Undoubtedly creative and definitely contemporary, Kevin Dundon’s Full on Irish is a book that is easy to admire yet, as a collection of recipes, it is not entirely successful. Too much fussing over presentation, as with the beautifully and immaculately layered Smoked Salmon Cake with Chive Cream Cheese, is a huge turn off for me. I want to be able to look at the pictures and think “I can do that” rather than “it’s too complicated for me.” Maybe it is to do with my style of cooking, which is all about landing dishes on the table and letting people help themselves, rather than delicately plating up little morsels of food, but I find it very difficult to get excited about cookbooks that devote a paragraph to telling me how to arrange the dish before presenting it.
Category: Cookery Books
Irish Food: Slow & Traditional by John and Sally McKenna & Irish Food: Fast & Modern by Paul Flynn and Sally McKenna ***
Although these wee cookbooks are small – just 64 pages – they are beautifully formed. The Irish Food books are from the same stable that produces the Bridgestone Top 100 guides to restaurants and places to stay, as well as the Irish Food Guide – Sally and John McKenna’s Estragon Press – they are well worth investing in, and at €3 apiece, they won’t break the bank.
With a subtitle that says, “Big-time home cooking for family and friends” you can’t say that you haven’t been warned. Tom Douglas, with his wife Jackie Cross, is the owner of several restaurants in Seattle one of which, Etta’s Seafood, I’ve heard about for years from a friend that worked there some time ago. As is evident from the cover photograph, he’s a big man with a big appetite – the kind of chef that, in short, you’d trust to cook you dinner or to tell you how to cook your own dinner. Don’t go looking for any nouvelle cuisine in this book ‘cos you ain’t gonna find it. What you will find, however, are plenty of recipes that will make you want to march right into that kitchen of yours and start cooking for crowds.
Before I started reading/reviewing these books, Anne Willan was unfamiliar to me but, as soon as they arrived, her name started to crop up in my reading with increasing regularity. An American by way of Yorkshire, Willan established La Varenne, the prestigious Burgundy-based French cooking school, in 1975. For those who haven’t the time or money to study with her, she has also written an impressive number of cookbooks, ranging from Dorling Kindersley’s Perfect series (Perfect Chicken Dishes, Perfect Chocolate Deserts, Perfect Appetizers etc), last year’s useful A Cook’s Book of Quick Fixes to the more personal in From My Chateau Kitchen.
My first introduction to Ursula Ferrigno was through a book called Bread (published by Dorling Kindersley) that she co-wrote with Eric Treuille, the owner of London shop/haven Books For Cooks. It’s an eminently useful publication with, as is the Dorling Kindersley way, plenty, almost too many, illustrations. This became a much-used publication in my kitchen – especially when the Boyfriend appointed himself official bagel-maker! – and so it was with great interest I turned to Ferrigno’s latest book, Trattoria: Food for Family and Friends.
Although already the author of two well-received memoirs – Kitchen Confidential and A Cook’s Tour – as well as a couple of not so popular detective novels, it has taken American chef Anthony Bourdain a little while to embark on his own cookbook and he throws himself into the undertaking with commendable vigour.
Derry woman and Sunday Telegraph food writer Diana Henry has again come up trumps with her latest book, Roast Figs, Sugar Snow. Her first cookbook, Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons, focused on the tastes and enchantments of the Middle East, Mediterranean and North Africa. With praise from Claudia Roden and its appearance twice on the Glenfiddich award shortlist, it became an instant classic.
British organic and Fair Trade food chain Fresh and Wild teamed up with organic expert Ysanne Spevack, editor of online organic food magazine organicfood.co.uk, to produce this cookbook. It’s both worthy and worthwhile, but sometimes Spevack’s party political broadcasts on behalf of Fresh and Wild do get a little tiresome, especially when there’s only a limited amount of the shops to go around.