Irish cider for Christmas

by Kristin on December 19, 2015

Cider isn’t just for summer, and you might be surprised by how many foods can be paired with it. A good rule of thumb is that if a certain dish or food goes well with white wine, then chances are it will also pair nicely with a cider too. A classic cider also has body, tannin and acidity, just like red wine. Plus the carbonation in cider helps to lighten up a meal, which will never be more appreciated than at a big Christmas spread. This year, why not give Irish craft cider a place at your holiday table as a home-grown alternative? And remember, cold kills flavour, so whatever you do, don’t serve it over ice!

Mollys Mulled CiderWINTER WARMER: Mulled cider makes a nice change from the usual mulled wine, with the added bonus of having a lower alcohol level too. Molly’s Mulled Cider from the Armagh Cider Co. is a ready-made winter warmer. Just pour it into a saucepan and warm gently over a low heat.

PARTY TIPPLE: Orpens strikes a fine balance between sweet and acidic, clean and crisp. It’s just as good to drink on its own as it is paired with food, which makes it a reliable crowd-pleaser for a party. Or for guests who don’t drink alcohol, treat them to Highbank Orchards Driver’s Cider, a sparkling, organic, non-alcoholic variation that just so happens to be suitable for coeliacs and vegans too.

APERITIF: Cockagee Pure Irish Keeved Cider has a delicate, natural sparkle that comes from the way its made – it’s the only keeved cider produced in Ireland. Think of it as an Irish alternative to the usual bottle of bubbly and serve it as an aperitif in a champagne flute to ring in the changes.

STARTERS: Seafood and cider can work well together, so if you’re going for a smoked salmon or prawn starter, pair it with a Dalliance cider from Craigies. Dalliance is their premium vintage blend with a citrusy, green apple flavour profile and a tart dryness that’s reminiscent of white wine.

Stonewell Medium DryTHE MAIN EVENT: There are few better food and drink matches than cider and any kind of pork. Stonewell’s popular and award-winning Medium Dry Cider is an excellent choice to serve with your Christmas ham. If you’re not a fan of dry ciders, don’t let the name fool you. It’s a well-balanced, full-bodied cider that stays on the sweet side of dry while still having a nice amount of acidity, making it a particularly good cider to pair with food.

CHRISTMAS PUDDING: Dan Kelly’s Cider has notes of golden syrup and toffee apple that will complement a fruity, spiced Christmas pudding. The carbonation in the cider will also help to cut through the rich denseness of a traditional pudding, which will be especially welcome by the time dessert is brought out.

CHEESEBOARD: Cheddar and cider is a classic pairing, but cider also works beautifully with Camembert-style cheese and even blue cheese. Try a MacIvors Medium Cider alongside a selection of Irish farmhouse cheeses and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how well they go together.

Longueville_House Apple Brandy No TextFIRESIDE SIPPING: Longueville House takes cider a step further. They take the cider made from their own apples, distil it in a pot still and age it in French oak barrels for four years to create their Irish Apple Brandy. Smooth and rich, serve it in a snifter for the perfect after-dinner drink or use it in place of whiskey for an appley twist on an Irish coffee.

This piece first appeared in the Irish Times Winter Food and Drink Guide 2015.


Dining at the Shelbourne Hotel

by Kristin on October 24, 2015

It’s hard to keep up with Dublin’s dining scene these days. Every time you turn around a new restaurant has opened, each one hotter and hipper than the last.

As exciting as that is, it means it’s easy to forget about the older places on the edges of the limelight, keeping their heads down and quietly getting on with the business of cooking good food – like the Shelbourne, the grand dame of Dublin.

And yet I bet you have a story or a good memory from the Shelbourne. A celebrity sighting, a late-night glass of bubbly and half a dozen oysters at the bar, a special afternoon tea, a weekend jazz brunch. As for me, it’s the famous Horseshoe Bar, where I’ll always remember having my first Pimm’s cup after I moved to Ireland in the summer of 1999.

Saddle Room at the Shelbourne Hotel Dublin a

So if you’re looking for an excuse to return – or perhaps to go there for the first time – then the next time you’re craving a steak and a top-notch glass of red, keep the Saddle Room in mind. It’s been reinvented as a steak and seafood restaurant and it comes into its own at this time of year, with its gold banquettes and dark wood panelling striking a balance between retro opulence and hidden-away-from-it-all snugness when it’s blowing a gale on the city streets outside.

And now that there’s an R in the month, you know what that means: Irish oysters are in season. Every day, oysters from Carlignford, Sligo, Dungarvan and Galway arrive at the Shelbourne, to the tune of 35,000 oysters being sold there last year. Oysters and a pint of stout – or if you’re pushing the envelope, a glass of Champagne – is both one of life’s simplest pleasures as well as an extravagant treat, and there are few better places to enjoy such a treat than the Oyster Bar.


Sometimes the restaurants getting all the buzz today could be gone tomorrow, but at 191 years old, the five-star Shelbourne is clearly doing something right, and doing it in spades.

I was a dinner guest of the Shelbourne and Host PR. All opinions are my own.

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Do you care about your food, your democracy and your sovereignty? Do you want to be a citizen, not just a consumer? Then you should care about TTIP. A lot.

TTIP stands for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). It’s a free trade agreement that is currently being negotiated between the EU and the US, our biggest export market. So far, so ho hum.

