As the perfect birthday present for a person on the other side of the world to Ireland, Clare Connery’s Irish Cooking comes pretty close.
There’s nothing new about this cookbook – nor does there need to be. With an introduction that brings the writings of Maura Laverty to mind, Connery talks about her grandmother’s farmhouse kitchen and the dishes that came from it. She sums up the roots of the Irish kitchen when she says that there may not have been much sophistication in the cooking but the food was sustaining and delicious.
Connery’s recipes, too, are both nourishing and tasty. The book is broken down into eight chapters – Soups, Starters and Snacks, Fish and Seafood, Meat, Poultry and Game, Vegetable Dishes, Puddings and Deserts, Bread, Cakes and Baking.
There’s little pretentiousness attached to the food here but recipes for near-forgotten dishes of childhood are precious when you’re so far from home. Ham and Pea Soup is a great cold-weather warmer and I’ve been having lots of nostalgic fun with the recipes for White and Brown Soda Bread. There are all the old reliables to try out at this side of the world – Beef and Guinness Stew, Tea Brack, Oxtail Stew, even the Kiwi Boyfriend’s unlikely favourite – Boiled Cabbage and Bacon.
While this book is strong on the basics of the Irish kitchen but it does have one, I assume, American, fault. In her recipes for Soda Bread Connery talks about soda bread flour. It’s not something I’ve ever come across in Ireland. She does give plain flour/cream of tartar alternatives but the measurements seem to vary a bit between recipes. Even so, I’ve had no problems with the end result but perhaps this is something which could be better explained in a later edition.
Irish Cooking is a book that will probably get much more use over here in New Zealand than it ever would at home. The perfect gift for Irish people who are living abroad.
Irish Cooking: Over 100 Traditional Recipes by Clare Connery is published by Hamlyn.