Renowned chef Rory O'Connell spoke fondly of his Laois childhood to the Leinster Express, before he presented his Christmas Feast Event in Cullohill last night, Wednesday November 15.
Rory who co-founded Ballymaloe Cookery School in Cork with sister Darina Allen, has a cookery show 'How to Cook Well' on RTE 1.
He recalled an idyllic childhood centred around growing and cooking food, and said how he regularly returns home to visit his brothers and sisters in Cullohill and Abbeyleix.
"It was really a wonderful place to grow up. We roamed freely, or free range as I like to call it. We lived just up the village. We had the local river and local farms to go to, and Cullohill mountain as we call it, and in autumn we would go up and pick wild apples and damsons, it was a wonderful place to be," he said.
The demonstration was a sold-out success, raising thousands of euros for Cullohill Community Council.
It ran for three hours, with dishes including Tomato Soup with Parsley Pesto and Macroom Bocconcini, Buckwheat Pancakes with Smoked Salmon, Créme Fraiche, Capers and Chives, Glazed Loin of Bacon, Pineapple, Chilli and Coriander Salsa, Roasted Cauliflower with Red Onion and Cumin, Muhamarra, Curly Kale Salad with Lemon, Cream and Dried Cranberries, Winter Chocolate Apple Pudding, Christmas Coffee Meringues with Whiskey Cream and Pomegranate Seeds, and some festive Chocolate Biscuits.
His tips to the attentive audience included asking your butcher to sharpen your good knives before Christmas "but only if you are a regular customer!", and that Ireland has the perfect climate to grow chillies, no need for imports.
He said that Vanilla extract legally must be pure, so essence is never as good, while a sprig of holly is perfect to hiding burnt legs on your turkey.
He urged making a bone broth from the turkey carcass.
"Cover it with cold water, throw in a carrot, an onion, celery and some winter herbs, cook for three or four hours and strain it. It is food heroin!," Rory declared.
The dishes were raffled off to lucky winners, and the first prize of a lunch for two and an afternoon at Ballymaloe, was won by Patricia Delaney.
The council, led by chairman Jimmy Walsh, intends to use the money to support community projects, in particular a centre of learning for second level students, where grinds will be provided for a nominal fee. Formed only last year, they also intend to establish an Age Active group.
The event was supported by Bord Bia, to promote Irish food products and the Origin Green programme.