The European Commission says TTIP will “create jobs and widen choice and lower prices for consumers”. That doesn’t sound so bad, so what’s all the fuss about? Why should we be so worried about a trade agreement?

The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) has 10 very good reasons why we should all be worried about TTIP. They say it’s a threat to democracy, public services, food safety, the environment, the climate, workers’ rights, personal privacy and financial control and is a dangerous blueprint for the rest of the world.

Despite the European Commission’s bland reassurances to the contrary, many see TTIP as a Trojan horse that will lower the standards for healthy, safe food and undermine sustainable, locally based agriculture, the environment and public health. Here’s what people are saying about it.

1. It will make us fat and sick.
“This free trade food model is gradually altering diets from traditional and unprocessed foods to high-fat, high-sugar diets closely linked with diseases such as obesity, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes,” says a report co-published by the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), Compassion in World Farming, ARC2020, Friends of the Earth Europe and European Coordination Via Campesina.

2. Say goodbye to the ‘precautionary principle’.
Writing on behalf of Slow Food Ireland, Darina Allen says: “The European Commission’s stated TTIP negotiating position is to abandon the ‘precautionary principle’. This is the system whereby chemicals and pesticides used in our food system must be proven to be safe for animal and human health prior to use. In the USA, the reverse is the case. Many carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting chemicals are used in food production there that are banned in Europe. The proposed TTIP mutual recognition system means we would no longer be able to ban these chemicals.”

And on that last point, here’s a scary thought: even though TTIP has not been agreed, the Guardian recently reported that “EU moves to regulate hormone-damaging chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility were shelved following pressure from US trade officials” over TTIP.

Or here’s one more sobering example: an article in The Independent last year stated, “The EU currently bans 1,200 substances from use in cosmetics; the US just 12.”

3. It will undermine Ireland’s clean, green image.
Ruth Hegarty, member of the TASTE Council and former Euro-Toques Secretary-General, says: “Any gains will benefit existing large international companies, not SMEs, and are likely to displace jobs and threaten the system of small-scale family farms in Ireland, which is the fabric of not only our agri-food economy, but our culture and our landscape. Whatever the short-term economic gains, we need to ask ourselves ‘Is it worth it’? … As a country that sells itself on high quality, not cheap, production and a clean, green image, we should be extremely wary of a deal which threatens quality and welfare standards and reduces oversight in favour of big corporate interests.”

4. Standards will sink to the lowest common denominator.
The ECI says, “Through a harmonisation of food safety regulation, EU food safety standards would be lowered to US levels. This would remove EU restrictions on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), pesticides and hormone-treated beef.”

And here’s Slow Food Ireland again on this point: ‘All existing food regulations not explicitly overturned in the TTIP, and all future higher and improved standards of food regulation will be subject to being overturned by a proposed quasi-judicial system of arbitration called ISDS, or Investor-State Dispute Settlement. The EU-US proposal for TTIP is to establish a new legal system just for foreign ‘investors’ so that they can bypass the Irish, European and American judicial systems when they feel their current or future profits are being infringed upon as a result of vague, ill-defined government action, such as ‘unnecessarily restrictive barriers to trade’ or ‘overly meddlesome barriers to trade’. This would include everything from what constitutes organic food standards to correct labelling to highlight food allergy contents.’

5. It will threaten the food that is the lifeblood of cultures and communities throughout Europe.
Writing in the June edition of Food & Wine magazine, Oliver Moore says, “How is the Irish grass-fed system supposed to compete with US feedlot beef? Not only are feedlots standard in the US, the average farm size there is 13 times larger than in the EU. There are 13 million people employed in farming here, compared to just 2 million over there. In a post TTIP world, extensive grass-fed beef would become an exotic irrelevancy, produced for very wealthy, nostalgic consumers.”

It’s all pretty grim, isn’t it? So what can we do about it? The answer is: not much. Writing in the Independent, Lee Williams said, “I would vote against TTIP, except … hang on a minute … I can’t. Like you, I have no say whatsoever in whether TTIP goes through or not.  All I can do is tell as many people about it as possible, as I hope, will you. We may be forced to accept an attack on democracy but we can at least fight against the conspiracy of silence.”

1. If nothing else, take a minute to sign the petition to stop TTIP, which has almost 2 million signatures, and urge others to do the same:

2. Tweet your MEPs about TTIP each Tuesday with the #TTIPTuesday hash tag — or any other day of the week, of course.

3. Read the booklet TTIP: A Recipe for Disaster to find out more.

4. Follow the European Citizens’ Initiative’s Stop TTIP campaign on Facebook and Twitter and check out their website for a wealth of information.

5. Here in Ireland, check out the work that the TTIP Information Network is doing via Twitter, Facebook or their website.






What I Learned at Litfest

by Kristin on May 25, 2015

What did you learn at Litfest?

That was the question that was put to me and 14 others by Marie Claire Digby from the Irish Times last week. We had to limit our answers to two or three sentences, but there was a wealth of newly gained knowledge to choose from. Here are my highlights. What are yours?

Ballymaloe House

Alice Waters in conversation with John McKenna

“It’s not just you are what you eat – the way we eat also teaches us a set of values. If your food is fast, easy and cheap and is always available 24/7, then you don’t value the seasons or the people who grew your food. All you want is what’s cheapest and you don’t value taste anymore. And not just affordable – cheap.”

