There is a satisfying heft about Cornucopia at Home, an approachable collection of recipes from one of Dublin’s best-known vegetarian restaurants. Written, photographed and designed by former staff, this handsome volume is a labour of love – and it shows.
Eleanor Heffernan, who worked in the restaurants a waitress, manager and chef for seven years, is the beating heart of the book: she knows the recipes from all angles, having been the chef preparing squash for the savoury Butternut Squash, Pumpkin Seed and Rosemary Scones (she always used the easy-to-chop, straight end!), dealing with the customer who wanted to buy an uncooked Apple Crumble for baking at home to impress a date, and noticing which of the dishes are most demand when they arrive on the counter (Sweet Potato, Broccoli and Lentil Sambar, White Bean and Roast Mediterranean Vegetable Pie with Basil Mash and Chocolate Marble Silken Torte are just a few of the favourites). With atmospheric photography and food styling from Orla Keeshan and Orlagh Murphy’s colourful graphic design/illustration, the book is both testament and tribute to the ideals behind Cornucopia.
Cornucopia was set up in 1986 by Neil and Deirdre McCafferty. This Irish couple had just returned from nine years living in Boston and, having being influenced by the vegetarian and raw food cultures in America, decided to set up a health food shop and cafe on Wicklow Street. Successful from the start, after a few years, the food side of things expanded into the entire premises and so it has remained, under Deirdre’s stewardship – Neil died suddenly of pancreatic cancer in 1993.
The restaurant has remained true to their original ideals: constantly aiming to achieve a happy union between health and taste. Quality seasonal ingredients, organic when possible, cooked simply are the basis of these recipes which will appeal – as does the restaurant – to those who are on special diets, are vegetarian or vegan, or who just appreciate good food.
The cookbook contains the greatest hits of Cornucopia, recipes chosen by democratic and diplomatic means, snapshots taken of staff behind the counter, educational information on ingredients and scenes from the life of the restaurant. Divided into five chapters – Soups, Salads, Mains, Breads and Deserts – each is subdivided into sections which make it easy to find your way around. In Salads, basic information is set alongside recipes for potato salads (including my favourite Garlic Mayonnaise Potato Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts), bean salads, grains and noodles and raw salads. The Bread section has a particularly useful table of bread preparation tunes, along with the ever-fantastic and exceptionally simple Spelt Bread that is ever-present on the counter.
Recipes are clearly laid out, easy to follow and, in the main, very uncomplicated. Just a cursory flick through will give you lots of ideas for dinner – take a look at Moroccan Chickpea Tagine with Orange-Scented Bulgar Wheat, Butter Bean, Roast Fennel, Pepper and Rocket Salad or Tomato, White Bean and Savoy Cabbage with Basil Oil Soup. For anyone who is restricted to a special diet, there are plenty of ideas, with some particularly good recipes for gluten-free and sugar-free baking.
There’s no doubt that this book will be snapped up by the restaurant’s many long-term restaurant customers – but they’re not the only ones that are going to enjoy, appreciate and cook from Cornucopia at Home.
Cornucopia at Home is published by Atrium. Read more about the cookbook here.