Inside Rory O’Connell’s Kitchen

16th November 2017

Interview: Sophie Missing
Photographs: Dan Dennison

The Ballymaloe cookery teacher on his favourite olive oil, the best way to grate Parmesan and a “really important” cookbook


Mani olive oil »
Capezzana olive oil »
“Mani is kind of our house olive oil and it’s very, very good. I don’t know how they can produce it organically, bottle it and get it over here [from Greece] for the price. Capezzana, from Tuscany, is one of the best olive oils in the world. They vary from year to year but it’s the Olympic Gold Medal standard. The equivalent bottle of wine would be a thousand quid.”

Maldon sea salt »
A kitchen essential: natural sea salt that’s been hand-harvested in Essex for the last 135 years.

Irish butter »
“In any of my recipes it’s Irish salted butter unless stated otherwise. With our apples [in the apple cake] a little bit of salt is just gorgeous. Well, actually not a little bit of salt because Irish butter is quite salty – that’s one of the reasons why it’s good. The other reason is the grass. At the school we make our own cream and butter.”

Lemon scented geranium and lemon basil »
“I always say to students that if you were to try and come up with the flavour of a really good herb by cooking something, you’d spend a couple of hours doing it, whereas if you just grow it, it’s there. It’s a complete no-brainer.”


Bruschetta »
An Italian stovetop toaster, also referred to as a brustolina, made of a sheet of metal with holes in, topped with a wire rack. Rory uses it to toast the sourdough for the tarragon butter toasts. “A life-changing piece of kit. You can buy it in a hardware store in Italy for about €10 or something. Grilled bread can be like dog biscuit, it can get dry and hard and revolting, but this just makes the best toast. Sometimes they’re used for dried polenta or peppers and aubergines as well. It’s incredibly light; you think it’s going to die in a week but it doesn’t. I think I bought 10 of them when I saw them. A little extravagant, but I gave them as gifts.”

Box grater »
“Totally important. If you grate Parmesan on a Microplane and then if you grate it on an old-fashioned box grater, the difference in flavour is phenomenal. It’s so much better off the box grater; it’s a different ball game.” [Rory kindly grates some Parmesan for us to do a taste test and we discover that it does make a massive difference: the Microplaned Parmesan almost melts away to nothing, while the grated cheese is crumby and denser in texture with an intense, lingering flavour. NB Rory does love the Microplane for other things, like ginger.]

Hot cupboard »
“I love my plate-warming cupboard. Every house should have one. You can rest food in there: it’s where the turkey goes at Christmas while you’re trying to have a drink. It’s 600mm square, standard kitchen unit size, and it just fits well.”

Pyrex jugs »
Rory has an impressive collection of Pyrex jugs. “Can’t get enough of them – you can never have too many!”


Chez Panisse books »
Rory has done stints at many of the world’s best kitchens, including Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. “The Chez Panisse artwork – by Patricia Curtan – is ridiculous. That little cupboard [a glass-fronted cupboard on the kitchen wall filled with illustrated cards, menus and bits of pottery] looks like a temple to Chez Panisse but I just can’t throw them out.”

My Favourite Ingredients, Skye Gyngell »
“She’s one of my absolute favourite cooks. If you go to Spring [Skye Gyngell’s London restaurant], people might say, well this is unbelievably simple cooking, but it’s actually so refined.”

Good Things, Jane Grigson »
‘This is really important. [Rory peels off a library sticker] I need to take this off! It’s actually from the cooking school – it started off being my copy and then it kind of floated around.”

Posted 16th November 2017

In Things


Interview: Sophie Missing
Photographs: Dan Dennison

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