“France isn’t just about slow food; they have an entire slow culture. It’s a beautiful way to live a life.”

“Richard Olney was the change he wanted to see in the world, from his wine cellar built into the hillside, to his kitchen, which was his main room, and his sizeable veg garden.”

“We’re in a very experimental place at the moment and we have to be open to it, but there’s a lot to be learned from age-old cultural traditions.”

“Every book is a group of idea of what we know now, and every book builds on previous ones.”


The Brewmaster Speaks: Garrett Oliver in conversation with Caroline Hennessy

“Brewing is more like cooking than wine making. You can start with an idea and go from that. Wine is all about the place and the grape; beer is about the brewmaster and what they want to create.”

“Beer has always been about the high and the low, drunk by kings as well as common people.”

“Beer was ruined by the industrial food culture. When you went into a US supermarket, it was like going into the matrix – you knew something was wrong, but you weren’t sure what. The problem was that it wasn’t real food, and beer became a part of that process.”

“The US has almost 3,000 breweries – that is normal. It wasn’t normal to have only a few big brands, and that world is not coming back. Craft beer is a wave that will wash over the big brands and there’s nothing they can do about it.”

“Cheap beer is cheap. It’s a ghost in a can, a dead product.”


Swallow This: Joanna Blythman in conversation with John McKenna

Do you want nanoparticles in your food? Not after listening to Joanna Blythman talk about what she discovered about the food processing industry when writing her latest book, Swallow This.

“No one out there is looking out for your best interests except for you. Public health advice will make you fat and ill.”

“Do you want your food to be fresh or ‘fresh like’?”

“Cooking is an issue of momentum. The more you cook, the easier it is. The less you cook, the more of an obstacle it is.”

“If I could only give someone just one word of advice, it would be to COOK.”

The Big Shed

Two food magazine editors with Christine Muhlke and Miriam Atkins

“People read magazines and newspapers because they trust them.”

“It’s not just a magazine, it’s a brand that includes events, festivals, maybe even a tabletop range. You always have to think of new ways to make money because traditional publishing is going away.”

“Magazines will always be a loved product and therefore a luxury product, something you can touch and won’t beep at you.”


April Bloomfield in conversation with John McKenna

“Details are what make people successful.”

“I like the structure, rules, restrictions. A lot of people give up too early without pushing through the barriers.”

“I love those intimate moments when something you eat makes you pause and reflect.”

“I like to keep humble, do my job properly and make delicious food.”


David Lebovitz – the Parisian life of an author and blogger

“The most important thing you can be on the internet is useful and sincere.”

“Blogs are supposed to be personal, not the pristine and overwrought things they’ve become.”

“You have a responsibility for what you write online. Always take the high road.”

When asked what he attributes his success to, his answer was simple: “I work really hard.”


What’s Happening in Irish Food?

Tom Doorley: “It’s important to fulfil the expectations of the Wild Atlantic Way on the ground, at every stop, be it for coffee or lunch. We have outposts of excellence, but you often have to travel quite a distance between them. We shouldn’t overpromise.”

Kevin Thornton: “You have to educate your customers without appearing to educate them. You have to seduce them and tell them a story.”

JP McMahon: “Our new generation of farmers know how to market themselves. We need to be more confident about ourselves and have more diversity.”

Tim Magee: “What are our star dishes? We should have more restaurants that do one thing and do it beautifully.”

Kevin Thornton: “When you talk about a food culture you have to start at the beginning, but Dublin doesn’t have a market.”

Tim Magee: “We have no beating heart in Dublin, like the Time Out market in Lisbon.”

Kevin Thornton: “We follow fashion too much. WE should be the leaders.”


The world’s only literary festival dedicated solely to food and drink, the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food & Wine will return next year from 2022 May 2016 – a date for the diary for all those who care about good food and good food writing.



Postcards from Ireland #14

by Kristin on April 3, 2015

BrookLodge chickens

Hotels with chickens are the best kind of hotels.

You can see more of my photos on Instagram as edibleireland.


A craft beer Christmas

by Kristin on December 15, 2014

Wine gets a lot of press in the run-up to the big Christmas feast, but who says you have to stick with those foreign imports? With dozens of craft breweries now operating across the country – some, perhaps, just down the road from you – this is the year to buy Irish and keep your drink choices a little closer to home.

The turkey is cooked. The table is groaning. There are thick slices of ham falling from the knife, a big bowl of red cabbage braised with apples, steaming dishes of roasted veg, several different stuffings, homemade cranberry relish, a cauldron of gravy and probably two different kinds of spuds. With so many flavours to play with on your plate, what do you choose to drink?

Craft beer can handle it all in its stride. There are zesty, bitter hops to stimulate your appetite and cut through all that fat and richness. There are sweet, caramelised malts to complement the roasted meats. And the cleansing carbonation in beer gives a refreshing lift to your palate, leaving you ready to taste each bite like it’s the first.

With the recent increase in Irish microbreweries, there’s a bigger and better selection of Irish beer available than ever before. The wide range of styles means there’s now a match for all kinds of foods, from chilli to chocolate, curry to Christmas dinner.

Whether it’s a crisp blonde ale, a citrusy IPA, a chocolatey stout or a warming winter seasonal to sip by the fire, there’s a beer to match whatever you’re serving, so why not give Irish craft beer a place at the table this Christmas?

