Irish chef Rachel Allen's show documents recipes from people’s homes, country kitchens along Ireland coastline
Sony BBC Earth's part-travelogue, part-cookery show Rachel's Coastal Cooking features celebrity chef Rachel Allen cook among people and places of Irish coastline.
For Rachel Allen, her love for food remained permanent, right from the time she left Dublin at the age of 18 and went to Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland's Cork county for a three-month cookery course. "I immediately loved it from the start, and apart from a year of travelling the world, I never left!" she says.
Allen, renowned chef and author, has been at the forefront of Irish cuisine for a long time now. She is the show presenter at the BBC Natural Unit, and has appeared on cookery shows like All Things Sweet (2014) and Cake Diaries (2012) to name a few. Her shows have been broadcast across Ireland, and various other parts of the globe, including Australia and Canada. She has also written some bestselling cookery books, which include Rachel's Favourite Food at Home, Recipes from my Mother, and Rachel's Food for Living.
Commemorating the World Food Day on 16 October, Sony BBC Earth is all set to premiere a new show titled Rachel's Coastal Cooking. Travelling from Dungarvan to the Fanad Peninsula, Allen takes to the road in search of local produce and seafood, foraging for ingredients, and meeting some interesting people along the journey. She cooks as she goes, using fresh produce, and devising some fun recipes, in places which could be anywhere from windswept headlands to people’s homes, and from country kitchens to secret beaches.
Below are some edited excerpts from a telephonic interview with Allen ahead of the Indian premiere of Rachel's Coastal Cooking.
How did the idea of the show, Rachel's Coastal Cuisine come about?
I always wanted to do a show where I also travel around. I love travelling, meeting new people, seeing their produce or the food they eat. So with this show, I was really amid various foods, the wild Atlantic waves which extended from south of Ireland all the way up to the northern coast, where we shot the most of the show. That’s why I was really keen on doing the show. It was also very easy to find multiple places to film. We filmed at islands where people get to the sea to find the best oysters. We filmed at secret beaches, country farms etc. It was so much fun.
You have been at the forefront of Irish cuisine scene for a long time now. What was so new about the show that piqued your interest?
I always wanted to talk to people than just talking to the camera. In all the previous shows, I am mostly looking at the camera while cooking. Everything is usually very systematic and perfect that way. But at the same time, I also wanted to have real experiences and get the real feel – talking to people while cooking. We filmed it almost like a live TV programme. It was very real and that made it a great show.
How did you select the locations/food recipes that feature in the show? Is there a theme or layout that you had in mind?
I didn’t want it to have an all-fish, all-beef or all-vegetable or all-dairy lineup. Hence, I tried to get a balance, and find the right mix. And, it happened quite beautifully so. We started filming from the southern coast of Ireland in Dungarvan, where we had lobsters, and from there to Kinsale in Cork, where we had crabs and apple. We further moved to Beara Peninsula, where we did something with beef. So as we proceeded further, we had potatoes, cheese, lamb, and then also scallops, oysters, cockles, and fishes like cod, haddock etc.
Were there any challenges that came your way during the execution of the show?
Yes. During the initial shooting schedule, it had rained for a couple of days, so that made it a little interesting. But later, trying to work around the weather while filming was a little bit challenging. I remember while filming in Galway off Ireland's west coast, we were picking oysters from the sea. We were then using those oysters and putting them into a pasta dish. But it was too windy. The gas stove would continuously go out. So we had a couple of rough days that way. In spite of all of this, I must say that’s also a part of the fun.
How is the Irish cuisine different from other culinary styles? Are there any specific ingredients or mode of cooking?
Irish cooking has always been very simple. We never use a huge amount of spices like you have in your wonderful cuisine and hundreds of different cuisines around India. The produce in Ireland is very good. We have always relied on our very good lamb/beef/fish, and then providing them additional flavours using dairy products like butter, cheese or fresh vegetables for that matter. So, it is really very produce-led. You don’t see more than eight to 10 ingredients in one recipe.
Are there any remarkable findings/experiences from the show that you would like to share with us?
I loved all the different foods and producers. The scenery was breathtaking all the way up the coast. I adored flying over the cliffs of Moher. That might have been my favourite moment. I think we chose some of the best landscapes to film. I think it makes for a lovely show for people to just sit and watch because it will transport you from your home to Ireland as we travel along the coast. And for some, who have already been there, it will be a new kind of a journey.
Rachel’s Coastal Cooking begins airing on Wednesday from 11 am to 3 pm on Sony BBC Earth, as a part of the World Food Day line-up.
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