Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Ballymaloe Cookery Course Cookbook Review

I bought Darina Allen's Ballymaloe Cookery Course cookbook on a whim. I was buying some cookery books I really wanted from The Book People (which I seem to be somewhat obsessed with!) and I came across this book and thought I'd give it a go. Turns out it was a very good choice.

It says on the front that it's 'the cook's bible' and I'd have to agree. There are 28 index pages altogether, that's an awful lot of recipes! Darina Allen is the mother-in-law of Rachel Allen and the founder of the Ballymaloe Cookery School in County Cork. This cookery book is an updated version that was originally released in 2001 and aims to teach the kinds of recipes that Daria teachers in her school. There are a whopping 24 chapters as well as a comprehensive introduction which includes kitchen safety, store cupboard basics and using the freezer. There is also a conversion chart and a great glossary.

As this is such a huge cookbook there isn't room for a photo per recipe, sometimes there are 5 or 6 recipes per 2 pages as well as variations; but there some lovely photos of how to perform certain tasks just as rolling spring rolls or how to line tartlet cases.

Each chapter starts with some background to the ingredients and how to source the best items you can. The Fish and Seafood chapter for example explains how to buy fresh fish and shellfish, even how to pick up lobsters and crabs so they don't pinch you. She then gives you guidance on how to prepare a whole salmon, how to fillet flat fish or skin Dover Sole. Throughout the book there are master recipes which would give anyone a great range of basic recipes to build on, then there are hundreds of variations and other recipe ideas.

Granted I know how to make Tabouleh but I thought I'd follow the recipe from this book and it didn't disappoint. I've been craving tabouleh recently, it must be as it's warmer weather - or maybe I just need to compensate for all the cakes I tried in France! I added some feta cubes to make it a little more substantial.

I picked up some pigs cheeks from the supermarket the other week and then froze them, not quite sure what to do with them! We cook a lot of pork shoulder in our house, usually in cider, so I guessed a slow-cooked piece of pork would no doubt be delicious, no matter the cut. There was a recipe for Pork Cheeks with Savoy Cabbage cooked with cider but I wanted to try something different so I took the cooking method and applied it to the Carbonnade of Pork with Mushrooms. Pork fillet was the specified cut but it worked extremely well with the pork cheeks. The sauce was absolutely delicious, a mix of onion, white wine, chicken stock and sour cream with a dash of lemon juice. I cooked it for 2 hours so the pork cheeks melted. The were a richer flavour than the other pork cuts I've tried but they make a really make an excellent and great value meal.

Chicken thighs are always useful things to have in the freezer. Here I made the Chicken Thighs with Honey and Mustard from the barbeque section - but I cooked it in the oven instead as this particular day it was raining hard. Shame! It was sticky and sweet which is always a win, I think I'll put more mustard in it next time though as I couldn't really taste it and I love Dijon mustard. This is a great standby dish when you're not quite what to have, goes great with saute potatoes and salad.

Overall this is a fabulous book, especially if you can get it cheaper like I did. I don't think you could ever get bored with so many recipes to choose from. It would be a great gift for someone starting out in cooking, as well as for someone who has been cooking for a while as it has some great tips as well as some delicious sounding recipes. Nothing is too fussy but you could find recipes to suit dinner parties as well as everyday meals. Don't expect just Irish or traditional foods either, there are recipe examples from across the world. If I believed in minimalism I'm not sure I'd need many other recipe books. That's so not me though!

Check out some of Ballymaloe's recipes here:


  1. This book is forever in The Works, another source of discounted books... I'm currently trying to abstain after a recent binge buying of books! Gwyneth Paltrow's new book is really a pleasant surprise!

  2. I bought a this book recently so I will be eagerly expecting your reviews on different recipes, reviews of cookery