Pre-dinner snacksHilden Barney's Brew
If you want something to sip while the nibbles are being passed around, start off with a light pilsner, lager or even a wheat beer. Chill it well and confound expectations by serving it in champagne flutes as a light apéritif for a taste of what’s to come.

Try: Hilden Barney’s Brew, St Mel’s Helles Lager

A rare treat. Goose is very rich, so you want the hoppy bitterness of a zingy ale or IPA to cut through the fat and refresh your palate so you can savour each bite.

Try: Black’s of Kinsale Pale Ale, Galway Bay Brewery Of Foam and Fury, Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale

A fruity red ale or even a peppery rye ale are both good complements to a traditional glazed ham. But the best match of all with any kind of pork is actually a medium sweet cider, which plays on the classic contrast of salty and sweet.

Try: Dan Kelly’s Cider, N17 Rye Ale, West Mayo Clew Bay Sunset Red Ale

If you want to complement the roasted flavours of the turkey, serve a malty red ale or a dubbel. Otherwise, a versatile blonde ale or even a saison is a good all-round choice if you want a beer that will contrast with the meat and all the different side dishes without overpowering the food.

Try: Brú Mór Saison, Dungarvan Helvick Gold, White Gypsy Belgian Dubbel

Christmas pudding and chocolateTrouble Brewing Dark Arts Porter
After a respectful pause to read lame Christmas cracker jokes, get stuck into the clearing up and allow time for digestion, it’s time to move on to dessert. A dark, dense Christmas pudding or cake cries out to be paired with an equally dark stout or porter. And don’t miss a chance to try a beer with those Christmas chocolates. It’s a better match than you might think: the espresso undertones in many stouts are a natural partner for chocolate desserts.

Try: Kinnegar Yannaroddy Coconut Porter, Trouble Brewing Dark Arts Porter

For a cheeseboardDonegal Blonde Ale
The craft beer renaissance is paralleled by the revival of Irish farmhouse cheeses, and they are nicely showcased with some Sheridans brown bread crackers. Match a goat’s cheese with wheat beer; a semi-soft cheese like Brie with a blonde or pale ale; put a hard cheese like a mature Cheddar with a brown or amber ale; and you just can’t beat the combination of a punchy, salty blue cheese with an earthy stout.

Try: Donegal Blonde Ale, West Kerry Brewery Carraig Dubh Porter, White Hag Irish Wit Beer, Wicklow Wolf American Amber

For contemplative sippingEight Degrees Brewing - A Very Imperial Winter - Russian Imperial Stout - black
This is the time for a special, warming, high-alcohol treat that you can take your time over for the rest of the night, like an imperial stout. Or if you want to finish on a sweeter note, try a barleywine, with notes of plum and vanilla. Both should be served in a snifter.

Try: Eight Degrees Brewing Russian Imperial Stout, O’Hara’s Barrel Aged Series Barleywine, Porterhouse Celebration Stout

Where to buy it
Irish craft beer has never been easier to get your hands on. There are several independent off-licences that carry a good range of Irish and international craft beers and they deliver right to your door, making stocking up for the holidays effortless, no matter where you are in the country. Many will also put together a hamper as the perfect gift for the craft beer connoisseur.

 *This piece originally appeared in the Irish Examiner on 6 December 2014 and was co-authored with Caroline Hennessy


FRESH and UNCORKED magazines

by Kristin on December 8, 2014

I got out of my books comfort zone recently to work as a sub editor on two magazines for SuperValu: Fresh, the food magazine, and Uncorked, its sister drinks magazine.

Both are top-class publications that you’d happily pay for, so the fact that they’re free is an absolute steal, with stunning photography from Harry Weir and recipes from chef Kevin Dundon. Personally, I’m looking forward to trying out the recipes for Brussels sprouts with caramelised chorizo, cranberries and bread, fig and sausagemeat stuffing, bacon-wrapped pork fillet with apricot stuffing, mincemeat palmiers and St Tola chocolate and vodka mousse.

FRESH magazine

Meanwhile, Uncorked features loads of excellent suggestions from Ireland’s top wine writers for celebratory sparkling wine, port, beer (written by yours truly) and wines for the holidays, including food matching tips. No matter what the occasion or budget, there are some great tips here.

Uncorked cover

Be sure to snap up a copy when you see it in store or you can also read them online. Fresh is available here and you can read Uncorked via this link.


Irish Cookbooks 2014

by Kristin on November 27, 2014

When I say 2014 has been a good year for Irish cookbooks, I’ll admit I’m biased since this year my own book, Sláinte, is among their ranks. But what really strikes me about this year’s batch of books is the noticeable shift towards a ‘free’ type of eating — meat-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, sugar-free and even oven-free in the case of Sharon Hearne-Smith’s No-Bake Baking. The Extra Virgin Kitchen, which is currently in its fourth printing, has been a runaway success, and Food from the Fast Lane and The Happy Pear have both spent time in the bestseller charts too. Further afield, Diana Henry’s A Change of Appetite has received international acclaim and Nigella Lawson has said that her next book will also focus on this lighter style of eating.

The other thing that jumps out is the sheer number of Irish cookbooks published this year. At a time when book sales are still sluggish overall, cookbooks continue to thrive, and the Irish market is obviously no different, with more titles and more variety than ever before.

