Summer’s here, kids – what are we going to eat? There are a few Irish books floating round at the moment which might help you to make some decisions in that regard.
1. The no-bake one
This is the book that will make you swoon, whether it’s from a sugar coma or from the glorious cacophony of colours that food stylist extraordinaire Sharon Hearne-Smith has put together for her first cookbook. There are lots of lime greens and vivid pinks – sometimes in the same recipe, as in the uber-kitsch Watermelon Bombe – pastel coloured pages and pop-off-the page photographs, courtesy of one Donal Skehan.
No-Bake Baking is a playful book with lots of great ideas for sweet summer treats that won’t get you hot and bothered in the kitchen. Make sure you clear plenty of space in the fridge and freezer, and stock up on ingredients like cornflakes, condensed milk, Oreo cookies – basically, all the nice things, to turn into even nicer things.
Sharon’s decadent chocolate and cherry tartlets made a great Fathers’ Day treat, my version of her Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups (using almond butter) had to be strictly rationed and Little Missy has taken to flicking through the pages and using colour to decide on our next no-baking adventure: Candy-Stripe Blueberry Cheesecake, Decadent Chocolate and Cherry Tartlets and the Teeny White Chocolate, Pistachio and Raspberry Tarts are all on her list. Perfect no-bake-baking for hot weather; We just need a bigger fridge now.
No-Bake Baking by Sharon Hearne-Smith is published by Quercus Publishing.
2. The keep an eye on your pennies one
Everything happened at the same time in 2011. The Husband was busy setting up a brewery, I was project managing the renovation of our one-bedroom, uninsulated cottage for the arrival of baby #2 and we were both working as freelancers. There was a lot of scrabbling around the back of the couch and underneath car seats for forgotten about coins to pay for the messages. It was a tough year and we lived off my pantry; bags of dried chickpeas, butter beans, dal, barley. Lots of porridge. Very little meat. Wholemeal rice and pasta – keeps you fuller for longer. Big bags of spices from Cork’s Asian shops to ring the changes even it it was just another dinner of lentils and rice.
Caítriona Redmond has been there too, done that and documented it on her food and parenting blog Wholesome. Her book of the same name is a textbook for anyone in the same situation or the home cook who just wants to, as the subtitle says, “Feed Your Family Well For Less.” Like Shelia Kiely’s Gimmie the Recipe, there are lots of simple family-orientated dishes – what kids aren’t going to dive on Caítriona’s ‘Mac’ and Cheese in individual cups, Garlic Roll Ups or Loaded Nachos? – but the focus here is on counting the pennies without losing sight of flavour and nutritional appeal.
The trick of eating well on a small budget is to upskill yourself in the kitchen and Caítriona delivers: learn how to cook beans from scratch, make every little bit of a roast chicken count and use veg in creative ways (a grated carrot can give tasty bulk to many meals). Don’t pick up Wholesome looking for Ottolenghi-length lists of ingredients or slick styling; buy it because it will help you make good meals and save money in the process.
Wholesome by Caitríona Redmond is published by Mercier Press.
The “let’s get out there!” one
We never realised that we were exploring the Wild Atlantic Way on those camping trips to Achill and Doolin, the Aran Island weekends, the long-way-home coastal route from our friends’ house in Galway. But we did always travel with a copy of the McKennas’ (formerly Bridgestone) guides in the glovebox, reading hopefully before arriving.
Now that the WAW is a “thing”, stretching all the way from the wilds of Donegal to Kinsale in Cork, the people out driving and exploring and visiting it need somewhere to stay, somewhere to eat. That’s where this neat little guide from John and Sally McKenna comes in, highlighting the best of what’s on offer along the coastal route. Hitting every price point, it is as useful to the camper looking to stock up in a local market or find a decent pint as it is to someone plotting a luxury trip.
From Aniar in Galway to Kilorglin’s Zest, this book is an ABC of places you will want to visit this summer. You won’t cook from it, but you will get endless eating inspiration. When are we off?
Where to Eat and Stay on the Wild Atlantic Way by John and Sally McKenna is published by Estragon Press.
Thanks to publishers Quercus, Mercier and Estragon Press for the review books.