White scones rock!

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 5, 2015


We took a trip recently with the destination being about food. Ballymaloe House in County Cork, Ireland, has quite a reputation. Ivan and Myrtle Allen lived and farmed Ballymaloe near the sea in County Cork, Ireland, buying the property in 1948. In 1964 Myrtle began cooking for guests—-advertising “Dine in a Historic Country House.” Her cooking was from the farm and the local fish boats at Ballycotton, and her reputation spread. In 1966 she began taking in guests in order to get a liquor license. One of her early helpers was Darina O’Connell who later married her son. It was Darina who opened a cooking school nearby at their farm and named the school Ballymaloe Cooking School. That was in 1984, over 30 years ago. The ensemble is quite a family enterprise now and we went to check it out.

We landed in Shannon and using Siri we found the farmstead in about 2 hours (drive on the left, shift with the left hand and beware the nonexistent verges and my husband loves the signs: oncoming traffic in the middle of the road!). Before we even checked in at this wonderful old (17th c.) country house we went to the nearby shop and there was a café and we decided to have lunch. It was a fantastic salad with free range chicken, their bread and butter from the farm and a glass of wine from Portugal. One of the grandson’s has a wine import business bringing in wines from Spain and Portugal. (There are quite a number of family members with various associated endeavors.) Time for a nap to help with the jet lag.

Dinner is a five-course affair. Maybe start with a drink (Irish whiskey?) in the parlor and check out the evening’s menu. The sommelier is there to help with wine selections—but we liked the Portuguese Beyra that we had had for lunch. Most meals begin with a hot soup and they were usually a green soup or a carrot spiced soup and they were very good. The second course is usually a fish (local mackerel or hake) served in a lemon butter sauce. The main course is a choice of beef, pork, lamb or fish served with the locally grown vegetables. A cheese course (Irish cheeses), then dessert on a trolley with way too many choices and coffee and petit fours. After two nights of this I had to call it quits. Way too much food even for me! The third night we just had wine and cheese in the room with a little Indian dish from the garden festival that day. We not only enjoyed the annual garden festival that weekend but spent two days touring the gardens and farms that make up the Ballymaloe House and the cooking school. The fourth night we returned to the dining room for a Sunday night buffet with everything you could dream of, seafood and salad wise, plus all sorts of meat. At this point we had learned to select carefully and not get a second plate.

I will have to say the breakfast is the best at Ballymaloe. The eggs are all free range and so creamy and a beautiful yellow color. We had rashers (bacon), sausage, tomatoes, and mushrooms. And the breads!! The scones were the best I have ever had, plus all sorts of brown breads. Even without the cooked breakfast you had all sorts of fruits, granola, hot cereals, and juices. Yes, I was in heaven.


These recipes were given to me by the wonderful waitress at Ballymaloe for scones and soda bread. These are taken from the cookbook, 30 Years at Ballymaloe, by Darina Allen.

White Scones

Makes 15 (3 inch scones)

8 cups plain white flour

1 ½ sticks butter

3 free-range eggs

Pinch of salt

¼ cup castor sugar

3 heaped teaspoons baking powder

2 cups approx. milk to mix

Egg wash (see below)

Sieve the dry ingredients into a large wide bowl. Cut in butter and rub in until like crumbs. Whisk the eggs with the milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board. Don’t knead but shape just enough to make a round. Roll out to (1 inch) thick and cut into round “cakes” (1inch x2inch) and put onto a baking sheet. Brush the tops with egg wash. Bake in a hot oven, 475°F., for 10-12 minutes until risen and nicely browned.

Egg wash: Whisk 1 egg with a pinch of salt.


Irish Brown Soda Bread

8 oz. whole meal flour (wholewheat)

8 oz. plain flour

1 level teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

14-16 fl. oz. buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Sieve the dry ingredients into a large wide bowl. Make a well in the center and add most of the buttermilk. Hold your hand in an open claw shape and mix dry ingredients into the buttermilk. Add remaining buttermilk if necessary until the mixture forms a ball. Do not knead! Cleans your hands.

Turn the dough onto a floured worktop, form into a round, transfer to a baking tray, mark with a cross and bake in a fairly hot oven, 400 degrees. After 15 minutes reduce to 375 degrees, bake for 30 minutes more or until the loaf has a nice brown crust and sounds hollow when tapped.

We were especially happy with the ingredients that are used at Ballymaloe: grassfed local beef and lamb and pastured pork; free range chicken and eggs; grassfed milk and butter; organic fruits and vegetables from the farm or foraged; wild caught seafood and fish. Food can’t get healthier than that, and done well, it was delicious.