Although the huge green-lipped New Zealand monsters nearly put me off mussels for life – too big and way too chewy! – last week I tried cooking Irish mussels for the first time. Coming home from work one evening I nipped in to a local shop called Donnybrook Fair to pick up some essential supper supplies. Walking past the seafood counter down the back, a big sack of navy-shelled mussels caught my eye, along with the price – €2.99 a kilo. Instantly, all thoughts of cheese on toast went out the window as I got a kilo of the mussels, picking up a length of crusty French bread and a bottle of sauvignon blanc en route to the checkout.
Monthly Archive: March 2006
As charity cookbooks go, Real Food for Real People is a real gem. The book is part of a fundraising drive for Moneystown National School’s building fund and was produced and published by the Parents’ Committee in this County Wicklow village. But, even though Real Food for Real People was evidentially done on a shoestring, the design quality still shines out. Illustrated mainly with children’s drawings and photos, and scattered with quotations from, amongst others, Shakespeare and Lenin, it is a simple and well laid-out book.
After making Nic‘s Buttermilk Pancakes twice in the last ten days, I just have to sing their praises here. They take minutes to put together, don’t involve getting out the weighing scales (just use the cup measurements), are easy to cook, and – if you’re on a weekend away – the dry ingredients sit happily together in a zip-locked baggie until you choose to combine them with the buttermilk, butter and egg. Most importantly, they turn out delectable, light, fluffy, American-style thick pancakes without having to resort to a mix. We ate them this morning with oodles of fragrant organic maple syrup from Nenagh’s wonderful Country Choice deli, grilled rashers of bacon and, in my case, a little extra butter to further lubricate the sweet/savoury combination taste combination.
Equipped with one very large mixing bowl (also useful as a basin!) and a scattering of much smaller ones, I was in the market for a medium sized bowl or bowls. When the Boyfriend and I were in Avoca Handweavers a few weeks ago, queuing for our late lunch, I did some wandering around all the gorgeous goods on display. Piles of enticing cookbooks, soft and richly coloured blankets and throws, sparkling jewellery, jars of jams and jellies, sweet-smelling breads – all laid out to entice browsers and shoppers alike.
After so many years of steering clear of potato dishes or any recipes involving even a hint of the spud, it’s now like a whole new world has opened to me. I’m still not a fan of the floury potato, much loved in Ireland, but I have been experimenting with waxy new potatoes in dishes like Frittata. Well, at least it’s a step on from the tinned potatoes I tried in New Zealand that first got me interested in the tuber.
Undoubtedly creative and definitely contemporary, Kevin Dundon’s Full on Irish is a book that is easy to admire yet, as a collection of recipes, it is not entirely successful. Too much fussing over presentation, as with the beautifully and immaculately layered Smoked Salmon Cake with Chive Cream Cheese, is a huge turn off for me. I want to be able to look at the pictures and think “I can do that” rather than “it’s too complicated for me.” Maybe it is to do with my style of cooking, which is all about landing dishes on the table and letting people help themselves, rather than delicately plating up little morsels of food, but I find it very difficult to get excited about cookbooks that devote a paragraph to telling me how to arrange the dish before presenting it.
Listening to Winter Food the other day I heard an interview with Sean and Kieran Murphy of Murphy’s Ice Cream in Dingle. They take presenter Clodagh McKenna through the making of their fabulous ice cream, telling her about local milk, flavourings and types of ice cream (Mango and Chilli – is that exported outside the Kingdom?!), taking her into a freezer room piled high with their produce – brioscaí (Cookies and cream), caramal (Honeycomb), bó bhán (Irish cream liqueur), fanaile (French vanilla) – and treating her, much to Clodagh’s delight, to sú craobh or Raspberry Sorbet. And don’t forget their seacláid – “chocolate, always chocolate’, as Kieran says several time during the interview. No secrets where his heart lies, especially if you check out his blog at Ice Cream Ireland and his decadent recipe for Hot Chocolate.
Ah, St Patrick’s Day. There’s very little I can say about this Irish holiday without descending to cliché but, one of the great things about being back in Ireland is that we get a day off work. If you’re not busy drowning the shamrock and having a feed of Guinness in some ‘Orish’ pub around the world (or maybe even if you are!), a big pot of Ham and Pea Soup and a couple of loaves of Irish Brown Soda Bread are as good a way of celebrating as any.Happy St Patrick’s Day!