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.
Still, grumbles aside, Full on Irish is a beautifully put together book. Each recipe is illustrated with well arranged photographs from Alan Murphy, who also takes pictures of the chef in action – making Orange Scented Pastry Cages, harvesting spuds, picking Wexford mussels and cradling a hen from the gardens of Dunbrody House, Dundon’s award-winning restaurant and luxury hotel in County Wexford. Dunbrody House is also host to a cookery school run by Dundon and he is a great champion of local produce and artisan producers. Traditional butcher Leo Halford in Wellington Bridge, specialist mushrooms from Fancy Fungi and Hook Head potatoes from Vincent and Geraldine Rowe are just some of the foodstuffs that he highlights while Atlantic salmon and Wexford strawberries also get a mention. Dundon also has to be applauded for sensibly valuing local and seasonal foods over organic imports and for growing many of his own fruit and vegetables in the gardens around Dunbrody House.
While I would prefer to admire rather than cook many of the dishes in Full on Irish, it has piqued my interest in visiting Dunbrody House and Dundon’s final two chapters – Kitchen Garden and The Larder – have a particularly useful selection of recipes for Balsamic Reduction, Chilli Jam and Dunbrody Cucumber Pickle with Rocket. Eye candy, undoubtedly, but Full on Irish may not get much use in the kitchen.
Full on Irish: Creative Contemporary Cooking by Kevin Dundon is published by Epicure Press.