The New Ballymaloe Bread Book has just been published and it’s my 21st cookbook – can you imagine? Every time I publish another book, I swear it’s my last, but after a couple of weeks ideas bubble up and I’m off again. This time I’m on a mission to show everyone how easy it is to make a delicious loaf of crusty bread.

The original Ballymaloe Bread Book was published in 2001 and is still in print over 20 years later. Since then, we have added many exciting new recipes from all over the world to the repertoire.

In 2018, when the ‘Beast from the East’ resulted in violent snowstorms, the country almost came to a standstill. Within days, there were shortages of fresh food and bread. Chaos ensued in the supermarket aisles. Elegantly dressed ladies squabbled and wrenched sliced pans from each other in panic. Ironically, packs of flour, buttermilk and bicarbonate of soda were stacked up on nearby shelves.

The New Ballymaloe Bread Book.

It dawned on me that many of us had lost (or never learned) the skill of making a simple loaf of soda bread. It’s worth remembering that many of our grandparents cooked ‘a cake of bread’ in a pot oven over an open fire, so there’s no excuse for us with our fancy thermostatically controlled ovens.

Something had to be done, so I picked up my pen and, three years later, this revised edition of the New Ballymaloe Bread Book is the result.

Removing the mystery

I fervently hope it will take the mystery out of bread-making for everyone and upskill those who feel that making a loaf of bread is way beyond them. It’s definitely not rocket science, but it is a science. I promise that if you follow each tried-and-tasted recipe, you will absolutely be able to bake irresistible bread at home.

In 2016, the Ballymaloe Bread Shed, a tiny artisan bakery and classroom where magic happens every day, was established in a trailer beside the cookery school. Our natural sourdough bread recipe (which we call ‘Shanagarry Wild’) is made from just four ingredients: flour, water, salt and natural starter. It is fermented for a minimum of 48 hours, or up to 72 or 96 hours over the weekend. It’s nutritious, totally delicious and – despite the mystique – easy to fit into your busy schedule.

Also included in the book, of course, is the soda bread that I learned how to make by watching my mother, Lily O’Connell, when I was scarcely tall enough to see over the kitchen table. She’d give me a small lump of dough to make a little cistín which would bake alongside her loaves in the Esse cooker.

Bakers bread is on the rise \ Real Bread Ireland.

I was scared stiff of yeast until I came to Ballymaloe. The original Ballymaloe brown yeast bread - so beloved of guests at Ballymaloe House and beyond - was taught to me by my mother-in-law, Myrtle Allen, who took the mystery out of yeast bread making for me. No kneading and only one rising makes this much-loved recipe a brilliant one to start on.

Pass it on

I urge everyone who has been fortunate enough to learn the simple art of bread-making to spread the joy by passing the skill to others.

I’ve been making bread all my adult life and most of my childhood, yet I still get a thrill every time I take a loaf of crusty bread out of the oven. How wonderful is that? I hope that in this New Ballymaloe Bread Book, I’ve passed that excitement on to you.

The New Ballymaloe Bread Book by Darina Allen. Gill Books, €26.99.

Darina says: ‘bakers are rising up to the challenge’

Defying all odds, the number of artisan bakeries in Ireland is growing by the week. Could this be in direct response to the poor quality of the mass produced bread so readily available to Irish consumers?

Much of the commercial bread sold on supermarket shelves across the country (some for less than a euro per sliced pan – five million of which are consumed in Ireland every week), contain additives and flavourings of little or no nutritional value. Many customers of artisan bakeries say there’s no going back to sliced pan once they taste real flavourful, nutrient dense bread.

Artisan bakers

Artisan bakers, many of whom are members of an organisation called Real Bread Ireland (, make a variety of breads every day including dark, crusty loaves of naturally fermented sourdough. They are anxious to source organic flour and Irish grown wheat, but you’d be surprised at just how difficult that is. Despite being considered a food secure nation, more than 95% of flour on sale in Ireland at present is imported. I believe this puts us in a very vulnerable position. Surely this is an unacceptable risk for such a vital food stuff.

We are increasingly vulnerable to unexpected shocks such as the COVID-19 outbreak, which disrupted the bread supply chain, followed by the invasion of Ukraine, who together with Russia provide a third of the world’s wheat supply. Volatile weather conditions due to climate change and geopolitical changes like Brexit all contribute to the uncertainty.

There is also a perception that milling wheat cannot be successfully grown in Ireland, but we have been growing a small quantity of Liskamm for our Bread Shed here in Shanagarry for quite a few years. Our harvested grain is dried by William Gabbett on his farm in Callan, Co Kilkenny and milled by Robert Mosse, at the seventh generation Little Mill in Bennettsbridge, Co Kilkenny.

Historically, Ireland had over 7,000 active flour mills – today we have less than a dozen, never mind a baker’s dozen. Ireland’s local food culture is on the verge of extinction, and we are on a fast track to becoming totally reliant on food produced elsewhere that could easily be grown here with better social, economic and environmental results, not to mention flavour.

Ancient grains

Luckily, and one might say courageously, a small but growing number of artisan bakers are partnering with farmers to cultivate heritage or ancient grains. A great example is Sarah Richards from Seagull Bakery in Tramore, Co Waterford and Emma Clutterbuck of Oak Forest Mills in Co Kilkenny, who have also installed their own flour mill. These local grain hubs are supported by the Irish Grain Network, a network of farmers, millers, bakers, brewers and academics focused on building a resilient grain economy to feed and nourish the people of Ireland.

There is a definite opportunity for Irish grain growers to connect with this new generation of bakers, to meet the growing demand for real bread and be part of the Irish Grain Revolution that is slowly, but surely, on the rise.

For more information, check out: and

We are giving away a copy of Darina’s

new Ballymaloe Bread Book to five lucky readers.

Scan to win the Ballymaloe Bread Book.

Simply scan the QR code with your phone and answer the following question: In what

county is Ballymaloe House located?

(a) Cork

(b) Donegal

(c) Waterford

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Proof some consumers willing to pay more for food that supports farmers

In memory of Myrtle