  • For the craft beer and cider connoisseur: Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer and Cider
  • For the health nut: Food for the Fast Lane, The Extra Virgin Kitchen, The Happy Pear
  • For the baker: Bake Like an Italian, Bake Knit Sew, Bread on the Table, No-Bake Baking
  • For traditional Irish food fans: A Simply Delicious Christmas, The Ballymaloe Cookbook, The Pleasures of the Table


Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer and Cider by Caroline Hennessy and Kristin JensenSláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer and Cider by Caroline Hennessy and Kristin Jensen

I couldn’t help but break alphabetical rank and lead with my own book, published in September. My co-author, Caroline Hennessy, and I set out to write the kind of book that we wanted to read when we started exploring craft beer and cider a few ayears ago, when information in an Irish context was hard to come by. Sláinte covers everything from how beer and cider are made to their history in Ireland, how to taste and savour them, how to match them with food and cheese and even how to cook with them. And while it’s not strictly a cookbook, there is a chapter of 20 recipes that all feature craft beer or cider, gathered from artisan food producers, restaurant owners and chefs, food writers and bloggers from around Ireland as well as some of our own original recipes. There’s something for everyone here. Bundled into a hamper with a selection of Irish craft beers and ciders, or maybe even some Sheridans brown bread crackers and some Irish farmhouse cheese too, this would be the ultimate gift for the beer or cider lover in your life this Christmas.

Five to try: Beef, chorizo and ale stew; beer, beer and blue cheese pot pies; cider-brined pork fillets with fennel, onions and apples; double chocolate porter brownies; stout marshmallows

A Simply Delicious Christmas by Darina AllenA Simply Delicious Christmas by Darina Allen    

There’s nothing like editing a Christmas cookbook to make you crave turkey and gingerbread in July. This is the book I’ve been the most excited about this year because I know these are the holiday recipes I’ll be turning to now for years to come. The original edition, published in 1989, is already a well-loved, dog-eared mainstay in many Irish homes. This new edition includes over 100 new recipes to reflect today’s tastes, such as a recipe for roast turkey crown with harissa, pomegranate and cucumber raita and Moroccan tomato jam. My favourite feature is the ‘good things to serve with’ suggestions at the end of many of the recipes to take them in different directions, not to mention an entire chapter dedicated to sauces and accompaniments and creative ways to use up leftovers. This might be a Christmas cookbook, but don’t put it back on the shelf in January — there are so many tempting dishes to make throughout all the colder winter months. Sorry, Nigella, but I think there’s a new favourite Christmas cookbook in town.

Five to try: Smoked Gubbeen and pearl barley, cucumber, pomegranate and toasted almond salad; pulled braised lamb shoulder with pomegranate molasses and pickled red onions; Brussels sprouts with toasted hazelnuts and candied bacon; white chocolate mousse with dark chocolate sauce and candied kumquats; Medjool dates with Crozier blue cheese

Bake Knit Sew: A Recipe and Craft Project Annual by Evin O’KeefeBake Knit Sew by Evin O'Keefe

Showing that self-publishing is still a viable option, American expat and blogger Evin O’Keefe raised Kickstarter funds to publish her first book, a charming collection of knitting and sewing patterns and family recipes. Inspired by her Irish-American grandma’s recipe box and craftiness, this book showcases a year of creativity in baking, knitting and sewing. So for example, the autumn section has a recipe for an orange and honey loaf cake that is complemented by a knitting pattern for a honeycomb tea cozy. Perfect for people who always like to have a crafty project on the go.

Five to try: White chocolate cheesecake; snickerdoodles; Aunt Nell’s blondies; orange and honey loaf cake; monster cookies

Bake Like an Italian: More Recipes for the Good Life by Catherine FulvioBake Like an Italian by Catherine Fulvio

Continuing on from her earlier books Catherine’s Italian Kitchen and Eat Like an Italian, Catherine Fulvio focuses on baking in her latest Italy-inspired book. Chapters are divided into breads, pasta bakes, pizza, little bites, dolci, something for coffee, something for Easter, something for Christmas and bambini bakers. The recipe intros are full of interesting background stories to the many traditional Italian recipes in the book, the result of Catherine’s travels to Italy to research the book and sweet talk her Italian friends and family into sharing their recipes. Plus ‘The Pantry’ chapter and the introduction to ‘The Bread Bin’ chapter are full of helpful tips to get you started making your own breads if you’ve never tried your hand at it before so that you’ll soon be knocking out your own homemade breads with ease.

Five to try: Foccacia with red wine and grapes; sweet raisin bread; Roman pizza; chocolate hazelnut torte; mocha and orange biscotti

The Ballymaloe Cookbook by Myrtle AllenThe Ballymaloe Cookbook by Myrtle Allen

Back in September, I was browsing the cookbooks in Dubray Books on Grafton Street when a Dutch tourist asked me for a recommendation for a good traditional Irish cookbook, saying he buys at least one cookbook from every country he travels to. Without even having to think about it, I took the new edition of The Ballymaloe Cookbook down from the shelf and pressed it into his hands, saying, ‘You simply have to get this one.’

