I’ve loved books my whole life. When I was a kid I pestered my mother to take me to the library every week. I studied English in college and for the past 15 years I’ve worked in publishing as an editor. You could even say books are my life now. After reading and working with other people’s words for so many years, I’m still pinching myself that my own book – Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer and Cider – is out in the world now. And even though I work with books every day for a living and well know how the publishing process works, it still feels like magic.

Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer and Cider

And it’s so much fun! I’m usually one of the invisible people who works behind the scenes on books, so it’s been a big change to be the one doing newspaper interviews and photo shoots, chatting on radio shows and carrying around Sharpies in my handbag to sign copies.

signing books

But I didn’t do it alone. When my co-author, Caroline Hennessy, and I sat down to write our acknowledgements a few months ago, it really hit me – and humbled me – how many people had helped to make this book happen. And if I had to sum up the whole process of writing Sláinte in one word, that word for me would be generosity.

Going right back to the start of it all, as someone who moved to a new country and built a life from scratch, I’ve always been so grateful for the generosity of friendship people have shown me, be it my very first colleagues in the publishing world who have watched me go from a bumbling intern to a published author, to my neighbours who welcomed us into the small rural community where we live, to all the people I met in the virtual world when I started blogging who quickly turned into true friends in the real world.

And people were so generous about contributing to the book. As a self-employed freelancer who never has enough hours in the day, I know it’s the same for the craft brewers and cider-makers too. Yet everyone took time out of their busy schedules to talk to us and answer our questions and share their knowledge. And that has been my experience again and again in the food community in Ireland. People are so happy to share, whether it’s their story, such as all the producers who are profiled; or their expertise, like Seáneen Sullivan and Kevin Sheridan, who shared their favourite matches of  beer and cider with food and cheese; or everyone who shared their photographs and recipes with us. It is because of the generosity of all these people that Sláinte is the book it is. Julia Child said it best when she said, ‘People who love to eat are always the best people.’ I would just add ‘and drink’ to that too.

Sláinte is in good company!

This past year, I have often thought to myself: how did a girl from a small town in Illinois come to write a book all about Irish beer and cider? And for that I have to thank my husband, Matt. He wooed me to Ireland for what was supposed to be a one-year adventure, maybe two, max – and that was in 1999. He’s had a lot of people commiserate with him that it must have been tough work being married to someone who was writing a book all about beer and cider. But seriously, though, I suspect that behind every person who writes a book is someone else who is quietly anchoring the family to keep things ticking along, whether it’s making endless cups of tea and coffee, doing the grocery shopping and making sure the children don’t eat a steady diet of fish fingers and frozen peas, or reading all the bedtime stories for months on end.

But my biggest thank you is for Caroline, my co-author and a dear friend. We didn’t even know each other five years ago, but hardly a day has gone by in the past year where we haven’t talked to each other. We also co-founded the Irish Food Bloggers Association back in 2011, and at this point I think it’s fair to say that we make a pretty good team. There’s no one else I would rather have written this book with.

at the launch of Sláinte

But now it’s all about YOU, the reader. We set out to write the kind of book that we wanted to read when we started exploring craft beer and cider a few years ago, when information in an Irish context was hard to come by. We’ve covered 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, so there is something for everyone in this book. I hope you enjoy reading it and working your way through it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Sláinte!

Want to buy a copy? You probably won’t find a better deal than kennys.ie, which is offering it at €15.07 plus free shipping anywhere in the world. Or look for it in all good bookshops as well as good off-licences around the country.

We also run the Craft Beer Ireland website — follow us on Twitter or Facebook to keep up with all the news on craft beer and cider in Ireland.


Postcards from Ireland #13

by Kristin on May 16, 2014

Inishowen, County Donegal

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


Traditional Irish Recipes for Paddy’s Day

by Kristin on March 17, 2014

Here’s the thing. Contrary to popular belief, we are not all having corned beef and cabbage for dinner in Ireland today. If you want to make something traditional that people really do eat, on all days of the year, try one of these dishes instead. Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit!

Irish soda bread — don’t forget to put a cross on top to let the fairies out.

Beef and Irish stout stew — there’s both eating and drinking in it.

Dublin coddle - the capital’s namesake dish of bacon, sausages and spuds; what’s not to love?

