on the Monday after the Litfest with some of the speakers whose flights leave late in the afternoon.

Lovely Claudia Roden is with us, at 81 years of age, she’s still super sprightly and still writing and cooking .

Earlier in the day she had been foraging on the seashore with Alys Fowler and given a talk on My Favourite Ingredients in the Cookery School. 

Everywhere she turned someone wanted a photo, for many at the Litfest, meeting and having the opportunity to chat to Claudia was a highlight of the weekend and there were many many highlights at Litfest 2017. 

Ben Reade and Sashana Souza Zanella from Edinburgh Food Studio spent three days cooking for Saturday night dinner, it was a triumph. 

Robin Gill from The Dairy in London also cooked a memorable Pop Up lunch at Ballymaloe on Saturday, Margot Henderson from Rochelle Canteen worked her magic on Sunday lunch. 

Jason Fahey and his team cooked the delicious food for the Natural Wine dinner at Ballymaloe House with the legendary Isabelle Legeron.

There were many inspirational and thought provoking events in the Grain Store on the theme of Our Responsibility. Vytenis Andriukaitis, EU Commissioner of Health and Food Safety spoke passionately about food waste. 

He was born in a Gulag in Siberia and he still remembers what it was like to be hungry .

Joanna Blythman, an investigative journalist and broadcaster, urged us to base our diet on whole unprocessed foods that we cook ourselves. 

Her talks brought people from far and wide and urged us to be wary and aware of the dangers of heavily processed food and not to allow ourselves to be misled by labelling.

Professor Ted Dinan’s talk on Diet Stress and Mental Health also had huge impact as did young agrarian leader, Severine von Tscharner-Fleming, from the Greenhorn Movement in New York, who spoke on The Farmer’s Life. Asylum seeker, Ellie Kisyombe’s talk was also deeply moving.

The Great Grocers panel, which included Peter Ward from Country Choice, Ruth Healy from Urru, from London, Leila McAllister from Leila’s, Sally Clarke from Clarkes and Sally Butcher from Persepolis got us thinking about the need to support independent shops.

All weekend, the Drinks Theatre was crammed with people who came to see Colm McCan’s line-up, which included Isabelle Legeron who spoke about natural wines, Mary Dowey on champagne and sparkling wines, Kristen Jensen’s Irish craft brewers, and our own Ger Buckley, cooper from Irish Distillers.

For me, one of the frustrations was not being able to get to every single event. 

Rachel and I spent most of my time at the Ballymaloe Cooking School hosting inspirational chefs — among them Sunil Ghai from Pickle in Dublin, Clare Lattin and Tom Hill from Duck Soup in London, Monika Linton from Brindisa, Jacob Kennedy from Boca di Lupo who were doing cooking demonstrations. 

Others wandered around the Big Shed, organic farm and Ballymaloe walled gardens and learned how to sow seed with GIY. 

Sumayya Usmani’s Karhai Ginger Chicken

Darina Allen: A sample of some of the exquisite food cooked during Litfest

On the days I was greeted with the hot citrus tang of fresh ginger from my grandmother’s garden as it was sliced artfully into julienne pieces, I knew I was getting Pakistani-style ginger chicken for supper. 

This is a dish that is found in every restaurant and home in Pakistan and is simple and quick to make, with bursts of raw ginger added at the end for a fresh finish. 

Serve with a daal and rice — and you can substitute chicken with boneless duck or turkey for a fuller flavour.

Preparation 10 minutes/Cooking 25–30 minutes/ Serves 4


  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp of garlic purée
  • 1 tsp of grated ginger
  • 200g (7oz) chicken breast cut into 5cm (2 inch) chunks
  • 2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 tbsp plain yoghurt
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground turmeric
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter


  • 5cm (2 inch) piece ginger, peeled and cut into julienne
  • Handful of coriander (cilantro) leaves, chopped
  • 2 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 10 mint leaves, chopped

Heat the oil in wok-style pan over a medium heat. When hot, add the cumin and allow to splutter for 30 seconds. 

Add the garlic purée and grated ginger and fry for a further 30 seconds, or until the raw smell of garlic disappears.

Add the chicken to the pan and fry until it is sealed all over. 

Add the tomatoes and cook for 5–7 minutes until softened, then add the tomato purée and the yoghurt and cook for 8–10 minutes, or until the oil starts to separate. 

