Read: Irish Foodie | Irish cookbooks in 2022 – and beyond
First published in Irish Foodie, Winter 2022.
In a world where we seem to stumble from crisis to crisis – prices, weather, war – at breakneck speed, there’s one thing that’s constant: we all have to eat. New cookbooks can make life that little bit brighter, bringing joy in reading beautifully written, illustrated and photographed books, as well as the fun of cooking their recipes. There are cookbooks out there for everyone, books with gorgeous covers and a satisfactory heft, books that open the door to new foods and techniques, books that entertain and books that teach. This selection of cookbooks is from Irish publishers and most are available in your local independent bookshop. Support local while travelling the world through food.
Mezze: Middle Eastern Food to Share by Nicola Crowley and Dvir Nusery (Mezze, €32)
This colourful collection of recipes and menus from Tramore’s Mezze deli strikes a brilliant balance between aspirational and achievable: there are lots of great flavours and intriguing ingredients but nothing is too difficult. We particularly loved the homemade pita, stuffed with chicken shawarma, anointed with green tahini and harissa and topped with sumac onions – a delicious spread to share with friends. There are many building blocks in this book, from dips and sauces that can be prepared in advance, preserved no-waste lemon peel and spice blends that will live happily in a jar in the pantry. Get Mezze – and all the Middle Eastern ingredients that your recipient didn’t know they needed – at mezze.ie.
Bake by Graham Herterich (Nine Bean Rows Books, €25)
Graham Herterich celebrates Irish traditional baking and puts his very own up-to-date twist on it in the gorgeous pink-accented Bake. The vivid cover image of panch phoran soda bread – which goes with a Sunil Ghai-inspired lamb keema curry – has Herterich taking a familiar recipe, bringing spices to the party and turning those flavours up to 11. There’s also a white soda bread with guggy egg for those times when you feel more like being cosseted. This juxtaposition of don’t-scare-the-horses recipes (sherry trifle, honey & mustard baked ham) along with very 21st century reimaginings of those dishes (triple chocolate brownie trifle, buckfast baked ham) will excite and delight those who love baking.
Chop, Cook, Yum! by Deirdre Doyle (The O’Brien Press, €14.99)
Deirdre Doyle has been teaching children all about cooking and food education at her Cool Food School since 2018. Like her classes, Chop, Cook, Yum! focuses on learning techniques, exploring new flavours and making food fun. Catering for breakfast, lunchboxes, snacks, dinner, desserts and celebrations, the recipes include a baked porridge cake, simple chicken wrap, a tomato sauce that can be used in three different ways and use-up-the leftover Easter egg cookies. Recipes are graded according to difficulty, are clearly written and incorporate step-by-step photos so that young cooks can see what the dish looks like at different stages. Well worth picking up for the mini chef in your life.
The GIY Diaries: A Year of Growing and Cooking by Michael Kelly (Gill Books, €26.99)
This is the book for anyone who wants to grow their own food. Michael Kelly, the Waterford-based founder of GIY (Grow It Yourself) and presenter of television series Grow, Cook, Eat, has been growing his own food for almost 20 years since discovering that the garlic in his local shop was imported from China. The GIY Diaries distils years of garden scribblings, newspaper columns and articles into a year’s worth of chatty, friendly musings about life in the garden, distributing advice, scattering tips and appreciating the changes that occur over the course of 12 months. There are useful recipes to use up the gluts that affect every enthusiastic gardener (an apple tray bake, fermented hot chilli sauce, zingy cucumber pickle) and information about what to sow where and when. Add on GIY’s Ultimate Starter GROWBox (€39.99) for everything needed to start on a grow it yourself journey, including a variety of seeds, pots and seaweed feed for your soil. A selection of GIY step-by-step online courses is also available for free at www.giy.ie
Bread and Butter – By Ciara McLaughlin (The O’Brien Press, €19.99)
Antrim baker and teacher Ciara McLaughlin has gathered her family’s most loved recipes together for Bread and Butter. It’s a nostalgia-fest through four seasons, with recipes for all kinds of baking covering traditional favourites like simnel cake, jam tarts, pavlova, mince pies and trifle. There are NI specialities like fifteens, homemade Veda, top hats and yella’man (if you know, you know) but our favourite was McLaughlin’s chocolate version of rock buns, which are a lot less dense than they sound and are best eaten while still warm and positively puddled with chocolate. Lots of lovely family baking.
Blasta Books 2023 (€50 + p&p to pre-order all four books in the series)
Small in size but with a big, colourful and very delicious impact, the first series of Blasta Books – Tacos, Hot Fat, The United Nations of Cookies and Wok – won Cookbook of the Year at the 2022 Irish Food Writing Awards. Publisher Kristin Jensen has another series of her “smart, beautifully written and gorgeously designed” (Jay Rayner has a good eye) books coming for 2023: Soup by Spice Bags podcast team Blanca Valencia, Dee Laffan and Mei Chin, Tapas by La Tapas de Lola’s Anna Cabrera and Vanessa Murphy, Wasted by no waste chef Conor Spacey and Masarap by Richie Castillo and Alex O’Neill from Bahay. Pre-order the quarterly series now for dispatch throughout 2023 at blastabooks.com. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Ballymaloe Desserts by JR Ryall (Phaidon, €49.95)
JR started his dessert trolley apprenticeship in Ballymaloe House at the age of 15, became head pastry chef in 2010 and has steered that legendary trolley with respect and style ever since. While his baking is firmly grounded in the ethos and produce of Ballymaloe – including carrageen moss pudding and apple and blackberry tarts – it also draws inspiration from his stages in many iconic international restaurants. With elegant modern photography from Cliodhna Prendergast, Ballymaloe Desserts is a thing of beauty and will become a much-loved kitchen companion for anyone who loves baking, sweet making or even creating one of Myrtle Allen’s legendary chests of sandwiches for Ballycotton picnics.