Tag Archives: LitFest

Back in the Bubble Again- Litfest 2016

Litfest 2016 was on in Ballymaloe and it’s environs.  And I was there with bells on.  Well not quite bells, chef’s whites and apron was the deal for the Saturday and Sunday.

Working with the tireless duo of Florrie Bolger and Pam Black, they make the demonstrations look effortless and streamlined.  And I know both would say that they are backed up by a team.  But the team is only as good as it’s leaders.  And despite one of them being fired (Sorry- in joke) in the middle of service- it went so well.

The first thing that always hits me is the variety- of everything- be it people-

The Team

“Kate’s” Team

The flowers…

Flowers for Litfest Demonstrations

Flowers for Litfest Demonstrations

The flours….

Flours for Claire Ptak's Demo

Flours for Claire Ptak’s Demo

Add the recipes into the mix and you’ve the perfect combination.  When you work behind the scenes you don’t always get to see whats going on in “front”, but this year I must have been extra specially good as I was promoted to Number 2 for the wonderful Claire Ptak’s demonstration.  She is an absolute dote.  And a real baker, knowing by the feel of the ingredients whether to add more or subtract.  I really learnt so much from her about using different flours, which was great.

Rye Digestives

Rye Chocolate Dipped Digestives

Claire was a complete natural in demo, and herself and Jeremy made a great team

Demo at Litfest

Claire and Jeremy

All in all it, once again was a great experience.  Meeting so many old friends, and making new ones.  I didn’t get to spend any time at all in Ballymaloe House or the Big Shed, but I believe, once again, it was fabulous.

I’ll definitely be back again next year.  And hopefully sooner.

Books and their covers

I was very happy to receive a number of books for Christmas, specfically cookbooks.  To be fair I am an easy person to buy for.  I like books and horses.  Cookbooks are easier to wrap.



I haven’t decided which to dive into yet.  I did flick through Allegra’s “Big Table, Busy Kitchen”.  I was delighted to meet her the the Lit Fest 2015 (by the way the tickets are on sale for LitFest16– buy some- you won’t regret it.)

Her style is very easy to read and I look forward to trying out some of the recipes.

This year I would like to try cookery courses in other countries, maybe the Italian cookery course will give me a head start!  I’m heading to Bath in March to do the “intensive” 5 day bread course with the esteemed Richard Bertinet.  Nigel did this course 5 years ago and it completely revolutionised our bread making.  Even when I was in Ballymaloe the teachers raved about his techniques.  I am just dying to get there and get started.  And of course will have to make time for coffee and prunes- a staple of any cooking course.

Since we got a loan of a kindle at home I change between reading on it, and reading an actual book.  Unfortunately the cookbooks are a little too heavy read in bed last thing at night, so hopefully when the aftermath of December has died down I’ll get to sit down with a cup of coffee and devour them.

Wednesday 13 January 020

I’m a big Lee Child fan.  Have always enjoyed the Jack Reacher series, and really loved the film with Tom Cruise, although I reluctantly agree with my better half, he was FAR too short to play the lead.    This one was a little disappointing.. which breaks my heart as I really do tick off the days until the next release.  Not that he’s the only one. I love all the Karen Rose books. I must remember to check if she has any new ones out.  These days I very rarely visit shops- even bookshops so don’t get to see the new releases. I also love looking at travel books.  I’ve one for touring America, but that’s slightly wistful thinking so I think that I’ll re-visit this in the near future.

Wednesday 13 January 021

And like when I’m choosing food, the covers on the books appeal to me first.  But often with cookbooks, especially the more generic- 1000 best cakes- and the like, the pictures can be deceiving.  And often, a little like entering a cake shop, the eyes are drawn to colours and patterns.

One of the books I got this year, which I just know will be my favourite, is simply called Patisserie.  Nothing fancy, not even one picture inside.  But the recipes- wowsers.  I nearly had to go for a run to combat the calories I put on looking at the recipes!

So books will be in my future for a while- and hopefully I will garner some new ones this year.  Am thinking the Back roads of Italy might be nice…..to go with my cooking courses of course.

As a very important addendum- this piece from the New Yorker, puts beautifully into prose about reading cookbooks that I just cannot.  So please take the time to read it (and don’t, then, berate me for my appalling style next to his!!!)


LitFest Adventures

I was so excited to volunteer for the LitFest last weekend at Ballymaloe, and even more excited to be able to work again at the cookery school.

The apron was donned, and the knives sharpened.  Felt a bit naked walking in without my order of work or my recipes, but other than that, when I went into Kitchen 3 Friday morning early, it was like I never left.

Cabbage, apple and raisin salad

Cabbage, apple and raisin salad

There were demos of every kind going on all weekend and I was very privileged to see chefs from all corners of the globe.

I also had the privilege of hearing Alice Waters in conversation with John McKenna on the Saturday morning.  It was so much more than just a history lesson of her life, it was a journey of social and political  commentary in America.  Simplicity is her motto, and an appreciation of the food grown around her and the way it should be treated.  She considers food a platform on which social change can be built.

