WHEN Home Economics teacher Anne Dunne, of Mallow, meets Mary Berry at the National Ploughing Championships later this month, she hopes to bring some special guests with her… her students!
Anne will be trying to woo the Queen of Cakes with her special recipe, having reached the final of a National Dairy Council competition.
Anne is one of three finalists in the ‘Dare to Dairy with Mary’ competition, which sees them bring their winning cakes to the Ploughing Championships on September 19 and meet Mary Berry for afternoon tea.
Anne beat off stiff competition from a huge volume of high standard entries. She won over the judges, who included Chandima Gamage Head Pastry Chef at Dromoland Castle; Food Writer and judge of Great Irish Bake off, Cobh woman Lilly Higgins; and Ciara Leahy, Consumer Editor of Irish Farmers’ Journal, with her Hazelnut Sable Biscuits with Ricotta Mousse, Caramelised Pears and Crushed Praline recipe.
Anne lives at home with her parents, on a dairy, beef and tillage farm outside Mitchelstown, which is farmed by her two brothers. It was there that her love of all things baking was nurtured from a young age.
“We’ve been cooking all our lives. We always had home- made dinners and a sweet treat in the house if someone called.
“I am the youngest of four, I have a sister as well, I was always under the kitchen table, always wanting to make something, probably a mess, but we were always encouraged to bake, Mam always made desserts for after dinner.
“I was always baking buns and cakes, I always loved it. My mother had hens, so we always had eggs.
“I had an aunt living in Cahir, she is like another mother and was also big into her crafts and baking.”
Anne always wanted to be a teacher, as many in her family are too — her sister, cousins and aunts — even though she never studied Home Ec, she knew from her home life that it was something she would like to pursue.
Having studied in Sligo, and after enjoying stints teaching in Tipperary and in Cork city, she has been at St Mary’s Secondary School in Mallow for around five years, where she has three colleagues based in the Home Ec department.
Baking is her main hobby at home, as she finds it very relaxing.
“Because people know I love baking, I do a lot of Christening and birthday cakes for family. There’s always eggs, don’t worry,” she joked.
She is an advocate for using local produce, something which she nurtures and encourages among her young students too.
“I am teaching in Mallow — we are surrounded by the best produce.”
She explained how students in her school take part in the Bord Bia ‘Future is Food’ competition, where they research local products and produce, and create a dish using local food.
“It gets them researching and thinking, what is out there, what is local to Mallow and Ireland — to appreciate what is around them.”
Anne found out about the National Dairy Council competition from her sister and friends, who encouraged her to enter. With the deadline looming, she decided to go for it. She purchased a few ingredients on the Wednesday, set about making the dish on the Thursday and submitted it on the Friday, D-day.
“ I just about made the deadline,” she said.
Anne took a risk as it wasn’t a dish she had made already.
“I looked at what the NDC wanted — to use dairy, but I wanted it to be different. I know Toonsbridge do Ricotta. I was in Italy last year on holidays and then on a school tour with students. Italians love Ricotta, they use it a lot in savoury dishes. I thought Ricotta and Pear were a good combination. I asked myself what else could I add.
“I also looked at the different skills to this — I know one of Mary’s famous phrases is something like ‘I don’t want a soggy bottom’ — so I said I would get a pastry biscuit, buttery type of biscuit.
“I looked at different pictures online and asked what I would like to see on an afternoon tea plate. I said I could poach the pears, make ricotta mousse to make it lighter and build it with the biscuits.”
She explained how chef Neven Maguire had been at the school and demonstrated how to do sugar twists, so she had a go at that too!
“I also decided to do praline, to show skill.”
While Anne doesn’t have much time for TV, she does have a few of Mary’s cook books at home and loves that she has the same ethos as home economics teachers — to use local produce.
As well as meeting the doyne of baking, recreating her dish for her and enjoying afternoon tea with her, Anne will also bring home a €300 voucher for Ballymaloe Cookery School and an Afternoon Tea Hamper filled with goodies, and free entry into the Plough Championship.
Anne said she is even hoping to bring along some students, as she has brought a group to the Ploughing Championship over the past few years: “ I am passionate about young people and teaching them life skills — all students should have an opportunity in secondary school to learn even the basics that they can bring into college — it is not all about cooking in Home Ec, but about being a responsible consumer, money management, healthy eating.”
Anne said she has been inundated with messages of support from people. She runs the love home ec page on Twitter and Instagram.