It's time we said so, Darina Allen the renowned chef, author, and founder of Ballymaloe cooking school is as important to Irish culture in her own way as our poets and writers. 

This month she's back with How To Cook (Kyle Books, $26.99) a book that takes a lifetime of experience and learning and distills it all down to its glorious essence, creating approachable dishes and return-to recipes that you can cook with ease.

The working title of the book, Allen reveals, is “100 recipes no one should leave school without.” Reflect, she writes, on just how few Irish students learn to cook at home or school, with only a small percentage equipped to feed themselves properly by graduation. 

So much depends on the food that we eat she adds, our health, our energy, our vitality, and even our ability to concentrate, so given all this shouldn't we take more care of what we prepare and the effect it has on us?

The rewards are instant. If you learn to bake bread you make it with three or four ingredients for example, but if you buy it in a store you'll have twenty or more (they may not even list them all). 

So many people come to believe that good cooking is beyond them, becoming self-conscious about their own efforts or stuck in rut. It needn't be like this, this comprehensive book reminds us. Consider this the Home Economic class that you dreamed of, not the one you took. And to inspire you to get started here's the book's recipe for a show-stopping autumn pie.

Apple and Blackberry Pie

Apple pie is virtually everyone’s favorite pudding, Allen writes. “My famous break-all-the-rules pastry taught to me by my mum is made by the creaming method, so people who are convinced that they suffer from ‘hot hands’ don’t have to worry about rubbing in the butter.”

“I make this pie year-round with whatever fruits are in season: rhubarb, green gooseberries, and elderflower, a mixture of stone fruit, such as apricots, peaches, and nectarines. Enjoy all with a blob of softly whipped cream and soft brown sugar, it’s obligatory!”

 For The Break All The Rules Pastry

8oz butter, softened
11⁄2oz caster (superfine) sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
2 organic, free-range eggs
12oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 organic, free-range egg, beaten with a dash of milk
Preheat the oven to 350.

To make the pastry, cream the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food processor. Add the eggs one by one and beat for several minutes. Reduce the speed and mix in the flour slowly. Turn out onto a piece of floured baking parchment, flatten into a round, then wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 2 hours otherwise it is difficult to handle – better still, make it the day before.

Roll out the pastry to about 1/ 8 inch thick, then use about two-thirds of it to line a 7 x 12 x 1-inch square tin or an 83⁄4 inch round tin.
Fill the pie to the top with the apples and blackberries and sprinkle with the sugar. Cover with a lid of pastry, press the edges together to seal. Decorate with pastry leaves, brush with the beaten egg mixture and bake for 45 minutes to one hour until the apples are tender. When cooked, sprinkle lightly with caster (superfine) sugar, cut into pieces and serve with softly whipped cream and dark brown sugar.

For The Filling

1lb 5oz Bramley cooking apples, peeled and cut into large dice
4oz blackberries 
5oz granulated sugar


Classic apple pie use 1lb 8oz Bramley cooking apples, peeled and cut into large dice, 2–3 cloves, and 5oz granulated sugar for the filling.
Apple and raspberry pie use 1lb Bramley cooking apples and approximately 8oz of raspberries.
Rhubarb pie use approx 2lb red rhubarb, cut into 1⁄2 inch pieces and 6–8oz sugar.

Apricot, peach and nectarine pie use a total 2lb 4oz fruit and 8oz granulated sugar.
Green gooseberry and elderflower pie use approximately 11⁄2lb gooseberries, 9oz brown sugar and 3 elderflowers.

Cherry pie Use 2lb 4oz cherries

How To Cook, by Darina Allen (Kyle Books, $26.99)

Darina Allen's How To Cook promises to teach you 100 recipes that will change how you cook.

Darina Allen's How To Cook promises to teach you 100 recipes that will change how you cook.