You will surely leave the 25-year-old Ballymaloe Cookery School, in County Cork, a more confident cook, and you might even come away with a green thumb as well. Surrounded by gorgeous kitchen gardens and acres of organic farmland, the school practices a sustainability that’s a natural outgrowth of chef-owner, author, and TV host Darina Allen’s joyful philosophy. With the sea just half a mile away, even the fish is local here. One of Darina’s passions is teaching what she calls “forgotten skills,” so classes in beekeeping and buttermaking are slotted in with trendier courses on tapas and sushi. I’ve participated in many programs here over the years; I’m still making the plain-looking brown bread from an early visit, so easy my daughter picked it up when she was only six. Believe me when I tell you that even the one-day class will whisk you through several terrific recipes covering a multitude of techniques. If there’s a downside—and I’m not sure it is one—it could only be the generous use of good Irish butter and cream. Ballymaloe also offers a 12-week certification program for those aiming to become pros. (011-353-21-464-6785; cookingisfun.ie; $104 for a half-day class to $1,243 for five days, including lunch)
What I Learned
No-brainer brain food: Bake a whole flounder or sole in a buttered pan with 1/4 inch water, salt, and pepper for 20 to 30 minutes.
The Irish ignore the warning about making meringues in damp weather. The meringues were perfect, mist or no.
Before You Go
Be prepared to walk off some of that cream and butter.
Where to Stay
Ballymaloe House (011-353-21-465-2531; ballymaloe.ie; from $163), two miles away, is run by Darina’s family. Self-catering cottages (from $42 per person, per night, shared for up to 12 people) are on the grounds of the school.