A Blog post by
Darina Allen

From Ballymaloe with Love Newsletter 1

April 29, 2020

Greetings from Ballymaloe Cookery School. Sorry it's taken me so long to write this first newsletter but despite all the challenges we’ve been very busy. Ballymaloe Cookery School has been closed since Friday,13th March 2020.

The Spring students were devastated to have to miss 2 weeks of the 12-Week Programme, some had tremendous difficulty getting flights home to over 12 different countries. Who knows when restrictions will be lifted so we can welcome students once again.

Fortunately we've been able to keep the Ballymaloe Cookery School Farm Shop and Bread Shed open. We’ve extended it and it's now open from 9.30am – 5.30pm Monday to Saturday. Local people love the 48 hour fermented Shanagarry Wild Sourdough and other freshly baked breads as well as the organic produce from the farm, gardens and greenhouse.

Tim and his team on the farm and gardens are still working flat out.  Sowing seeds and transplanting beetroot, broad beans, onions and scallions for future harvests…. An act of faith that life will eventually return to normal and it will…

Some of the teachers are also helping out in the gardens, others are busy in the kitchens making homemade soups, stews, casseroles, pies, quiches, sauces, broths and sweet treats for the Farm Shop…

Maria, in our micro-dairy is still making butter, buttermilk and thick unctuous yoghurt packed with probiotics from our Jersey milk.

In the Fermentation Shed, Penny continues to make sauerkraut, kimchi and other fermented food and drinks like water kefir and kombucha for customers anxious to boost their immune system.  Like so many others, we are taking orders online or over the phone and can also do contactless delivery to the boot of people’s cars.

When the Farmers Markets closed, we started an East Cork branch of NeighbourFood on Saturdays last to provide a platform for local farmers, food producers, fishermen, farmhouse cheesemakers, some of whom normally trade at Farmers Markets to sell their produce in these uncertain times. There are now many other branches of NeighbourFood around the country, so check out  www.neighbourfood.ie   for your nearest market.

It’s a brilliant concept, initially created by Jack Crotty, a Ballymaloe Cookery School Alumni.

Customers order and pay on-line by midnight on Thursday and pick up their goodies at an allocated time on Saturday.

Lydia and her team also do Take Out Pizzas on Saturday. Always a Meat, Vegetarian and Vegan special with seasonal toppings from the farm and gardens and artisan produce as well as the usual favourites, Margherita, Pepperoni , Garlic Bread ….  Again customers ring in and order between 12 noon – 5pm and collect – 021 4646785. We can do contactless pick up and free delivery to over 70’s within a 5 mile radius.

In my aged hippy way, I can’t help feeling that this is a stark message from the Universe to all of us arrogant human beings to remind us that we cannot continue to treat the earth with such arrogance and indifference without serious consequences.   What else but the Covid-19 Pandemic could have brought the entire world to a virtual standstill - the stock market, hospitality industry, airlines, even the Farmers Markets have been stopped, but as ever the poor are the ones to suffer most.

Tim and I, being over 70 are 'cocooning' in Kinoith while the country overall is in 'lockdown' and is lightly to be for another month or indeed several... Meanwhile, we are concentrating on finding the silver lining that we are told lies behind every black cloud and there are many... We count our blessing that we live in the countryside and I constantly remind myself of how much worse it would be if we were crowded in a township in Soweto or a refugee camp on the Turkish border - can you imagine...

Everything on the farm and gardens is growing brilliantly. Not sure if it’s my imagination but everything seems more lush and vibrant than ever before, perhaps its because I’m even more aware of the beauty and abundance of Mother Nature at present. In the greenhouse the tomato plants are growing well as are the peas and broad beans. The zucchini are beginning to flower so we should have those in 2 or 3 weeks. This time of the year is called the Hungry Gap because the Winter vegetables have come to an end and the outdoor Summer produce is not yet ready to harvest. However because the greenhouse is warmer - like a protected garden we’ve been using the first of the beetroot and spring onions for the past few days -  much to the delight of the customers in the Ballymaloe Cookery School  Farm Shop. We now have organic strong white flour and fresh yeast and give a little free jar of our 14 year old starter to those who would like to bake their own. Telephone: 021 4645700, if you’d like some.

Enough for today, it took me a while to get started but I’ll try to keep up the date with a newsletter every week from now on. Meanwhile keep your recipe requests coming, continue to boost your immune system with fresh organic food and keep well.  

Kind regards

Darina Allen