I can’t remember so many Irish cookbooks ever having been published in the same year as have been brought out this year. Even though the worldwide publishing industry is taking a battering, just like every other industry, we seem to have an insatiable appetite for cookbooks, which continue to sell well. And as proof of the increasing popularity and viability of self-publishing, there are three self-published titles in the Irish list this year.
It’s been a banner year for Irish cookbooks. From Darina Allen to Donal Skehan, the ICA to food bloggers, traditional to modern Irish cooking, family-friendly to cheap and cheerful, and quick weeknight suppers to Michelin-starred masterpieces, there’s something for everyone on this list. If you have a cookbook addict or food lover in your life, Christmas presents will be easily sorted this year.
- For the busy cook: Domini at Home, Eat Like an Italian, Gimme the Recipe, Kitchen Hero, Sophie Kooks, Surf ‘n’ Turf
- For the restaurant lover: Ard Bia Cookbook, Let’s Go Disco, The MacNean Restaurant Cookbook, The Surf Café Cookbook
- For the traditionalist: Irish Traditional Cooking, Recipes from the English Market, Surf ‘n’ Turf, The Irish Countrywomen’s Association Cookbook
- For the baker: Cake, Saved by Cake, The Cake Café Bake Book
- For the blogger: A Modern Irish Cookbook, Gimme the Recipe, Kitchen Hero, The Chef & I
A Modern Irish Cookbook curated by Goodall’s of Ireland
What do you get when you ask Ireland’s food bloggers to submit their take on modern Irish cooking? A collection of 50 recipes running the gamut from trifle cake to deconstructed fish and chips, with a focus on local produce, simplicity, versatility and traditional approaches to cooking. What’s more, all profits go to two deserving charities: Cork Penny Dinners and Dublin Food Bank. You can buy a print copy for €12 or download a digital copy for only €2.99, available here.
Recipes to try: Black pudding, cheddar and stout bread; wild garlic and flax seed soda bread; baked brunch baguette; mushroom, stout and potato Irish-style risotto; or my very own Irish farmhouse mac and cheese.
Ard Bia Cookbook by Aoibheann MacNamara and Aoife Carrigy (Atrium Press)
This book follows a day in the life of the Ard Bia restaurant in Galway, from breakfast, brunch and lunch through to afternoon treats, dinner, desserts and cheese, finishing with some pantry staples. The book is sure to be a hit with the restaurant’s regulars as well as anyone with a love of good cooking. This is food with so much flavour it leaps off the page, let alone the plate. You can read my full review of the Ard Bia Cookbook here.
Recipes to try: Dillisk scones with cheddar cheese; Patrick’s burgers (with chorizo, anchovies and coriander); mussels with harissa, chorizo and orange; torn lamb shoulder with sumac, pomegranate and Jerusalem artichoke purée; grilled mackerel with seafood tagine and labneh; almond and chocolate cake, which apparently has developed something of a cult following in the west; and the very intriguing-sounding rose salt.
Cake: 200 Fabulous Foolproof Baking Recipes by Rachel Allen (HarperCollins)
Rachel Allen’s eighth book does what it says on the tin, with 200 recipes for classic cakes, tiered cakes, small cakes, free-from cakes, wedding cakes and birthday cakes, sponges, muffins, brownies, cake pops, cheesecakes, tortes and pudding cakes. Who knew there were so many kinds of cake? The styling and photography are cool, crisp and minimal, along the lines of Donna Hay. Check out the RTÉ website for links to some of the recipes that are featured on the accompanying Cake Diaries TV show.
Recipes to try: Chocolate, rum and almond cake; marbled chocolate crumb cake; ginger golden syrup cake; coconut and lime cake; white chocolate and macadamia cake; butterscotch banana cake; cardamom yoghurt cake; chocolate toffee ice cream cake; Irish coffee cups.
Domini at Home: How I Like to Cook by Domini Kemp (Gill & Macmillan)
Fans of Domini Kemp’s weekly column in the Saturday Irish Times Magazine will already be familiar with her no-fuss, no-nonsense approach to cooking. This book, her third, reads like the greatest hits of her extensive cookbook collection. Most of the recipes have been inspired by recipes from other books and cooks, but simplified, stripped down and speeded up with the aim of sharing “practical, flexible recipes that will draw people to sit around the table, eat good food and talk”. As the subtitle says, it’s how Domini likes to cook.
