MY VISIT TO BAL­LY­MALOE

The Star Early Edition - - ANGELA DAY VERVE -

IWAS for­tu­nate enough a few years ago to cook with Ir­ish celebrity chef Rachel Allen when she vis­ited South Africa. And the cook­books of her equally fa­mous mother-in-law, Da­rina Allen, have been on my shelves for many years.

So I was thrilled, dur­ing a re­cent trip to Ire­land, to visit Bal­ly­maloe, the coun­try house cel­e­brat­ing its 50th birth­day this year.

Bal­ly­maloe was bought in 1948 by veg­etable farmer Ivan Allen, and for the next 16 years he and his wife Myr­tle farmed there and raised their six chil­dren.

When the kids left the nest, Myr­tle asked her hus­band if she could turn their din­ing room into a small restau­rant. They put a small ad­vert in the lo­cal news­pa­per invit­ing peo­ple to “Dine in a His­toric Coun­try House” and to call for a reser­va­tion.

They served tra­di­tional Ir­ish food made from lo­cal pro­duce, most of which came from the fam­ily’s farm. It turned out to be a very suc­cess­ful ven­ture.

Myr­tle, the 90-year-old ma­tri­arch, still lives on the farm with three gen­er­a­tions of the fam­ily ac­tively in­volved in run­ning the farm, coun­try house and cook­ery school.

The 14th cen­tury house may have grown and changed with the years but it still has the look and feel of a com­fort­able, not overly posh coun­try manor.

The ho­tel sec­tion has 30 gen­er­ously pro­por­tioned, ex­tremely com­fort­able rooms, and also of­fers self-cater­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion in fully equipped farm cot­tages.

A new ad­di­tion to the farm is The Grain Store, a ren­o­vated 17th cen­tury grain barn which can be used for a mul­ti­tude of func­tions from con­certs to wed­dings.

The gar­dens at Bal­ly­maloe are a sight to be­hold and would take a cou­ple of days to ex­plore. In a sec­tion of the beau­ti­ful herb gar­den, a pear tree was laden with fruit wait­ing to be turned into

No cook would visit Ire­land with­out stop­ping at Bal­ly­maloe. The coun­try ho­tel and cook­ery school lived up to Jenny Kay’s ex­pec­ta­tions

de­lec­ta­ble pre­serves and desserts by the chefs in the kitchen.

I was in­vited to join pas­try chef John Robert Ry­dall for an ear­ly­morn­ing bak­ing ses­sion. At 6.30 each morn­ing, fresh bread and scones are baked for break­fast and chef JR, who has worked at Bal­ly­maloe since he was 15, showed me how to make soda bread, which is served ev­ery­where in Ire­land.

The but­ter­milk which comes from the farm gives the bread its light tex­ture and unique flavour.

I also helped pre­pare a batch of Bal­ly­maloe’s brown bread and some feather-light but­ter­milk scones which I en­joyed with farm but­ter and home-made straw­berry jam.

JR told me the jam is made with frozen straw­ber­ries. When the fruit is abun­dant in sum­mer, they freeze them so they can make jam all year around. “Jam made fresh from frozen berries is much nicer than jam stand­ing in bot­tles for months on end,” he said.

Rory Allen, Myr­tle’s son, took me on a tour of the cook­ery school where I met the school founder, Da­rina Allen. All the kitchens were a hive of ac­tiv­ity, with full-time stu­dents busy with their lessons for the day.

Stu­dents come from all over the world to do an in­ten­sive three­month course and learn ev­ery as­pect of farm-to-fork cook­ing.

They have to milk cows, learn how to make but­ter and cheese and har­vest their own pro­duce from the 100-acre or­ganic farm hous­ing an enor­mous green­house.

Stu­dents who train here are guar­an­teed of get­ting good jobs. Past stu­dents in­clude Rachel Allen and MasterChef win­ner Thomasina Miers.

Bal­ly­maloe is also fa­mous for its Coun­try Rel­ish which be­came so popular that guests started ask­ing to buy bot­tles to take home. Such was the de­mand that Myr­tle’s daugh­ter Yas­min opened a fac­tory close by mak­ing the rel­ish for lo­cal and over­seas mar­kets.

I too came home with a cou­ple of bot­tles. For more in­for­ma­tion visit

www.bal­ly­maloe.ie or www.ire­land.com.

PIC­TURE: JENNY KAY

A fam­ily-run business, Bal­ly­maloe House in Cork, Ire­land, is cel­e­brat­ing 50 years in business.

Sit­u­ated on a fully cer­ti­fied their mark. 100 acre or­ganic

farm, the Bal­ly­maloe Cook­ery School is world fa­mous and has turned out

chefs that have made

Bal­ly­maloe stu­dents ben­e­fit

from an abun­dance of fruit grown on the farm and and vegetables

the one acre wide glasshouses.

The bed­rooms at Bal­ly­maloe are charm­ing, with beau­ti­ful

views.

PIC­TURE: RTE

Da­rina, Rachel and Myr­tle Allen from Bal­ly­maloe.

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