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Interview with Chef Alliance member Darina Allen|The Ballymaloe Cookery School

Interview with Chef Alliance member Darina Allen|The Ballymaloe Cookery School

Darina Allen is one of Ireland’s most famous cook and a best-selling author. A tireless ambassador for Irish food both at home and abroad, Darina is also a passionate and committed teacher.

The Ballymaloe Cookery School was established in 1983, operates all year round and attracts students from all over the world. The school’s culinary philosophy is based on enhancing the natural flavours of the best and freshest local ingredients.

Darina is Slow Food Ireland’s President.

  1. What is your dearest memory related to food?

I grew up in the country village of Cullohill in the Irish Midlands, most children would bring a lunch box to school. We lived close by so my mother had arranged for a ‘special dispensation’ so we could run up the hill to have a simple but delicious home cooked lunch. It was a joy to anticipate what Mum might have cooked each day. So many of my happiest childhood memories are connected to food.

During the summer we had lots of lovely picnics. I also remember gooseberry and blackcurrant picking sessions followed by jam making so we were learning without realising that the skills were passed on from one generation to another.

       2. If you had to nominate a Forgotten Food which one would it be?
My nomination would be a product from the Irish Ark of Taste, Carrageen Moss, which is a little seaweed that grows around the coast here in Ireland. It is harvested traditionally after the spring tides, the lowest tides of the year and used to make a variety of delicious dishes including Carrageen Moss pudding.

It is exceedingly healthy with lots of iodine and other trace elements. It also gives strength and boosts the metabolism without putting on weight. We harvest it every year and teach local children so this skill is passed on to the next generation. We serve it on the ‘sweet trolley’ at Ballymaloe House to guests from all over the world.

        3.   What ingredients do you never use?
Margarine and any other reduced fat products.

       4.  What is the best part of your job?

Teaching people how to cook is a unique opportunity – if I was teaching algebra or trigonometry it wouldn’t touch peoples’ lives in such an important and elemental way. Teaching people how to cook is akin to giving them a gift for life as well as skills that they can use anywhere in the world when they travel or to get a job. The way to everyone’s heart is through their tummy…

       5. What does the Slow Food movement mean to you?

Slow Food ticks all the boxes for me.

Here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School we have a 100 acre organic farm, which embodies the Slow Food philosophy at every level. We constantly work to preserve biodiversity and promote sustainability and incorporate as much local and foraged food as possible into our menus.
The good, clean and fair philosophy is how we are and is a way of life more than a movement for us.

       6. What is the link between Slow Food Ireland and Slow Food UK in your eyes?
We are part of the same geographical unit and in the end we are working for the same thing:
to preserve biodiversity, promote sustainability, and champion local and good food.
We are very excited to be starting a Slow Food Ireland Chef Alliance following the example of Slow Food UK. Richard Corrigan attended one of our Irish Slow Food Convivia Leaders meetings and helped to build this relationship.

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