Dunbrody's herb garden.
Photography by June Naylor

A five-minute drive to the nearby fishmonger begins Day Four, when we select prawns, lemon sole, Dover (or black) sole, hake, and mussels to work with through the day. Some of our choices were pulled from the sea just hours before we purchased them, we’re pleased to learn. By day’s end, we’ve accomplished prawn bisque (and the mirepoix required for this soup); mussels in white wine with fresh herbs; Dover sole with lemon-butter; and a local specialty, Duncannon fisherman’s pie, incorporating cod, prawns, mussels, and salmon.

With other fish in the Dunbrody supply, we also learn to make monkfish wrapped in prosciutto, salmon en papillote, and — my personal favorite — seared scallops, which involves just the simplest trick of cooking to perfection at the sides of a pan.

On Friday, the final day of class, Krawczyk runs the gamut of meat preparations with us. We whip out feather-light raviolis as pretty as petits fours, stuffing them with shredded, braised oxtail, and we roast a rack of lamb with a brilliant herb crust, accompanied by Dauphinoise potatoes. Beef Wellington gets a layering of mushroom duxelle, tissue-thin parma ham, and foie gras within the flaky pastry. And local duck breast takes a balsamic and honey reduction to make it one of my lasting memories from the week.

Naturally, we’re encouraged to taste what we’re preparing, and who are we to refuse? The amount of food that crosses our palates in five days astounds us all: Croissants and scones come out during morning coffee; cookies appear in our afternoon tea break. Lunch always involves things we’ve been cooking, along with fresh greens that we pluck daily from the kitchen garden — which we appreciate more after taking an in-depth tour with gardener Irene Kelly.

Not that my appetite demands it, but I nevertheless go in search each evening of local favorite food finds. Beyond the Dunbrody dining room and bar, there are gratifying meals at places like Aldridge House, a 10-minute drive away in Duncannon, where goat cheese mousse topped with local beets and pears is followed by a duck confit over turnip puree and crab cocktail served in a squat jar with fried crab claws on top, alongside a glass of verdhelo from Australia.

When I’m not finding things to eat, I’m devouring the breath-taking landscapes in easy reach of Dunbrody: The Kennedy Homestead, where JFK’s family returned for a reunion in June, is a 20-minute drive away in New Ross; a handful of abbey and castle ruins litter the countryside; and Western Europe’s oldest light-house sits on a rocky point of land close to Duncannon that’s hammered by monstrous waves and wind, making for arduous but worthwhile photography.

Each night, I fall into a deep sleep in my suite at Dunbrody House, dreaming of happy cows, sheep, and goats that produce the local cheeses; baskets brimming with garden produce; and fish that swim right into a stockpot. Mornings begin with a glance out the window to count the bunnies playing on the lawn nearest the herb garden and a new dawn of understanding the ways in which Ireland’s foods wow me each day. 

The five-day immersion cooking program costs £650 (roughly $865); lodging is additional. For more information, contact Dunbrody Country House Hotel directly via email at info@dunbrodyhouse.com or by telephone at 011-353-51-389600, or visit dunbrodyhouse.com.