If Failte Ireland want to use just one thing to promote Ireland overseas, The Country Cooking of Ireland is the book that they need to thrust into the hands of potential tourists.
Writer Colman Andrews has impeccable pedigree – one of the founders of Saveur, the author of books on Catalan, Italian and French cuisine, and freelance contributer to any number of esteemed American food magazines including the last lamented Gourmet, Bon Appétit and Food & Wine – and he ate his way through the high- and byways of this country to put this book together. He credits a meeting with Peter Ward of Nenagh’s Country Choice in a Kinsale bar for starting him off on the journey that led to this book – and for pointing him in the direction of the best food available, something that he might not have stumbled on by accident.
As it happens, Country Cooking of Ireland is like a roll call of the best eating available with Andrews singling out people like butcher Jack McCarthy in Kanturk, Esther Barron of Cappoquin‘s Barron’s Bakery, chef Ian Orr of Rathmullan House in Donegal and the Shinnick’s of the Fermoy Natural Cheese Company. He is like a culinary magpie, his eye always cocked for an artisan producer, local speciality, or place featuring good food.
The usual chapters on soups, fish, poultry, meats and baking are supplemented by sections on savoury pies, salmon (“The Magical Fish”), potatoes (“The Definitive Food”) and a soda bread-focused bread chapter. There are little essays scattered throughout the book on a historical and factual topics, from how to serve Irish smoked salmon, the recent Polish influence on Ireland and explanations of Irish ingredients and old cooking techniques.
He quotes widely from Irish cookbooks, over 100 of which are mentioned in the extensive bibliography, and recipes from all eras are included – Miss Jane Bury’s Potato Pancakes, Maura Laverty‘s Yalla Male Bread, Gerry Galvin’s Tipsy Pudding with Mulled Wine, Shepherd’s Pie from Regina Sexton and Clodagh McKenna.
There is enough Irish myth and legend to please the Yanks but, while Andrews gazes at the stars, his wellies are still down in the mud – generations of Irish mammies will nod their heads approvingly as Bisto makes an appearance in a recipe for Savoury Mince, Dublin Coddle is to be served with YR Sauce and there’s even a recipe for Broccoli in Butter (Andrews justifies its inclusion by writing that it is a “common offering” with main dishes in many restaurants, “even in the most sophisticated ones”).
While some of his information is already dated – a couple of the micro breweries that he mentions have disappeared – in the main, this is the kind of book that will have you wondering how on earth you have managed to miss out on such food riches in your own back yard. But, as Andrews pointed out at the Good Food Ireland launch of the book in Dublin’s Merrion Hotel, Ireland is not a great food destination – yet. But the potential, much of it enclosed between the covers of this fantastic book, is here.
Must Try: Bernadette O’Shea‘s Leek and Black Pudding Pizza, Pot Roasted Pork with Root Vegetables and Apples from Martin Dwyer, Peter Ward’s Christmas Pudding (the recipe for which alone is worth the price of the book)
The Country Cooking of Ireland by Colman Andrews is published by Chronicle Books and is available online from Good Food Ireland.
Related Link: Choice in the Country: where are we now?