Recipes to try: Lamb stew with prunes, maple and chili, and sweet potato purée; meatballs with lemon and wine; hake bake; parsnip and Cheddar bake; roast cauliflower salad; chicken and fennel gratin; Chinese spiced pork fillet; baked beans with chorizo, egg and feta; chicken casserole with mustard and smoked paprika; cherry and cinnamon cake; brown sugar meringues; toffee popcorn; flourless chocolate and coffee cake.
Eat Like an Italian by Catherine Fulvio (Gill & Macmillan)
Catherine has turned up the glam factor for this, her third cookbook. Glance quickly at the book cover and you might mistake her for a movie star instead of the owner of a B&B and cookery school in the middle of County Wicklow. True to the title, in this book, shot on location in Italy, Catherine urges us to eat more like Italians, who are famous for their food culture and live to eat, not eat to live. The book is structured on the Mediterranean food pyramid, with chapters divided into Bread, Pasta, Rice and Couscous; Fruit; Nuts, Beans and Legumes; Vegetables and Salads; Olives and Olive Oil; Cheese, Yoghurt and Eggs; Fish and Shellfish; Poultry and Meat; Sweets; and Drinks. Keeping It Local tip boxes for every recipe give suggestions for using local or Irish produce as substitutes for Italian ingredients.
Recipes to try: Fresh fig and prosciutto panino; fettucine with porcini and hazelnuts; Parmesan polenta chips; plum and chianti compote with ginger; green olive and hazelnut pesto; eggs soffritto; scallops with prosciutto and balsamic glaze; chicken with processo and shallots; pancetta-wrapped chicken thighs with mozzarella stuffing; herb-wrapped fillet of beef with wild mushroom sauces; lamb stew with lemon and olives; pistachio and fig crusted rack of lamb with tapenade; pistachio and orange cake; white chocolate and walnut cream cups.
Gimme the Recipe by Shelia Kiely (Mercier Press)
The first time I met Shelia Kiely and she let it slip that she has six kids, I’m sure I had the same reaction she gets from just about everyone: “Six kids?” And as if being a mother to six children and running her own food safety management consultancy wasn’t enough, she somehow found the time to write a cookbook, Gimme the Recipe, in addition to writing her blog of the same name. I think it’s fair to say that Shelia takes the whole working mom thing and raises it to the nth degree. Not surprisingly, her book focuses on good, wholesome, no-nonsense food. There are lots of family-friendly and comfort food classics, from soups to stews, meat pies to pasta bakes, and every working mom’s favorite, one-pot casseroles. But Shelia caters to grown-ups too with dinner party and girls’ night in suggestions as well as helpful meal planners for special occasions like birthday parties, coffee mornings and the holidays. For anyone who’s ever had to come up with a nightly answer to the question ‘What’s for dinner, Mom?’, this is the cookbook for you.
Recipes to try: Moroccan meatballs, chicken and bacon casserole; spaghetti with pesto, bacon and broccoli; butcher’s sausage hotpot; lunchbox cookies; Black Forest roulade; chocolate, coffee and almond mousse.
Irish Traditional Cooking: Over 300 Recipes from Ireland’s Heritage by Darina Allen (Gill & Macmillan)
First published in 1995, this new edition of Irish Traditional Cooking by Darina Allen, Ireland’s most famous and best-loved food writer, has over 100 new recipes and has been brought up to date with fresh new food photography. When Darina was growing up, almost everything she and her neighbours ate “was fresh, wholesome food, homegrown or produced in the locality”. Yet “with the rush to embrace a new consumer culture of packet and tinned foods in the name of progress [in the 1950s and 1960s], a whole food tradition was jeopardised in an alarmingly short space of time … a whole culinary tradition, with all its fascinating regional variations, was in imminent danger of being lost. That was the starting point for this book.” The recipes range from those from “simple farmers” to “the grand houses of the Anglo-Irish gentry”, with everything in between.
Things seem to be coming full circle back to how it was during Darina’s childhood, with many people now embracing the GIY movement and starting kitchen gardens or even keeping a few hens, not to mention the renewed interest in home cooking and local and artisan Irish food. This new edition couldn’t have come at a better time.
Recipes to try: Irish nettle soup; egg in a cup; Irishman’s omelette; Ballycotton fish pie; roast pheasant with game chips; Ballymaloe Irish stew; Robert Ditty’s potato bread; Winnie Dunne’s Dublin coddle; potato and caraway seed cakes; Myrtle Allen’s carrageen moss pudding; country rhubarb cake; jam pudding; Kerry treacle bread; Irish shortbread; porter cake.