Colcannon - Did you ever eat colcannon, made from lovely pickled cream? / With the greens and scallions mingled like a picture in a dream.

Apple and blackberry crumble — a good old-fashioned crumble is one of Ireland’s best-loved desserts.

* And remember too: it’s Paddy, not Patty!


It All Started with the Dark Arts

by Kristin on February 4, 2014

It all started with the Dark Arts.

I was at the first Inishfood festival in 2011, freezing in a marquee on a cold March night in Donegal, when I was given a cup of Dark Arts as part of a beer-tasting event. Having never been much of a fan of Guinness, my first thought was Ugh, stout. But then I figured that I might as well try it; it had already been put in my hand, after all.

Instead of the metallic tang of Guinness, I tasted roasted coffee. I took another sip, and tasted chocolate. Cue Green Eggs and Ham–style revelation: Say! I do like stout! I’ve been making up for lost time ever since. Oh hello, Leann Folláin, Knockmealdown Porter and White Gypsy Imperial Stout, where have you been all my life?

Fast forward a few years and that light bulb moment has evolved into a full-blown love of craft beer, especially beer and food matching. Come Friday night, you’ll likely find me sitting at the kitchen table with my husband, sharing a beer and swapping notes on the taste and aroma – is that grapefruit? toffee? McVitie’s biscuit? – and debating how well it matches up with whatever we’re having for dinner that night, be it chicken fajitas and an IPA, homemade pizza and a lager or a stout and a brownie for dessert.

It also doesn’t hurt that my very good friend Caroline just so happens to be married to a brewer who makes some of the best beer in the country. I’m a cookbook editor and Caroline is a journalist, so when we’d get together we’d talk about beer, and books, and it wasn’t long before we started talking about doing a book of our own.

And now, from that first dubious sip three years ago, we’re writing a book about beer!

I’m thrilled to announce that Caroline Hennessy and I are co-authoring The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer and Cider, to be published by New Island in the autumn. My hope is that it will be the kind of book I wish I’d had when I first started exploring the world of craft beer, covering everything from the basics of how beer and cider are made to profiles of the people and stories behind the microbreweries that are fuelling Ireland’s craft beer revolution, all the way through to tips on matching beer and cider with food and Irish farmhouse cheese and recipes that incorporate craft brews.

In the meantime, we’ve launched a new website, Craft Beer Ireland, where we’ll be keeping our fingers on the pulse of all things craft beer and cider. You can also follow along there on Facebook and Twitter. I’m writing a beer of the month column for Georgina Campbell’s Ireland Guide ezine, so be sure to check in there too.

It’s an exciting time for craft beer and cider in Ireland, and I’m so excited to be a part of it. Sláinte!

(And if all this has got you curious about craft beer, get down to the Alltech International Craft Brews & Food Fair in Dublin this weekend or the Franciscan Well Cask & Winter Ale Festival in Cork from 14–16 February.)


Irish Cookbooks 2013

by Kristin on November 27, 2013

When you look at the Irish cookbooks that have been published this year, three words come to mind: from the heart. From the sweeping celebration of Irish food and artisan food producers in Chapter One: An Irish Food Story to the celebration of family and home in Apron Strings, many of the authors have poured their hearts onto these pages.

This has been a good year for food bloggers, with three new blog-to-book authors (Fiona Dillon, Rosanne Hewitt-Cromwell and Nessa Robins), while the original blogging superstar, Donal Skehan, has just published his fourth book and Lilly Higgins has brought out her second. Meanwhile, several other bloggers have signed deals and are hard at work on their forthcoming books.

This year also saw a noticeable shift towards self-publishing. Extreme Greens, From Lynda’s Table, Relish BBQ and Buon Appetito are all top-quality books that hold their own against the ones from the traditional publishers, and in fact even use some of the same professional photographers, stylists and editors. I think we’ll be seeing more and more cookbook authors taking this route in the years to come.

Either way, there’s never been a better time to be a home cook.