Concepts and words like local, seasonal and artisinal are all the rage these days, but when Myrtle Allen opened her restaurant in her home at Ballymaloe House 50 years ago, it wasn’t revolutionary — it was just the way food was. As she says herself in the introduction, ‘I started the restaurant because I knew that the food that was available to me at Ballymaloe was terribly good as it was. I get enormous satisfaction in being able to give people the food that I think we ought to be eating.’ It’s also easy to forget what a true pioneer Myrtle Allen was when it came to recognising the outstanding quality of our own homegrown produce and serving it simply but well, years before Alice Waters famously served a single perfectly ripe peach for dessert at Chez Panisse.

I was honoured to be the editor for this handsome new edition of The Ballymaloe Cookbook, which was first published in 1977. And after reading every single recipe — twice! — I feel that I have learned the secret to Ballymaloe, and it is this: butter and cream, and lots of it, and a generous hand with the seasoning. These recipes are true classics that have stood the test of time and reflect the fact that when you’re working with top-class ingredients, you don’t need to do very much to them to make them shine. It has also been updated with some new recipes to reflect our changing tastes, but it still stays true to the Ballymaloe ethos that has since become famous around the world. No Irish kitchen should be without a copy.

Five to try: Chicken baked with butter and fresh herbs; pepper beef stew; leek, potato and cheese pie; carrageen moss pudding; Ballymaloe brown bread

Bread on the Table: Baking Traditions for Today by Valerie O’ConnorBread on the Table by Valerie O'Connor

Many of us tend to think of homemade bread as beyond our abilities, when in fact you can knock out a loaf in less time than it takes to pop down to the shops for a sliced pan. This book is the perfect introduction to bread-making for novices, but with plenty of modern and inventive recipes to tempt more experienced bakers too. The very first recipe gets you to jump in headfirst with a basic white yeast bread and the recipes go from there, including soda breads, brown bread, sourdough, breads made with wild ingredients, gluten-free goodies and sweet things. Once you realise how easy it is to make your own bread at home, and how much better it tastes, you’ll never look twice at a shop-bought loaf again.

Five to try: No-knead spelt bread; wholemeal and honey loaf; potato and rye semi-sourdough; wild garlic foccacia; chocoalte swirls

Dinner: The Irish Times Selection by Domini KempDinner by Domini Kemp

I had a tattered, stained printout of Domini Kemp’s winter salad recipe that I hung onto for years once it went behind the Irish Times paywall, but I was finally able to bin it now that it made the cut for inclusion in Domini’s collection of her most popular recipes from her Irish Times newspaper column. I’m sure I’m not the only one who had a collection of such well-loved and well-used printouts or recipes torn straight from the pages of the Saturday magazine and I’m sure there are many more people just like me who were delighted to see her best recipes from the past six years collected together into a book. And what a book it is, with a substantial heft to it, which is perfectly fitting for a collection like this. Domini Kemp is a woman after my own heart — or palate, as the case may be. I love the big, bold, punchy flavours she uses in her cooking, and I especially love the way she streamlines recipes to make them as quick and to the point as possible but without compromising on taste. This is the kind of cookbook that will rarely make it back onto the bookshelf because it’s bound to be in such constant use in your kitchen.

Five to try: Roast chicken bake; meatballs with lemon and wine; lamb hot pot with harissa yoghurt; baked beans with chorizo, egg and feta; pasta with salami, tomato cream and rocket

The Extra Virgin Kitchen: Recipes for Wheat-Free, Sugar-Free and Dairy-Free Eating by Susan Jane WhiteThe Extra Virgin Kitchen by Susan Jane White

Thirteen years ago, Susan Jane White was a model student at Oxford — literally. But a combination of a stereotypical model’s diet with an even worse stereotypical student diet — a cocktail of carbs, caffeine and cigarettes — eventually led to a similar cocktail of bodily complaints: thrush, earaches, headaches, psoriasis, dizziness and cold sores that not even 12 courses of antibiotics and several hospitalisations could clear up. So when the consultants couldn’t figure out what was wrong, Susan Jane took matters into her own hands and with the help of a nutritionist embarked on an elimination diet. In her own words, she said ‘it felt like someone was sucking the illness out of my body’. So it was goodbye to junk food and hello to goji berries after that, and she’s never looked back. Now in its fourth print run, I think it’s fair to say that this book has been the surprise hit of the year. Susan Jane’s writing is at once informative and playful, but most of all, it makes you want to get into the kitchen and run right out to buy a spiralizer. Crucially, the book also has a resources section at the back with lists of where you can source some of the more hard-to-find ingredients. I’ve become addicted to her smudge recipe and have had a batch on the go almost continuously since the book came out back in the spring and I’ve made her hot and smoky seeds and her Irish superfood salad countless times by now too, plus her chocolate avocado mousse is the best version I’ve ever tasted. This is food that’s so vibrant and delicious, it never even occurs to you that anything is missing.

