With less then two weeks to go until this years festival excitement is building on the Ballymaloe Farm. And to add to the excitement I am delighted to introduce Lilly Higgins as my next guest blogger.
One of my youngest sisters, Daisy, has just completed her first week at Ballymaloe Cookery School. She’s the same age I was when I started the 12 week course and was just as excited and nervous when she arrived there on her first night. She came home for the weekend laden down with freshly baked brown soda bread, a pot of raspberry jam and a newly found confidence in the kitchen. Today she baked buttery fork biscuits for my two little boys and we eventually had to hide the tin. Toddlers have an insatiable appetite when it comes to freshly baked biscuits. They furiously demanded more and threw themselves on the floor in a typical terrible two’s tantrum. Who doesn’t feel like that when the biscuits are taken away? I’m delighted that they love food. I want them to learn as much as they can. It’s so important for their future and health. Working from home I’m constantly in the kitchen baking or cooking, prepping vegetables or in the garden picking the nicest herbs for my photos. Furiously scribbling down notes as I cook and taste. The laptop has no place in the kitchen during their waking hours. They can be momentarily entertained when given pots and wooden spoons to play with but what they really want is the food processor, the stick blender and the mandoline; the fun kitchen tools. The wooden pestle and mortar is played with daily. My eldest is almost two and a half so uses a little butter knife to cut mushrooms, loves to crush cherry tomatoes in his fist ,which can be quite convenient, and is now an expert at massaging kale. They loved picking wild garlic recently and still search hedgerows with narrowed eyes after gorging on blackberries last autumn. These are childhood memories I too have and am delighted to be able to give them what my parents gave me. I bring the babies to the farmers markets where they eat pizzas with Toonsbridge buffalo mozzarella and drink Ballyhoura apple juice, whilst we bring Rocketman salad and Green Saffron korma home for later. Each week Declan Ryan from Arbutus gives them a piece of bread each then they stare at the photos of happy pigs on the Woodside Farm stall and sleep soundly on the way home for lunch. For now this is their ‘school’, they meet the producers, see the big bags of Ballycotton potatoes, eat their bread listening to the buskers and know that food comes from a farm. Their obsession with tractors is only growing stronger. We visit the calves daily now and chat about how much they’ve grown since yesterday and how lovely they are sleeping in their straw beds whilst the Spring rains falls softly on the shed’s tin roof. Their wide eyed amazement at simple things and their connection to nature is what my sister Daisy is rediscovering now on her exciting journey. She’s tasting real bread, plump Ballycotton shrimp and homemade mayonnaise, cooking and eating seasonal local produce.
I’m honored to be involved in Litfest this year, along with an incredible list of speakers and events. It is a celebration of people that love to read, write and learn more about the wonderful world of food and wine. For me personally it’s an opportunity to immerse myself once more in Ballymaloe, to talk and learn for three days and to eat really gorgeous food. The countdown to May 16th has truly begun!