Apron Strings: Recipes from a Family Kitchen by Nessa Robins

I like to think of Apron Strings as a modern day Mrs Beeton, with thrifty tips for running a household, advice for expecting mothers, recipes for children’s birthday parties, a home nurse chapter (Nessa’s background is in nursing) and a chapter on keeping hens, making jam, composting and foraging. It’s obvious that these recipes are treasured family heirlooms (Nessa’s introduction to her gingerbread and scone recipes literally had me in tears) as well as what Nessa feeds her family on a daily basis. It’s lovely to think that just as Nessa’s contentment in the kitchen comes from her mother, her own children will have many happy memories of food and cooking and times spent around the kitchen table as a family. And of course now they have her cookbook to cherish too. To know Nessa is to marvel at her boundless energy and unflagging cheerfulness. How does she do it, you wonder, and with four kids besides? To read her book is to wish you could pull up a chair at her table. Having her recipes is the next best thing.

Recipes to try: White onion, potato and chorizo soup; chicken in an herby white wine sauce; baked sausages with a spicy tomato sauce; beef, potato and wild garlic lasagna; brown sugar and cinnamon scones; caramel and hazelnut shortbread squares; gingerbread; homemade cold remedy; carrageen moss pudding; blackberry vodka.

Blazing Salads 2 by Lorraine Fitzmaurice

Raised on macrobiotic cooking, Lorraine Fitzmaurice and her siblings had quite an unusual upbringing when it came to food in Ireland in the 1970s. But far from being a passing fad, healthy, wholesome, whole food eating has become a lifelong passion, which saw them open the popular Blazing Salads deli in Dublin in 2000. In this, their second cookbook, Lorraine shares more of the quick, easy and healthy ‘real food’ recipes that have become their trademark.

Recipes to try: Avocado pico de gallo salad; chickpea, red onion and chilli salad; quinoa with roasted ratatouille vegetables and fresh basil; Mediterranean vegetable and feta turnovers; sweet potato and carrot bhajis; Moroccan minestrone; vegetable Wellington with onion gravy; summer leek tart; almond and raspberry fingers; plum cobber with flaked almonds.

Chapter One: An Irish Food Story by Ross Lewis

Magnificent. Stunning. Breathtaking. Incomparable. Epic. This is a book that will be talked about in superlatives. It painstakingly documents some of the recipes at Ross Lewis’s Michelin-starred Chapter One, one of Ireland’s best restaurants — make no mistake, this is aspirational cooking even for the most serious home cooks. It also reads like a love letter to Irish artisan food producers, who are held in the very highest esteem, which is reflected in their beautiful portraits by photographer to the stars, Barry McCall. Ross Lewis takes their produce and elevates it to its highest expression of itself. It’s a book to inspire and savour and will stand the test of time as a beautifully crafted snapshot of Irish food at this time. It is not only the jewel in the crown of all the books published this year, but is surely the finest cookbook ever published in Ireland.

Recipes to try: These recipes are not for the faint of heart. Ross Lewis says straight out that “the home cook, no matter how talented or determined, is not blessed with a hardworking and talented brigade of chefs as I am, so it will be difficult to reproduce many of the recipes in full in a domestic kitchen. However … most of the dishes can be broken down to simpler versions or perhaps just two or three elements from a recipe.” Having said all that, the spiced chestnut soup with hazelnut cream and white truffle; winter pickled vegetable salad; Dublin Bay prawn, smoked bacon and basil spring roll; braised top rib of prime Hereford beef and Skerries new potatoes with buttermilk and Savoy cabbage, rich red wine and shallot sauce; carrageen set West Cork cream pudding with Pat Clarke strawberries and fresh yoghurt mousse, soda bread sugar biscuits and Irish apple balsamic vinegar meringues; hot Valrhona Guanaja chocolate soufflé; and soda bread and Demerara sugar biscuits in chocolate with smoked sea salt caught this home cook’s eye.

Extreme Greens by Sally McKenna

Seaweed has been in the spotlight more and more recently. Did you know that seaweed has twice as much vitamin C as orange juice,  50 times the amount of iron as spinach and is 10 times higher in calcium than cow’s milk? That it can be used as a fertilizer, a medicine and a food? And that’s just for starters. By the time you’ve finished reading this book, you’ll wonder if there’s anything seaweed can’t do. Sally McKenna (of McKennas’ Guides fame) became enchanted with seaweed while exploring secret watery nooks in her kayak around the coast of West Cork, and her enthusiasm is infectious (take one of her foraging tours and see for yourself — highly recommended!). With 80 recipes, a guide to how to forage for your own seaweeds and even instructions on how to make your own natural beauty products with seaweeds, this is an indispensable resource for anyone who wants to incorporate this magical food into their life, and with dried seaweeds now commonly available in health food shops around Ireland, there’s no reason not to.

