Here’s what happened: While I was looking for an Irish cookbook for traditional Irish food recipes I found one that was related to the Ballymaloe House.
And the story is just as fascinating an Irish tale as any I usually have the occasion to tell. On your next vacation to Ireland, you might consider stopping by this very interesting Irish hotel in County Cork.
This Irish Hotel story starts out with farmers. In 1932, Ivan Allen came to help work the farm of William Strangman. An orchard was planted and the apples were sold for the farmers to make a living.
Using the apple profits, Allen and Strangman were able to purchase the Ballymaloe House estate in 1948. Ivan built glass houses so they could grow cucumbers, tomatoes and mushrooms. In 1952, when William Strangman died, he left his portion of the estate to Ivan Allan.
Ivan moved into the Ballymaloe House with his wife, Myrtle, and their six children. (Leaving his other farm to his son, Tim Allen, and daughter-in-law Darina O’Connell.) As the children began to leave the house and farming prices dropped, the Allens had to come up with a better plan.
They began renting out rooms and relying on Myrtle’s cooking to supplement their farming income. And the concept caught on. The Irish hotel Ballymaloe House has been thriving every since. But what about the cookbook?
Well, Myrtle’s story parallels the farming aspect of Ivan’s business. Since Ballymaloe House didn’t start out as an Irish hotel, Myrtle always reaped the benefits of cooking all the extra goods from the garden.
You’ll also hear a lot about what a gourmet Ivan was. (If you are too, check out our foodie tours of Ireland.) Myrtle claims he helped her learn to cook the fresh produce. Keep in mind she also had plenty of butter, milk and eggs to use.
Of course, you can still stay in the Irish hotel. But the restaurant is now run by head chef Jason Fahey. The third generation of Allens is also thriving, with numerous other cookbooks to offer, like Rachel Allen’s Food for Living.
We also recommend stopping by the the Ballymaloe Kitchen and Craft shop for a taste of what The Ballymaloe Cookbook is like. They still make their own cakes and scones — perfect for enjoying with some Irish coffee.