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.
Listening to Winter Food the other day I heard an interview with Sean and Kieran Murphy of Murphy’s Ice Cream in Dingle. They take presenter Clodagh McKenna through the making of their fabulous ice cream, telling her about local milk, flavourings and types of ice cream (Mango and Chilli – is that exported outside the Kingdom?!), taking her into a freezer room piled high with their produce – brioscaí (Cookies and cream), caramal (Honeycomb), bó bhán (Irish cream liqueur), fanaile (French vanilla) – and treating her, much to Clodagh’s delight, to sú craobh or Raspberry Sorbet. And don’t forget their seacláid – “chocolate, always chocolate’, as Kieran says several time during the interview. No secrets where his heart lies, especially if you check out his blog at Ice Cream Ireland and his decadent recipe for Hot Chocolate.
Ah, St Patrick’s Day. There’s very little I can say about this Irish holiday without descending to cliché but, one of the great things about being back in Ireland is that we get a day off work. If you’re not busy drowning the shamrock and having a feed of Guinness in some ‘Orish’ pub around the world (or maybe even if you are!), a big pot of Ham and Pea Soup and a couple of loaves of Irish Brown Soda Bread are as good a way of celebrating as any.Happy St Patrick’s Day!
Last Friday, over a glass of wine and some nibbles at a city centre tapas bar, the Boyfriend – after WEEKS of mystery – handed me my passport and…a guidebook for Paris! He had told me that we were going away for the weekend, we would be spending time in a city and that I had to pack for cold weather. Despite lots of guessing – I thought Galway, or maybe Belfast – I hadn’t even come close to figuring out where we were going.
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.
I have become a cast iron convert. A Thursday night dash into a post-Christmas sale at Kitchen Compliments on Chatham Street in Dublin led to me becoming the proud owner of an oval “Racing Green” enamelled cast iron Chasseur casserole dish (the Chasseur range is like Le Creuset but a little cheaper). Well, I started off being proud until I realised how heavy it was and that I had to drag it – with the Boyfriend’s help – to an opening at an art gallery, all the way round the (very large) exhibition, to the after-opening drinks in a local pub, and into a bad Mexican take-away on its way home to my kitchen. It survived its eventful night out in Dublin and, since then, has been put to use on many occasions, some of which have, again, involved trips across town.
Last week the Boyfriend decided that it was time to move on from making bagels which, though gorgeous, are very time-consuming to something a little faster. As we both take our lunches to work, we’re going through a lot of brown bread at the moment (mostly McCambridge‘s…especially nicely nutty when toasted) so he decided to make a couple of loaves of my Brown Soda Bread. After a few minutes hovering and being more hindrance than help, I decided to leave him to it. I curled up on the couch in the living room with a book as he worked away in the adjacent kitchen – close enough to help if asked but far away so that I wouldn’t be interfering!
Saturday night dinner for friends staying over meant a late night, a not-so-hurried rise on Sunday morning and a similarly delayed breakfast. We badly needed to blow the cobwebs away so we drove down to Brittas Bay for a long walk in the surprisingly warm sunshine (and a brief snooze on the beach!). When we arrived back in the car about 3pm, lunchless, the Boyfriend and I were hungry as hunters. Driving back to Dublin we took the opportunity to turn off the N11 into the branch of Avoca Handweavers in Kilmacanogue. Although initially rather daunted by the long line of lunch-ing and afternoon tea-ing visitors, we were distracted by a blackboard full of intriguing choices. By the time we had decided on dishes, we were almost at the top of the queue and gazing at the generously stocked salad display. More decisions had to be made.