In the world of reality TV master chefs and highly competitive home-cooks, not to forget ever-ready-to-eat gourmands and food critics, Rachel Allen brings in a fair gust of fresh air — straight up from her home by the sea, on the Southern coast of Ireland. But now, for her show Rachel’s Coastal Cooking, she will be stepping out of her home kitchen — leaving behind the breathtaking setting of the Irish coastline — to present a new series that’s designed to be part-travelogue, part-cookery. In the show, Rachel travels from Dungarvan to the Fanad Peninsula, taking the long road in search of local produce and seafood, foraging for ingredients and often battling wind, rain and the natural elements. Rachel cooks as she goes, wherever the trail leads to fantastic food — from windswept headlands to country kitchens and secret beaches. We got to chat with her about her adventures, but first, we had to hark back to her childhood days of baking with her sister. Excerpts:
We used to love your earliest shows on TV, really because of the kitchen and the setting, at first glance. Tell us about your favourite getaways and holiday destinations across the world.
A lot of my shows have been filmed in my kitchen. I live by the sea on the Southern coast of Ireland, where I started my journey. I love being close to the sea, but then I love travelling to other countries and big cities too. I always love discovering someplace new. My favourite destination? I can’t say! I’d love to go to more parts of India. I’d love to spend time in Kerala, and in Goa.
You’re still very active at Ballymaloe Cookery School, where you studied, and where you now teach. How much of the pleasure of baking, for you, is about feeding entire batches and generations of hungry youngsters?
I came to the cookery school when I was 18. I learned how to cook there. Up until then, I was just doing lots and lots of baking. I really enjoyed things at Ballymaloe, and I just love teaching here now. I love passing on the knowledge and skills. I really enjoy seeing people learning to cook, that is really satisfying, and I hope I’ve inspired younger and older people to cook for themselves, families and their friends!