Story and photos by Manos Angelakis


Return to Ireland 350

Kevin Dundon's Book 350

Irish Cooking

I recently received 2 cookbooks that made me revise my thinking about Irish cookery.

I have to admit that my idea of “Irish cuisine” was formed in the early 1960s when I lived in London with my first wife who was Irish and who was a lovely girl but a dreadful cook!

Her idea of a good supper was a “mixed grill”, But to her a mixed grill meant steamed lamb chops and bangers, with mash made from packaged potato flakes moistened with hot tap water, all washed down with a large glass of Guinness. During trips to a farm outside Dublin to visit with her family, their food was not much better either. They ate lots of steamed mutton.

So, when I received 2 cook books about Irish cuisine, I decided I should try some of the recipes, before I donated the books to my local library.

And I’m very glad I did!

Yes… Irish cooking has savory recipes that would grace the kitchen of a modern restaurant or a modern home, even though many of the recipes are based on traditional Irish or Scottish dishes. Both books have a number of the classics and some newer, more contemporary ones. 

The first book I received is by Chef Kevin Dundon and is titled “Modern Irish Food.” The second is by Judith McLoughlin, titled “A return to Ireland.”

The McLoughlin book is a compendium of stories and recipes with images of many of the featured dishes and of the Irish countryside. Many of the recipes are for classics of regional cuisine plus a number of modernized versions of the classic recipes.

For example, there is a recipe for a slow braised chopped shoulder of lamb that could easily pass as a Bolognese sauce when served over tagliatelle. In the book it is indicated as a Lamb Cassoulet but that is a misnomer since no beans exist; beans being a prime ingredient for a cassoulet. I tried it and the recipe produces a traditional meat sauce, like a Neapolitan ragout, that uses diluted tomato paste instead of the grated fresh tomatoes the Italian classic uses. The final result was quite good.


Another classic dish with roots in Scotland I believe is Cullen Skink, a Celtic potato/smoked fish thick stew I’m very fond of. This newer version adds peeled prawns to the smoked haddock of the original to make it a “seafood stew”. I made some in my kitchen and I like this version a lot.   

Another recipe features what initially looks like a Parisian Onion Soup. This version uses sweet onions and an Irish stout mixed into the beef stock with blue cheese on top of a piece of toasted baguette, instead of the melted Gruyere. I’ll be modifying the version I usually cook to include the stout or a good porter, but I’ll keep the Gruyere topping the French original has.

There are many more recipes to try, and many are versions I find intriguing. So I’ll add this particular book to my cookbook collection.


The Dundon book has recipes closer to classic Irish dishes, most are fairly straight forward, a few have twists to the classic recipes that have appeared in the last 20 years.

The Colcannon Mash recipe is definitely a nod to the classics. Using Ireland’s two favorite vegetables, green cabbage and potatoes, it is a simple and uncomplicated way to create a flavorful side dish. The variants, Chive Mash and Panchetta and Cheddar Mash on the next page, also give the creative cook a pathway to more modern and more indulgent versions. I made the Panchetta and Cheddar Mash at home and added wilted leek green, and I’m adding it to my side dish repertory.

Goat cheese and spinach filo triangle

Spinach and Goat Cheese Filo Pastry Pie is a nod to the Greek “spanakopita” using a local goat cheese instead of the traditional feta and adding another traditional Irish vegetable, leek, to the spinach in the recipe. Makes for a great pass-around at a party.

There are many “potato” recipes in this book including one for Boxty, the potato pancake I like to have for lunch every so often, and that should not be surprising as potatoes have been a staple of Irish cooking since the introduction of the tubers to Ireland in the late 16th century.




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