Recipes to try: Mussel, coconut and kelp soup; seaweed and chilli popcorn; spaghetti and sea spaghetti with a tomato fennel sauce; seafood crumble with dillisk; sea grass and garlic butter; seaweed sausage rolls; kelp and sour cherry scones; dillisk and stout brown soda bread; sea grass blaa; chocolate, hazelnut and nori ice cream.

Food for Friends by Edward Hayden

Life provides plenty of opportunities to push the boat out a little bit in the kitchen, and Edward Hayden’s second book has it all covered, from brunch to children’s birthday parties, food for romance, a movie night in or dinner party and straight through to Christmas. As such, this is also a great book for anyone who’s just starting out in the kitchen or is only starting to build their cookbook collection.

Recipes to try: Sweet and sticky chicken drumsticks; sweet chilli noodle salad; pork and cider stroganoff; braised chicken with smoked bacon cream; Edward’s apple and rhubarb crumble cake; whole roast duck with apricot and hazelnut stuffing; festive mince pie crumbles.

Food from an Irish Garden by Fiona Dillon

Who hasn’t dreamed of swapping the city office for a life in the country? In 2009, Fiona Dillon did just that and shows you how you can too. Fiona said that this is the book she wishes she’d had when she started her journey towards self-sufficiency. Part how-to, part cookbook, it covers everything from keeping poultry and pigs and a bit about beekeeping to maintaining a kitchen garden, then on to recipes for what to do with the things you grow and even a chapter about foraging, all illustrated with Fiona’s own photos of the good life at Hunter’s Lodge. If you don’t already live in the country, this book will have you dreaming that you did.

Recipes to try: Traditional Irish soda bread; baked eggs; tea loaf; sweet and sour cucumber pickle; raspberry gin.

From Lynda’s Table by Lynda Booth

Lynda Booth says that she likes a cookbook with plenty of reading, and she has written just that. Owner of the Dublin Cookery School, this is her first book and is a treasure trove of wisdom, tips, tried and tested recipes and anecdotes from her years spent working in kitchens and with top chefs from around the world before she realised her dream of opening her own cookery school. Lynda’s background as a teacher comes through in the way the recipes are written, guiding the cook every step of the way. The book has a wide scope of recipes and flavours. It starts with a chapter on foundations before moving on to the recipes Lynda makes on holidays in Connemara, a ‘Branching Out’ chapter that will help you to push your boundaries a bit, a chapter on the flavours of Thailand and India and one on desserts. A beautifully photographed, hefty hardcover weighing in at 360 pages, the book is a bargain and one you’ll return to again and again. You can find it in bookshops or you can order it online from the school. As Willy Clingan of the Irish Times said, writing so well about this being his favourite Irish cookbook, “Use it to cook for people you love, or hope to persuade to love you.” After all, isn’t that what most cooking is about? One of the best books of the year.

Recipes to try: Griddled lemon chicken with salsa verde; Connemara meatballs and tomato sauce; Turkish pizzas with lamb and harissa; biscotti with dried apricots and cranberries; linguine with shellfish sauce, pan-fried lobster and Dublin Bay prawns; spicy beef salad with Thai chilli dressings; Sauternes pots de creme with Armagnac prunes; Robert de Niro’s chocolate hazelnut cake.

Home Cooked by Donal Skehan

Equal parts comfort food and lighter, more exotic tastes, the thing that really appeals about Donal’s food is its freshness and its bold flavour. Home Cooked is Donal’s fourth cookbook and is easily his best yet. Donal is one to watch as he goes from strength to strength — one of his (many) new projects, the breathtakingly beautiful FEAST: A Dinner Journal, is one of the most exciting things to happen in the Irish food world this year. We knew him when!

Recipes to try: Baked risotto all’Arrabiata; blue cheese beef sliders; butterflied rosemary chicken with romesco sauce; chilli and lemongrass chicken; deep, dark and delicious pork shoulder tacos; margarita chicken with smoky avocado corn salsa; polenta chips with rosemary salt; roast Asian beef stew with chilli noodles; chocolate pistachio espresso biscotti; crazy monkey brownie baked Alaska.

