Ard Bia at Nimmo’s is a small grey stone building, settled stolidly by Galway’s Spanish Arch. So far, so unprepossessing. But step inside that jaunty red door and you arrive in a rambling, welcoming space of light and warmth. I’ve always loved the juxtaposition, particularly on a miserable day, between the impassive outside and the bustling but relaxed atmosphere of the cafe/restaurant.
The Ard Bia Cookbook does something similar. There’s no food on the cover, no colourful line up of the people working there; instead it’s a more ambiguous portrait of a staff member, holding a large flower-filled vase where his/her face should be. More pictures in a similar vein are scattered throughout the book (my favourite is the man lying on the ground, clad only in an apron and surrounded by old china plates) and they’re an ideal example of owner Aoibheann Mac Namara’s quirky aesthetic that runs through the Ard Bia decor and food.
Written by Mac Namara with food journalist Aoife Carrigy, this showcases not only the recipes of Ard Bia but also the suppliers who are named throughout and listed at the back, including Murphy’s Ice Cream, Galway Free Range Eggs and Burren Smokehouse.
The cookbook is a snapshot of day at Ard Bia, from breakfast (Burren Brunch, Granola) to after dinner treats (Lemon Posset, Winterberry and Ginger Pudding), with a chunk devoted to pantry recipes and information. You can choose to recreate an Ard Bia lunchtime in your own kitchen with Masoor Dahl (recommended, even if you have to substitute split yellow peas for the lentils) and Minted Yoghurt or Patrick’s chorizo- and anchovy-flecked big meaty burgers or delve into the pantry section: check out Rose Salt and Fruit Butters, hot pepper dip Muhumara or tips on foraging and preserving.
This is a very handsome book, dotted with beautiful illustrations by Eimearjean McCormack, the faceless portraits and photos that capture Ard Bia in all it’s red teapot-ed, china cupped glory. For fans of the place, it will be a joy; for others, a lovely introduction.
Must try: Smoked Paprika and Orange Oil, Buttermilk and Poppy Seed Pancakes, Juniper-Cured Sea Trout with Bergamot Barley Risotto
Ard Bia Cookbook by Aoibheann MacNamara and Aoife Carrigy is published by Atrium. Thanks to the publishers for the review copy.
Ard Bia Cookies
Some people make playdough, which – despite all the salt – kids will invariably try to eat. I prefer to make proper cookie dough and have a chance of enjoying something nice at the end of the process. This makes a very simple cookie – flavouring suggestions in the book include 150g chocolate chips or 100g flaked almonds, added before the dry ingredients.
350g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
250g butter, at room temperature
70g caster sugar
125g brown sugar
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla pod
Whisk or sift the flour and baking powder together.
Using a hand mixer (or wooden spoon and muscles of steel) cream the butter in a large bowl, adding the sugars and beating well. One at a time, drop in the eggs, mixing well, then add the vanilla seeds. Mix in the flour and baking powder.
On top of some clingfilm, shape the dough into two rolls – I made mine about 4cm in diameter. Wrap in the clingfilm and chill for at least an hour or overnight.
When you’re ready to cook the cookies, preheat the oven to 170°C (fanbake 170°C). Grease three baking trays, unwrap the dough and slice into 1cm circles. Bake for 15-17 minutes until golden. Cool on a wire tray and eat with a glass of milk.
Makes 30-36 small cookies.
Adapted from the Ard Bia Cookbook.
Foodtalk: Dairy with Aoibheann Mac Namara and Kieran Murphy