John McKenna in Conversation with Alice Waters

John McKenna in Conversation with Alice Waters

The “Big Shed” contains all the food stalls, and is always a hive of activity during the festival, the decorations were eye catching, unique and quirky.

Magical Lighting

Magical Lighting

There was an array of wine and beer to be had, and the obligatory elderflower cordial.

The Big Shed

The Big Shed

The long tables are a great idea, and make for conversation. interaction and general friendliness.

More intricate lighting

More intricate lighting

But back in the cookery school we were very busy with Demo prep.  The first one I helped with was hosting Allegra McEvedy.  She believes that there are more ways for a chef to make a difference than by gaining stars, and that good food should be available to everybody.

The dream team

The dream team

The next demo was for Leylie Hayes, with Hugo Arnold, from the Avoca Group.  I have regularly cooked from the Avoca Cafe book, so to see the recipes in action was very exciting.  I got to make the carrot jam, which is probably the most unusual jam I’ve ever made- but probably have never made anything which such care!

Carrot Jam in the making

Carrot Jam in the making

I am looking forward to adding the two breads to my repertoire also.

The Team with Leylie Hayes and Hugo Arnold

The Team with Leylie Hayes and Hugo Arnold

Between all the excitement I also managed to meet Prue Leith, whom I have been a fan of for many years.  She was so nice, and had no problems at all posing for a picture.

Just a little Star struck

Just a little Star struck

It was a completely manic weekend, I fell into bed Sunday night content and delighted that I had remembered most of what I had learnt in the 12 weeks.  And I can’t WAIT for next year.

With a special mention to the Cookery school team, including Darina, Rory and Rachel.  All of whom it was great to work with again.

My passion for cookbooks

As an avid reader of cookbooks, with a self confessed addiction, it is with GREAT excitement that I am volunteering at the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Litfest this week.  And I get to see Alice Waters.  How exciting is that??? Alice is classed as being one of the most influential food writers of the last 50 years.  Mega. I would love to replicate her model for education on food with children here. #wishlist

I know many people who collect cookbooks, some simply just to salivate over the pictures.  Yet some of the most famous have few pictures, if any at all.  Some of mine are serious- Michael Pollan for example, some are very light, and some are very precious- family heirlooms in fact.

The Family "Manuscript"

The Family “Manuscript” belonging to my husbands grandmother

The Silver Spoon, for example is classed as one of the greatest Italian cook books of all time, even if the timings are a little vague, and there is absolutely no pictorial help.  But it is encyclopaedic in it’s amount of recipes for every class and cut of ingredient.”  Alongside “The Classic Italian Cook Book: The Art of Italian Cooking and the Italian Art of Eating” by Marcella Hazan, they are my go to books for Italian cookery.

The Silver Spoon

The Silver Spoon

My mum in law gave me a Christmas present of the book “How to Eat”, by Nigella Lawson years ago.  I didn’t even open it for about about a year as I was convinced it was a diet book! But as a book to teach people how to cook basic recipes in a very relaxed manner, it succeeds.  Any book that utters “Before you even take off your coat put the chocolate on to melt” is a winner for me!

Some of my cookbooks

Some of my cookbooks

Even before I attended the Ballymaloe Course, I used both the Forbidden and Ballymaloe Cookery Course Books quite extensively, so they are on the frequent flyers list also.

Well used favourites

Well used favourites

I do have some cookbooks that I simply use for stroking and drooling over.  Pure coffee table books.  Mind you anyone goes near them with coffee is dead to me.

And I try and cook at least one or two recipes from each book, and most get a good few airings, some even end up on the favourite list.

Some I really want to cook from, but need about 3 days, an unlimited larder full of exotics, and an unlimited amount of equipment.  (The days I made Heston Blumenthals Mushroom mousse recipe will go down in the annals of longest cooking time to a pâte that lasted 30 seconds.)

"technically" in alphabetical order

“technically” in alphabetical order

The main collection lies in wait on both sides of the stairs.

Then the most recent- but awaiting a re-read section.

The "waiting to be read" section in my room

The “waiting to be read” section in my room

And then the section beside my bed.  I think when I get my ankle re done and I’m “resting”, I might rest and read, and maybe cook a little….

The "beside my bed" pile

The “beside my bed” pile

And as for my wishlist, there are some heavy hitters;

Elizabeth David, French Provincial Cooking, (1960)

Jane Grigson, Good Things

M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating (Vintage, 1976)

Richard Olney, Simple French Food

Anthony Bourdain, Typhoid Mary

Larry Zuckerman, The Potato: How the Humble Spud Rescued the Western World

Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Alice Waters, Chez Panisse Cooking 

Eliza Acton, Modern Cookery for Private Families, (1845)

Isabella Beeton, Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management

Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy, (1747)


Not necessarily in order of preference. Please. Pretty Please.  And for this weekend at least I’ll be happy as the proverbial pig.