Cooking the books at Kai and young chefs competing

Plus a bash at Ballymaloe and vegetarian and vegan recipes for people who like meat

The Cookbook Club at Kai Cafe and Restaurant in Galway has selected the titles for its next four dinners, at which chef/proprietor Jess Murphy will cook a selection of dishes from each book.

On January 31st Polska – New Polish Cooking, by Zuza Zak, will provide the inspiration. On February 28th it's the turn of The Palomar Cookbook, from the London restaurant of the same name. Simple, by Diana Henry, is a popular choice for March 28th. The cookbook from the Venice, California restaurant Gjelina, written by chef Travis Lett, will provide welcome burst of sunshine food on April 25th.

“The Cookbook Club allows diners to taste and experience dishes and flavours from some of the best-known cook books in the world. It is like stepping inside that book for one night only. We love doing them as we can also immerse and become a little obsessed with the cookbook for that entire month,” says Murphy.

Tickets, €45, are available from the restaurant, or by telephone – 091-526003. Reservations can be made for individual tables, or you can just join a group on the night. The ticket includes a booklet with the recipes, about six dishes from the book, as well as a welcome drink. Murphy, or the chef on duty that night, will also explain why the book was chosen.

Under 30s talent

Young chefs under the age of 30 have from February 1st to April 30th to put together their online application for the S. Pellegrino global culinary talent contest. In a new departure, the competition will be judged over 18 months, with the online application process leading to regional shortlists (announced June 1st), followed by a series of local challenges at which the semi-finalists will cook their signature dishes (June-December), leading to the global final in Milan in June 2018. See

Run for your life

The Ballymaloe Good Living Day on February 5th aims to engage people in wellness of mind, body and spirit. There are lots of food-related talks and events, including a presentation by Darina Allen on Change Your Food, Change Your Life.

Other topics that will be covered include fermentation and foraging, where the speaker will be April Danann, and the communicating the sugar message, with Dr Anne Twomey, former president of the Irish Dental Association.

There will also be a 5k “lucky run” through the Ballymaloe House and Farm grounds, with a €1,000 prize fund – and it won’t just be the fastest home who will scoop the cash in this event that celebrates “the joy of movement” – all who complete the race will be in with a chance to win some cash. A €10 entry fee covers all of the talks and entry to the fun run is €15 (which includes access to the talks).

Healthy and hearty

The market is saturated with vegan/vegetarian recipe books written by waif-like women – and the occasional wiry man. So it comes as a refreshing change to see a book on this topic written by a self-confessed “big unit – pushing 17 stone, 6ft 2inches tall”.

Journalist and TV presenter Nick Knowles of DIY SOS fame, made big changes to his diet and lifestyle when taking part in a 28-day detox and retreat in Thailand, which became the BBC TV series The Retreat .

He says he now mainly eats a vegan and vegetarian diet "with the odd day off", and has put his name to Proper Healthy Food (BBC Books, €17.99), a collection of recipes described as "hearty vegan and vegetarian recipes for meat lovers".

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