Kitchen Hero: Great Food for Less by Donal Skehan (HarperCollins)
Keeping with the Kitchen Hero theme of his previous cookbook, Donal Skehan’s third cookbook, Kitchen Hero: Great Food for Less, is about “the tricks of thrifty cooking and cheap eating”. If that sounds a bit grim, Donal says, “Banish any thoughts of penny-pinching: this is about embracing home cooking at its very best. The real aim here is to make inexpensive ingredients work harder … so that ultimately you end up with delicious food that will become part of your everyday diet.” A champion of home cooking, this book shows that you don’t have to sacrifice flavour for frugality.
Donal’s latest adventure is as a judge on the UK’s Junior MasterChef in addition to his regular contributions to Food & Wine Magazine in Ireland and Delicious magazine in the UK as well as his own TV series on RTÉ that ties in with the book, proving that this boy wonder is making good on all his early promise and potential.
Recipes to try: Vietnamese poached chicken noodle soup; beef skirt goulash with paprika spiced dumplings; roasted squash, coconut and chilli soup; chilli jam chicken; one-pan-wonder Mexican eggs; sizzling, sticky, spicy minced pork with rice; chilli honey-glazed pork chops; crispy mustard chicken tray bake; sweet potato cakes; spicy tomato and chorizo baked gnocchi; baked fennel; jam jumble crumble tart; salted caramel slices; sticky toffee banana puds with salted caramel sauce; carrot and cardamom cake with cinnamon cream cheese icing; moist maple apple tea cake.
Let’s Go Disco by Martijn Kajuiter and Alex Meehan
“Let’s go disco” is the mantra used in the kitchen of the Michelin-starred restaurant at The Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore when it’s time to knuckle down and get the job done. In his new book, Let’s Go Disco, executive chef Martijn Kajuiter, working with Alex Meehan, gives a behind-the-scenes peek at that Michelin-starred world, showcasing 36 dishes as well as essays, interviews and some 200 photographs. Writing in the Irish Times about the book, Martijn says, “It gives a complete view of what we do and how we do it. The recipes contained in this book are the actual recipes we use in the restaurant, with nothing held back.” A must-read for anyone interested in world-class, cutting-edge cooking.
The book can be ordered via the Cliff House Hotel website here.
Recipes from the English Market by Michelle Horgan (Cork University Press)
If Cork is the food capital of Ireland, then the English Market is its beating heart. The English Market was established in 1788 and is famous throughout Ireland and beyond — it was voted one of the top 10 best food markets in Europe by the Observer Food Magazine and Rick Stein said, “In my opinion this is the best covered market in the UK and Ireland.” Recipes from the English Market showcases this exciting melting pot of foods, ingredients and different food cultures and gives a potted history of each stall holder, some of whom have been at the market for generations, as well as their favourite recipes using their own produce. There is a great mix of traditional Cork fare and exciting new foods from many parts of the world, which together with the long-standing family-run stalls contribute to the unique appeal and atmosphere of this market.
Saved by Cake by Marian Keyes (Michael Joseph)
Most people will know Marian Keyes as a successful fiction writer, but Saved by Cake is her first cookbook. But this isn’t an ordinary cookbook. Amongst the cupcakes and cheesecakes, macaroons and meringues, Marian gives an honest account of her recent battle with depression and how baking has helped her. After baking a cake for a friend, Marian was hooked — and realised that baking could help her get through each day. A novice in the kitchen herself, Marian’s recipes are aimed at beginner bakers, offering hints and tips to help along the way. Sometimes, happiness can be as simple as creaming together butter and sugar, licking the batter from the mixing bowl and watching a cake rise in the oven.
Sophie Kooks: Quick and Easy Feelgood Food by Sophie Morris (Gill & Macmillan)
As the co-founder of the hugely successful Kooky Dough, Sophie Morris knows what it’s like to come home at the end of a long workday wanting nothing more than something quick and delicious for dinner. “One thing I’ve always been adamant about throughout all the crazy, long working days we’ve had is to eat well every night and to keep cooking from scratch,” Sophie writes. But cooking from scratch doesn’t have to mean that food is time-consuming or complicated — most of her recipes can be made in half an hour using a mix of store cupboard staples and readily available fresh produce. The book is arranged month by month, so it’s easy to dip in and find something that’s just right for a particular time of year. Sophie isn’t a chef, but rather a busy home cook like most of us. The focus here is firmly on simple, good food that anyone can cook, making this book a particularly good choice for anyone just starting out in the kitchen. Winner of the Kerrygold Listowel Food Fair Book of the Year Award, this one’s sure to be under a lot of Christmas trees this year.
