Review: An Absolute Gem from the Emerald Isle
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Darina Allen's Ballymaloe Cooking School Cookbook

By Darina Allen
ISBN: 1589800362
Publisher: Pelican
Publication date: 2002
Format: Hardcover
List price: $45†(Canada, UK)
Sample recipes: Traditional Roast Rib of Beef with Gravy, Horseradish Sauce, Yorkshire Pudding, and Roast Potatoes
intended audience: novice advanced beginner good home cook gourmet professional
apparent goal: stocking stuffer sampler comprehensive Biblical stature coffee-table
competition: outclassed also-ran midrange strong challenger leads the pack
# of recipes: <50 <100 <200 <300 >300
practical recipes: <20% <40% <60% <80% >80%
# of ingredients: <3 <6 <9 <12 >12
ingredient hunt: 7-11 pantry supermarket online airfare required
recipe complexity: baby steps simple medium intense professional
instructions: inadequate bare bones full figured educational verbose
time conscious: outright lies speed of light fairly quick takes time takes all day
photos/drawings: skimpy adequate decorative instructive glorious
recipe results: dorm food casual food family meals fancy food fit for royalty
flavor quotient: disappointing fair good delicious exceptional
layout: ick cluttered clean kind to cooks work of art
legibility: microscopic challenging adequate clear brilliant
production quality: cheesy adequate years of service gift-quality stunning
value: ouch! a little pricey worth splurging on the money excellent
Ease of Use
page numbers: invisible hard to find hard to read adequate crystal clear
table of contents: missing frustrating passable useful great
index quality: none tragic adequate good excellent
page flipping: infuriating tedious acceptable rare never
writer: hack cook turned writer writer turned cook collaboration auteur
cook: self-taught non-restaurant chef teacher celebrity
overall rating: fair good above average excellent Ochef Top 100
Comments:†This book is as good as cookbooks get.

We are embarrassed that we let it languish on the review table, thinking it was just a big Irish cookbook. It is a cooking school in a book — a comprehensive cookbook of global stature (including worldwide recipes), teaching important techniques, informing about a host of ingredients, and counseling (but not preaching) on freshness, seasonality, quality, and nutrition. Allenís book is also charming and unpretentious.

Some recipes or explanations might be ever so slightly out of range of novice cooks, but for anyone else, it includes recipes and information that will make anyone a better cook. If thereís anything to quibble with, itís that the text is a little small, but we recognize that if it were any larger, the added pages would make the book impossible to lift. There are relatively few photos, but theyíre stunning, and a few make you want to hop the next jet to Ireland.

Darina Allenís Ballymaloe Cooking School Cookbook is on par with Julia Childís The Way to Cook (and that is a statement we do not make lightly and have not made about another book) — only it has many more recipes.