Five to try: Smoked paprika and cumin quinoa; mackerel paté with anchovy aioli; salmon fishcakes with curried coconut yoghurt; 10-hour shoulder of lamb with crushed chickpeas and the best sauces you’re ever likely to taste; chilli chocolate missile

Food for the Fast Lane: Recipes to Power Your Body and Mind by Derval O’RourkeFood for the Fast Lane by Derval O'Rourke

Most of us usually need something major to happen to get us to change our ways, but how many of us can cite a disappointing Olympics performance as a wake-up call? Lining up to race in Athens in 2004, just four weeks after suffering a case of severe food poisoning and appendicitis, Derval O’Rourke writes, ‘I was 22 and one of the youngest members of the Irish Olympic team. It was one of the worst performances of my entire career and possibly had the biggest impact on my future running…The message was loud and clear: I wasn’t paying enough attention to my general health. I was depending solely on the work I was doing on the track and in the gym. And that was not enough.’ What followed was a dawning realisiation that everything is intertwined and that goodness in = greatness out, starting with a good diet and a new philosophy to sleep well, eat well and live well to be the best athlete she could be. But if you think that means an unappealing diet of energy shakes and protein bars, think again. Derval loves food, and it just so happens to be healthy. You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete in training to enjoy meals like chicken and mango salad, baked trout with lime and garlic butter or quick coconut and basil chicken, or treats like dark chocolate banana bread or lemon drizzle and poppy seed squares. Oh, and as for being the best athlete? Two years after hitting rock bottom in Athens, Derval went on to become world champion. Looks like the proof really is in the pudding.

Five to try: Baked avocado, eggs and basil; warm quinoa with lemon, pistachio and harissa; chicken and lentil casserole; sea bass with tomato and chorizo; creamy pistachio pasta

The Nation’s Favourite Food Fast! by Neven MaguireThe Nation's Favourite Food Fast

It’s 6pm on a Wednesday and you’ve just landed in the door from a long day at work, maybe after collecting the kids from the creche on the way. There is a list as long as your arm of things to do, but first there’s the small matter of what to make for dinner. That’s where this book comes in. Neven Maguire has created these recipes to be ready for the table in under an hour, with many only needing 30 minutes to cook. It follows the same format as last year’s popular The Nation’s Favourite Food book, with 20 short chapters of five recipes each. But just because they’re fast doesn’t mean they’re boring: think dishes like rib-eye steak with chimichurri, chicken and chickpea tagine with honey and ginger, sticky bacon chops with root vegetable rosti or even my favourite, the baked fish fillets with horseradish crust and lemon cream sauce. It’s no wonder this book won Best Irish Cookbook at this year’s Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards.

Five to try: Beef stroganoff with fluffy rice and dill pickle shavings; speedy coq au vin; roasted hake with cherry tomatoes, basil and mozzarella; pumpkin pizza with Cashel Blue and pickled red onion; cappuccino cream chocolate cake

No-Bake Baking: Easy Oven-Free Cakes and Treats by Sharon Hearne-SmithNo-Bake Baking by Sharon Hearne Smith

As a food stylist, Sharon has been a behind-the-scenes kind of gal in the food world, working with the likes of Jamie Oliver, Rachel Allen, Lorraine Pascale and Ina Garten, to name just a few, to get their food ready for its close-up on television and in their books. But Sharon has such talent and flair and so much personality of her own (she rocks a beehive hairdo and polka dots better than anyone) that it was only a matter of time before her own name was on the cover of a book. And what a fun, beautiful book it is. Sharon’s recipes turn baking on its head by taking the oven out of the equation — no more soggy bottoms! Just delicious treats like no-bake biscuits, cakes, slices and bars, cheesecakes, pies and tarts, and frozen desserts. No-Bake Baking is her first book but I’m confident it won’t be her last, and that this is just the start of a career as a food writer in her own right for Sharon.

Five to try: Blackberry swirl marshmallow gateau; cookie monster ice-box cake; candy stripe blueberry cheesecake; chocolate, date and peanut butter bars; white chocolate and pistachio tiramisu. Check out five recipes from the book here.

The Happy Pear: Recipes and Stories from the First Ten Years by David and Stephen FlynnThe Happy Pear: Recipes and Stories from the First Ten Years by David and Stephen Flynn

Twins David and Stephen Flynn are on a mission: they want to get you to eat more veg. It doesn’t hurt that they are walking, talking advertisements for their vegetarian way of eating, all sunrise walks on the beach and glowing good health. What began as a greengrocer’s shop 10 years ago is also now a renowned cafe, an online shop, a Happy Heart course and cooking demos, classroom health education courses, a sprout and wheatgrass farm and a partnership in a local cherry farm. The book can get a little text heavy at times with a lot of background information and reminiscing, which is sure to appeal to loyal fans but might be lost on readers who aren’t lucky locals of the cafe itself. But then, this is a cafe that is very much rooted in its community with an admirable business ethos and David and Stephen are doing what they love. The book is a vibrant reflection of that and it’s hard not to be inspired by their enthusiasm and energy, which comes through in their writing and in the recipes. With all the interest in a healthier, plant-based and raw foods way of eating recently, this book has wound up being bang on trend.

Five to try: Carrot, cashew and coriander soup; chermoula and herb couscous with edamame beans, cherry tomatoes and almonds; Spanish chickpea and potato bake; chocolate, orange and ginger cake; honey and seed flapjacks

The Pleasures of the Table: Rediscovering Theodora Fitzgibbon selected by Donal SkehanThe Pleasures of the Table by Theodora Fitzgibbon

Theodora Fitzgibbon is to Ireland what Elizabeth David was to England. She introduced her readers to exotic and far-flung flavours via her Irish Times column, which she wrote for 20 years, not to mention her 30 cookbooks. And also like Elizabeth David, she travelled widely, living in India, the US and in many countries on the Continent, which obviously had a huge influence on her approach to food. But in addition to being a prolific food writer, she also worked as an actress in London and Rome and wrote two autobiographies and a novel. Her black and white photo in the introduction of the book, with her bare shoulders, upswept hair, sharply pencilled eyebrows and holding a slim cigarette as if an admirer outside of the camera’s frame is just about to light it for her, oozes glamour. They don’t make them like her anymore. This new book, a collection of her best recipes selected and photographed by Donal Skehan, will appeal to her many fans as well as introduce her to a new generation of food lovers. It’s an intriguing mix of traditional Irish recipes like nettle soup, crubeens and boxty cakes but also more cosmopolitan recipes that must have been unheard of at the time she wrote them, dishes like rogan josh, chicken Lahori and peperonata. It’s a neat coincidence that this collection was brought out in the spring and then the current Irish Times columnist, Domini Kemp, published her selection in the autumn, a perfect contrast of old and new.