Recipes to try: Chorizo, bean and cabbage stew; herb-crusted cod with pepper ratatouille and rosemary chips; lemony chicken and chilli pasta; chicken and broccoli gratin; lemon and garlic lamb chops with peanut pesto and chilli potato salad; stuffed pork tenderloin wrapped in Parma ham with buttered leeks; apple and pecan crumble pie; hazelnut swirl cookies.
Surf ‘n’ Turf by Paul Flynn and Martin Shanahan (Quadrille Publishing)
This book has turned out to be one of my favourites of the year. It’s a collaboration between Paul Flynn, chef/owner at The Tannery in Co. Waterford, and Martin Shanahan, chef/owner at Fishy Fishy in Cork. Though ostensibly they’re meant to be rivals on the TV show that accompanied the book, it’s really less of a contest between Martin’s surf and Paul’s turf than it is a celebration of each of them. The book is full of photography from the villages in counties Clare, Cork, Donegal, Kerry, Louth, Wexford and Dublin that the pair stopped at while filming for the TV show, some of which look like places time forgot. The 80 recipes are divided into Starters & Soups, Salads, Quick, Slow & Easy, Comfort Food and Food to Impress. The Quick, Slow & Easy and Comfort Food chapters are particularly good, with plenty of recipes that are perfect for weeknight suppers, no matter which camp — surf or turf — you fall into.
Recipes to try: Oyster, creamed leek, smoked bacon chowder; smoked chicken and spiced pear salad with creamy blue cheese; mussels with sweet chilli and lime butter; butterbeans, chorizo and cider; Coolea, potato and bacon bake; chicken, butternut squash, honey and ginger bake; baked pollock and fennel with a horseradish crust; braised pork cheeks, warm leek and potato salad; twice-baked Cashel Blue soufflé; grilled scallops, black pudding, lemon and thyme dressing; lobster, wholegrain mustard and whiskey cream.
The Cake Café Bake Book
The Cake Café is a much-loved Dublin favourite, but when Michelle Darmody inevitably decided to write a cookbook, she didn’t court any of the publishers — she decided to do it her own way and raised the funds herself via Fundit to self-publish. The café website says, “With our love of great food and great design, The Cake Café Bake Book combines the two in a beautiful compact publication about baking, filled with deliciously vibrant illustrations, tactile and informative about the love of preparing food.” Working with Niall Sweeney and Nigel Truswell of Pony Design, they decided not to try to compete with the slick lifestyle-driven cookbooks already crowding the shelves, and instead have produced a cookbook made up of blocky, colourful graphics instead of photographs. But the main thing, of course, is the recipes, which is as it should be in a cookbook — now you can take a little bit of the Cake Café home.
The Chef & I: A Nourishing Narrative by Móna Wise (Wise Words Ltd)
“Móna met the Chef the old-fashioned way: in a bar,” the blurb starts. “Young, abroad, and waiting tables in mid-nineties Kentucky, it was love at first sight for her but the Chef took a little more persuasion. However, one Irish Coffee making contest later, he was all hers. There was no competition: she was Irish. Shortly after that she fired him.” How could you not want to know more? Part memoir, part cookbook, The Chef & I tells the story of Móna and Ron — how they met, their restaurant in the States, their adopted children — in the first half of the book, with their favourite family recipes making up the second half.
Móna has gone from strength to strength this year, not only writing and self-publishing her book in record time but also starting a gig as a weekly food columnist with the Sunday Times and scooping up four awards at Blog Awards Ireland 2012. You can’t help but wonder what’s in store next for this busy and talented Galway girl. The Chef & I is available at Kennys.ie with free delivery throughout Ireland.
Recipes to try: that famous Wise Irish coffee, cioppino, wedding cookies, Wise tea cake, poutine, chorizo mac and cheese, chicken tortilla soup, bean and bacon soup, Grandma’s chocolate nutty pie, oxtail and Guinness stew.
The Irish Countrywomen’s Association Cookbook edited by Aoife Carrigy (Gill & Macmillan)
This ain’t your granny’s cookbook. Gone are the days of spiral-bound, photocopied collections of community recipes (though these days, they’re called crowd sourced cookbooks). The ICA Cookbook, with its beautiful styling and photography, holds its own alongside any book on the bookshop shelves. Founded in 1910, the Irish Countrywomen’s Association (ICA) is an integral part of rural Ireland and food and cooking continue to play a large part in ICA life, as it has done since the beginning. While the ICA has published local cookbooks in the past, they felt the time had come again to collect the recipes that today’s members use every day in their homes. Some of the recipes have a retro feel — think cream of mushroom soup or carrot and pineapple squares — but many reflect a more cosmopolitan palate influenced by travel abroad and the increasing availability of more exotic produce in our shops. And true to the ICA home economics core, the book is also peppered with helpful how-to lists on cooking for a crowd, cooking within a budget, cooking potatoes, making preserves and getting baking. As general editor Aoife Carrigy says, “Think of The ICA Cookbook as akin to having not just your own mammy on speed dial, but rather a whole host of mammies and grannies from all over the country, each sharing their own words of wisdom and precious firsthand experiences.”
