Wednesday 25 April 2018

Insider Foodie:What We Learnt at Ballymaloe

A look back at a weekend of shared enthusiasm for capturing what we love about food at The Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food & Wine

Aoife McElwain

“Food is the last analogue experience,” stated René Redzepi of the world’s best restaurant Noma, to a full house at The Grainstore in Ballymaloe first thing on Saturday the 17th of May. “Now you just download everything”

Everyone in the room, or grabbing their breakfast coffee in The Big Shed, or rifling through the Book Shop, or settling in to Diana Kennedy’s cookery demonstration in Ballymaloe Cookery School, had made the pilgrimage to Ballymaloe in Shanagarry, Co Cork to talk, think and feel inspired about food. And, boy, did we get what we came for.


This is the second installation of what seems set to become a fixture in the food calendar for years to come. This year, Kerrygold came on board as key sponsor to help The Allen family make the festival bigger and better.


Over two days, some of the world’s most inspirational food writers gave talks and cookery demonstrations at Ballymaloe House and Ballymaloe Cookery School. Yotam Ottolenghi compared notes with Diana Kennedy on Middle Eastern and Mexican food, while Maggie Beer and Joanna Blythman talked good fats and bad fats, while Donal Skehan and Sharon Hearne-Smith shared their photography and food styling craft and Thomsina Miers shared her love for chillis.


One of the festival’s many highlights was a foraging walk with Noma’s René Redzepi and The Guardian’s Alys Fowler. These two experts in foraging not only taught the group of 25 lucky foragers, but they learned a few tips from each other too. They both stressed the importance of not overdoing it with foraging and approaching it with a respect for the sustainability of wild, edible plants.

The Queens of Neon and Elemental Design transformed The Big Shed into a mini-festival with installations and food stalls. The talk of the food hall was Galway’s Ard Bia’s manoush, a pulled pork on flatbread wonder that had everyone salivating ( Rocketman’s salads also left quite the impression ( Cork’s Cloud Marshmallows had everyone light-headed with love for their fluffy and flavourful hand-crafted cubes of marshmallow goodness (


We were also incredibly thrilled to see the forkful videos ( screened in The Big Shed over the weekend.


Ballymaloe has a special atmosphere. It’s one of openness and enthusiasm for sharing knowledge. This set the tone for the weekend and led to a generousity of spirit that shined through in my food heroes talks. It was incredible to see my food heroes meet their food heroes and be further inspired.


The festival will return next year from the 15th to the 17th of May 2015. Don’t miss it.


Find out more about Ballymaloe at

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