Breakfast at Ballymaloe


Three generations of the Allen family at Ballymaloe. That’s Hazel (inn keeper), Ruby (undecided), and Roisin (Hazel’s youngest daughter). Photo by David Lansing.


So what’s a Ballymaloe? It’s a country inn. And a restaurant. And a cooking school. The original house dates back to 1450 (although it was recently remodeled in the eighteenth century) and is set in the middle of gorgeous Irish countryside just a mile or so from the little fishing village of Shanagarry, about half an hour south of Cork. The whole thing is run by the Allen family. One runs the hotel, another the cooking school, and so on.


As you walk around the property you’re bound to run into one Allen or another pouring tea, feeding the chickens, or stumbling along in the lobby (that would be Ruby, the youngest Allen, who just took her first steps two weeks ago but seems bound and determined to get out there and help out along with the rest of the family).

Yesterday morning when we were at breakfast, a lovely middle-aged woman came by the table and asked us if we’d like some fresh cream on our porridge. The thick yellow cream was in a Mason jar. “It’s from this morning’s milking,” she said. She wasn’t kidding. She dribbled some of the cream over my porridge and then on my fresh strawberries (from the garden), and eventually on my still-warm scone.

This was Hazel. Who is basically in charge of the hotel end of things. I thanked her for the fresh cream and then she was off. To offer cream from cows milked less than two hours ago to the other guests.

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  1. Fred Harwood’s avatar

    Tell us about the tea fixings…

  2. David’s avatar

    Tea fixings…Pretty simple, really. They use Barry’s Tea, a classic Cork blend that’s been around for well over a hundred years. And irregularly-shaped lumps of sugar, of course.

  3. Fred Harwood’s avatar

    No little sandwiches, or scones, or clotted cream, or jam? I was drooling with anticipation.

    Is it true that William Penn briefly owned a castle in the town?

  4. David’s avatar

    Oh my gosh, Fred, of course we had all those things! Homemade gooseberry jam and a wonderful Ballymaloe rhubarb preserve with ginger (and I don’t even like rhubarb), and not only clotted cream but three different types of butter, including “virgin” butter which means it hasn’t been molded or anything and looks a bit like yellow cottage cheese and tastes so sweet you want to just eat it straight with a spoon. The dairy in Ireland really is the best.

  5. Fred Harwood’s avatar

    Thanks for humoring me, David. I was hoping for the best for you. And, you’re in the best of hands. Virgin butter…now you’ve done it.

    Rhubarb is one of my favorite spring things, especially in a fresh, crisp pie, made each spring by my wife of 50 years next month.

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