Five to try: Braised beef with prunes; ham cooked with Guinness and served with apple sauce; Dublin lawyer; Irish omelette; gur cake


And here are loads more Irish cookbooks published this year:

You might also like:

*I received review copies of all the books featured above. In addition, I was the editor for the following: A Simply Delicious Christmas, Bake Knit Sew, The Ballymaloe Cookbook, Bake Like an Italian, The Extra Virgin Kitchen and The Nation’s Favourite Food Fast.

If you’re working on a cookbook and need an experienced editor, email me at kristin (at) edible-ireland (dot) com.




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Books, Beer and Brownies

by Kristin on November 12, 2014

The next few weeks are all about books, beer and brownies! Caroline Hennessy and I will be signing copies of Sláinte, doing beer and food tastings and offering double chocolate porter brownies to anyone who cares to come see us or get their book signed. C’mon, who can resist a brownie? Plus it’s the perfect chance to pick up a signed copy of Sláinte for the beer or cider lover in your life this Christmas.

double chocolate porter brownies

Saturday, 15 November: Book signing at Hodges Figgis bookshop, Dawson Street, Dublin 2, 11am to 1pm

Saturday, 15 November: Book signing at Blackrock Cellar, Dublin, 5pm to 7pm

Sunday, 16 November: Dublin Book Festival craft beer and cider tasting at Smock Alley Theatre, Temple Bar, Dublin, with Bellingham Blue cheese and, you guessed it, porter brownies, 3pm to 3:45pm

Friday, 5 December: Craft beer event, Ardkeen Quality Food Store, Waterford, 5pm to 8pm

Saturday, 6 December: Book signing at Waterstones bookshop, Cork city, 1pm to 3pm

Saturday, 6 December: Book signing at Bradleys Off-Licence, Cork city, 5pm to 6pm


If you can’t make it out to see us, you can find Sláinte in good bookshops and independent off-licences across Ireland as well as online at (for a great price and free shipping worldwide) and Amazon.







Beef, Beer and Blue Cheese Pot Pies

by Kristin on November 6, 2014

To celebrate International Stout Day, I’m reposting my updated beef, beer and blue cheese pot pies recipe from my book, Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer and Cider. If you like the sound of these pot pies, check out Chapter 8 in the book for more recipes that incorporate craft beer and cider, like beef, chorizo and ale stew, cider-brined pork tenderloins or chocolate porter cake. There’s both eating and drinking in it!

beef, beer and blue cheese pot pies

Beef, Beer and Blue Cheese Pot Pies

Serves 4–6

There is nothing wrong with a classic beef and stout stew, but what if you upped the ante on the stout and added some blue cheese too? And what if you capped it with a flaky puff pastry lid and called it a pot pie instead? Now you’re talking.

1kg (2lb) stewing beef (such as shin or cheek), cut into bite-sized pieces
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons plain flour
rapeseed or olive oil
2 red onions, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
500ml (2 cups) stout
125g (3/4 cup) crumbled blue cheese
1 sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 130°C.

Put the beef in a large bowl and sprinkle over 1 teaspoon of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Add the flour and toss the beef in it until it all has a light dusting. Heat some rapeseed or olive oil in a large ovenproof casserole and brown the beef in batches over a medium-high heat, making sure not to crowd the pot or the meat won’t brown properly. Add more oil in between batches if needed. Remove the beef from the pot and set aside.

Add another splash of oil to the pot, then add the onions and carrots along with a pinch of salt so that the onions don’t brown. Cover the pot and cook for 10–15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft but not browned. Add the garlic, thyme and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper and cook for 1 or 2 minutes more.

Pour in the stout, scraping up any browned bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pot. Return the beef to the pot and bring up to a lively simmer, then cover and put in the oven for 3–4 hours (or simmer on the stovetop on a low heat with the lid on), stirring a few times. You will know it’s done when the beef easily falls apart when you prod it with a fork and the stout has reduced right down – it’s a pot pie filling, not a stew, so you want it to be nice and thick. Stir in the cheese, then taste it and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Raise the oven temperature to 190°C. Place one large ovenproof pie dish or individual dishes or ramekins onto a baking tray just in case any filling bubbles up and over the sides, then spoon the stew into the dish(es). Roll out the pastry a little on a lightly floured countertop, then cut to fit the top of the dish. Rub the edges of the dish with a little water or some of the beaten egg to help the pastry stick in place, then place the pastry lid on top. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg (not too much or the pastry won’t rise properly), then cook in the oven for 20–30 minutes, until the pastry has risen and is golden. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before digging in.

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