Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
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.
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.
© July 2023 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.
In this issue: