Wednesday 21 February 2018

Food is my medicine – it has all the nutrients I need

Do you consider yourself to have a healthy lifestyle?

Yes, I do – it might be said I would need to have a proper exercise regime, but I eat organically and with the seasons, avoiding any kind of processed food. I drink in moderation and I am very very fortunate to live and work in the country.

Do you exercise regularly?

No, but I love to walk – and living so close to the sea gives me plenty of opportunities for "a good walk" in all weathers. I'm on my feet a lot, but I'm afraid I don't have a regular exercise regime nor personal trainer! Perish the thought. The last time my horribly fit sisters decided to "exercise me", I was out of operation for three weeks and it cost me over €400 in chiropractor fees! I am going to get my bike fixed so I can go out with my daughters and grandchildren on their bikes, but I won't be donning any Lycra.

What time do you go to bed?

On week nights I'm usually in bed by 10pm unless I'm out at something – how sad is that. But I do feel daily the benefit of a good night's sleep.

What time do you get up in the morning?

I wake around 7.30am and have breakfast in bed every day!

What do you have for breakfast?

Coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, and porridge in winter – fruit muesli in the summer. Maybe toast and honey or Seville or kumquat marmalade – depends on my humour.


During the week, lunch is whatever the students in the school have prepared through the course of their work. At the weekend, when at home, lunch is light – a bowl of soup or a salad. Growing our own vegetables means I am always able to rustle these up all year round.


Depends on what's on. Last night was scrambled egg and wild mushrooms with toast. My friend dropped in some autumn chanterelles she'd foraged and this was the perfect way to enjoy them. If it's a family get-together – with nine grandchildren, we number 21 for this – dinner would be full-on, three courses, as you can't escape pudding with little ones around.

Any snacks?

No. I'm not really a snacker.

Do you take any supplements?

No, I get what I need from good home-grown and locally sourced fruit and vegetables, sustainable fish and meat, and our own happy hens. I believe very strongly that food should be your medicine – good food giving all the nutrients you need rather than having to supplement your diet.

How much water do you drink?

No idea. I just drink when I feel thirsty. And keep well-hydrated when in the kitchens.

Do you have a skincare routine?

Not at all. I will wear sunscreen though, so I'm not that bad. The very odd time I might use a moisturiser.

Make-up I wear only if going out, or if asked to be "ready for my close-up" or if on television.

Any allergies?

No – and I put this down to having drunk raw milk as a child from our Kerry cow that we had. Raw milk is a living food with amazing self-protective properties. As most food goes bad as it ages, raw milk gets better. From helpful bacterial fermentation, the digestibility of enzymes, vitamins, and minerals all increases. I think this set me up very well in not developing any allergies.

Any vices?

Ask my staff! I don't have a particularly sweet tooth, but it is hard to pass a tray of just made caramelised almond squares ...

When eating out, I love to try everything, so I encourage those I am with to have something different off the menu, rather than me having to order more than one dish for myself.

I don't think it a vice, but I have a glass of wine or a craft beer every evening with dinner.

If I could change one thing about my lifestyle it would be ...

I would be on time for appointments! Which really means, organising my day a little better.

Darina Allen's book, '30 Years at Ballymaloe' has been shortlisted for the Avonmore Cookbook of the Year in this year's Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards. To vote go to .

Irish Independent

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