Recipes to try: Cauliflower and bacon soup with cheese toasties; pan-fried hake with salsa verde; pork chops bubble and leek cakes; pork and cider stroganoff; braised Derrynaflan brisket; Lickeen colcannon; damson and apple sauce; apple and ginger chutney; walnut and treacle bread; parsnip cake with walnuts and raisins; white chocolate bread and butter pudding.
The MacNean Restaurant Cookbook by Neven Maguire (Gill & Macmillan)
Although Neven has already published multiple cookbooks, The MacNean Restaurant Cookbook feels like it’s the one he’s always wanted to write. As Ross Golden-Bannon says in the introduction, “This book reflects a certain sense of taking stock.”
In the book, Neven invites readers behind the scenes of his family’s restaurant, which his parents bought in 1968, sharing the recipes that have made MacNean famous (weekend reservations in the restaurant and guesthouse are booked out months in advance) and put Blacklion, Co. Cavan, on the map. Experienced home cooks can challenge themselves to make the multi-course meals — think foams, gels, purées and micro salad leaves and impeccable plating — but it’s also possible to pick and choose single elements from the longer recipes. There is a mix of recipes in the book, from the aspirational, complicated restaurant dishes to the simpler comfort food cooked for staff meals. Crucially, each recipe includes make-ahead tips. For anyone who’s ever eaten at the restaurant or stayed at the guesthouse, you can now recreate the Study of Shellfish, the Orchard dessert or the legendary MacNean porridge (it really is as good as everyone says) at home.
Recipes to try: MacNean special porridge with honey and cream; tempura of sole with curried mayonnaise and chilli jam; beef satay with pickled cucumber; crispy goat’s cheese with beetroot panna cotta; celeriac, smoked bacon and apple soup; hake with cassoulet of beans and chorizo; salmon sausages with creamed leeks and lemon butter sauce; peppered steak with gratin potatoes and whiskey sauce; stout-braised shoulder of pork with potato and apple purée; coconut and Malibu marshmallows; brandy snaps with chilli and passion fruit cream; MacNean wheaten bread; prune and Armagnac tart.
The Surf Café Cookbook: Cooking and Surfing on the West Coast of Ireland by Jane and Myles Lamberth (Orca Publications)
My idea of a perfect day in Strandhill, County Sligo, a tiny village and surfing hot spot on the Atlantic coast, is a seaweed bath at Voya, a long walk on the beach, with Ben Bulben towering over the landscape to the north, and a meal at Shells Café afterwards. Shells was opened in 2010 by Jane and Myles Lamberth after years spent working in restaurants by the sea in Cornwall in the summer so they could go surfing, and winters running chalets in ski resorts in the Alps. The atmosphere is bright and airy and charming (think mismatched chairs and Cath Kidston-esque oilcloths on the tables) and the food is fresh, organic, seasonal and creative (try their salad version of an Irish breakfast or the Ultimate Burger, made with bacon, onion marmalade and a fried banana — don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!).
The book is beautifully designed, with a scrapbook feel to it. Café regulars will no doubt snap it up to make their favourites at home, while visitors will want a copy to remind them of the beauty of County Sligo. As Jane and Myles say themselves, “This book is about cooking, eating and living the Irish way. From foraging on the beach to creating the perfect brunch to making homemade Baileys, this book encourages you to make locally produced food that’s fresh, fun, unpretentious and tasty. The perfect food for sharing with friends and family, around the kitchen table or on a blanket thrown on the ground. It’s contemporary Irish cooking with a soupçon of salty air.”
Recipes to try: Breakfast salad; campervan casserole; clam, cockles and seaweed vongole; west coast chowder; perfect bangers and mash; Irish piccalilli; their famous lemon squares; apple and Donegal rapeseed oil cake; homemade Baileys.
* I received review copies of the books from Atrium Press, Gill & Macmillan, Mercier Press and Quadrille Publishing as well as Kitchen Hero from HarperCollins. In addition, I was the editor for Catherine Fulvio and Neven Maguire’s books.