Add the red chilli powder, black pepper, turmeric and salt and cook for a further 5–7 minutes until the chicken is done. 

Add the butter before turning off the heat and letting the butter melt.

Before serving, add the julienned ginger, coriander, green chillies and mint, and stir through.

Jacob Kennedy’s Courgette Carpaccio with Parmesan and Anchovy

Darina Allen: A sample of some of the exquisite food cooked during Litfest

In spring and early summer, joy sprouts from the soil in leafy greens and a bounty of vegetables. 

Younger courgettes (where the seedy core is still embryonic) are delicious barely cooked, or boiled until tender and drenched in olive oil — but really sing raw. 

I like to use the Romano variety — firm, dry, sweet and mild, with a beautiful ridged form that makes stars when sliced. 

These are the best, for everything, but any courgette will make for a nice dish, particularly the paler skinned varieties.

Serves 4 as a starter


  • 600g (1¼lb) youngish courgettes
  • 8 fillets salted anchovy
  • 4 tbsp very finely diced parmesan
  • A few whole flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Slice the courgettes across into very thin roundels. 

Arrange flat on a plate like a carpaccio. 

Chop the anchovy fillets coarsely or slice them lengthways into thin strips and lay on top of the courgettes. 

Season with salt and a little pepper. Scatter with the parmesan and parsley, and drizzle with oil. Serve straight away.

Jacob Kenedy, Bocca di Lupo (LitFest 2017)

Clare Lattin and Tom Hill’s Gnudi with Watercress and Goat’s Curd

Darina Allen: A sample of some of the exquisite food cooked during Litfest

These great little ricotta dumplings — not to be confused with gnocchi, which are made using wheat flour and potatoes — are simple to make and take just a few minutes to cook. 

We can’t recommend making gnudi enough because everyone always loves it. We’ve chosen one of our favourite ways to serve gnudi here. If you are having a few friends over, make gnudi.

Serves 4


For the gnudi

  • 500g (18oz) ricotta
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 30g (1¼oz) ‘00’ flour
  • 30g (1¼oz) grated Parmesan
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2kg (4½lbs) semolina flour, for dusting
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve

  • 80g (3¼oz) butter
  • 100ml (3½fl oz) extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • Large bunch of watercress, thick stalks removed
  • 160g (5¼oz) goats’ curd or a good-quality cottage cheese
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the ricotta, egg yolk, ‘00’ flour and Parmesan together in a bowl, then add the lemon zest and salt and pepper and mix again.

In a large, deep, non-reactive baking tray or plastic container spread out a layer of semolina flour, about 5mm thick.

Roll the gnudi mixture into 10 balls and then place on the semolina flour in a single layer, making sure they do not touch each other.

Once you’ve used up all the mixture completely cover the gnudi with the remaining semolina flour and chill in the fridge for 24 hours. After 24 hours the semolina will have formed a crust on the gnudi — this helps the dumplings hold their shape.

When you’re ready to cook the gnudi bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, dust off the excess semolina flour (any excess semolina flour can be kept in the fridge and used again) and boil for 3 minutes, reserving some of the cooking water.

To serve

Heat the butter and olive oil together in a large pan until the butter begins to foam. 

Add the watercress and couple a small ladles of the gnudi cooking water and stir gently. 

As soon as the watercress starts to wilt, add the goats’ curd or cottage cheese and give it another stir (you may need to add a little more of the gnudi water to thin the sauce slightly).

Drain the gnudi and add to the sauce. Give everything a gentle stir, being careful not to break the gnudi. 

Divide the gnudi and sauce between four bowls and finish each bowl with a grating of lemon zest, a good drizzle of olive oil and a few twists of black pepper.

Clare Lattin and Tom Hill from Duck Soup (LitFest 2017)

Hot tips

Cookery Demonstration

To raise funds for Aaron McMahon’s brain tumour treatment, join Debbie Shaw at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Thursday, June 8, at 7pm. She will teach a Middle Eastern Summer Feast.

Tickets must be pre-purchased and available from Debbie 086-3893768 or at the Ballymaloe Cookery School Farm Shop, 021-4646785.

Limerick’s International Food Truck Festival

Running from June 1 to June 5 in the People’s Park, don’t miss this fun event. The weekend will see Limerick going large on food trucks when the European Food Truck Association will bring 60 food trucks from 14 countries to the city’s People’s Park.





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