The Irish Beef Book by Pat Whelan and Katy McGuinness

“In Ireland, we have the best climate in the world for growing beef.” So begins fifth-generation butcher Pat Whelan in his introduction to The Irish Beef Book. “The luxuriant green pastures of Ireland, and the good husbandry practised by our farmers, are responsible for the world-class quality of Irish beef. Sometimes I think we take this for granted, when really we should be pausing and taking time to celebrate this naturally superior product.” And celebrate it he does in this book, a comprehensive guide to the different cuts of beef and a wealth of recipes for how to cook them, from a classic Sunday roast or long, slow braises to an entire chapter devoted to cooking steaks and good things and sauces to eat with them. Put away the Post-its you might usually use to flag the recipes you want to try in a new cookbook — you’ll want to make them all in this one.

Recipes to try: Skirt steak with anchovies, red wine and garlic; roast fillet with wild garlic salsa verde; rich beef cheek ragu; braised beef chin and chorizo; barbacoa beef cheeks; short ribs with balsamic vinegar; slow-cooked pulled chipotle brisket; Spanish meatballs in a tomato chorizo sauce; Knockmealdown burgers.

Like Mam Used to Bake by Rosanne Cromwell Hewitt

No sooner did this book come into the kitchen than my eight-year-old daughter pounced on it and neatly wrote out a (very long) list of all the things she wants to bake from it. As for me, my search is over — Rosanne’s flourless brownies have proved to be the elusive perfect brownie recipe that I’ve been looking for my whole life. What is striking about this book is how approachable the recipes are, with many having just half a dozen ingredients that you probably already have in the house. These are comforting, nostalgia-tinged treats, many of which featured in Rosanne’s own childhood, that are easy and quick enough to rustle up on a weeknight. The recipes are unfussy favourites that have stood the test of time — classics like Victoria sponge, apple tart, gur cake or knickerbocker glory — as well as more modern ones too, like mojito cucpakes, individual blueberry clafoutis, biscotti or caramel macarons. The perfect book for the baker in your life, it’s also very popular with children, thanks to its cute and colourful design, and is sure to be under the Christmas tree for lots of little girls this year (and grown-up ones too). Be sure to check out Rosanne’s blog too, where her deadpan Dublin humour will have you laughing out loud.

Recipes to try: Rosanne’s famous pavlova; coconut cake; coffee cake; RoRo’s rocky road; Brazil nut toffee; sticky toffee buns; double chocolate peanut butter cookies; apple bake; cappuccino mousse; millionaire’s shortbread; and of course those incredible flourless brownies (seriously, the book is worth buying for the brownie recipe alone).

Lilly’s Dream Deli by Lilly Higgins

After graduating from Ballymaloe in 2007, Lilly Higgins dreamed of opening up her own restaurant. While the recession might have forced her to shelve those plans for now, she’s realising a different dream as a food writer and has pulled together a collection of recipes for what might be on the menu of her dream deli some day. For the home cook, this is a snazzy collection of fast, easy, healthy cafe-type fare: breakfast and brunch, light lunch and supper dishes and, of course, plenty of teatime treats too, and all with Lilly’s trademark colourful, vibrant flair.

Recipes to try: Peanut butter granola; quinoa salad with pistachios and pomegranate; mango and shredded chicken salad with garam masala yoghurt; ham cooked in cider; fennel, pork and apple sausage rolls; sea salt, honey and macadamia nut popcorn;  coffee streusel cake; ginger and white chocolate flapjacks; raspberry and coconut buns.

The Nation’s Favourite Food by Neven Maguire

This book is sure to be a winner with Neven’s many fans around the country: the best 100 recipes from one of Ireland’s best-loved chefs, all tried and tested favourites. What makes this book even better is the way it’s organised: broken up into 20 short chapters (plus a basics chapter at the end), each chapter has five classics that would be right at home in anyone’s repertoire. If you have only one of Neven Maguire’s many cookbooks in your collection, it should be this one.

Recipes to try: Lamb cutlets with garlic, lemon and paprika; pan-fried fish with lemon and herb butter sauce; smoked salmon and leek quiche; sweet potato cakes with chilli and feta; meatball pasta bake with spinach and mozzarella; braised blade of beef with celeriac purée; French beans with hazelnuts and garlic; Vietnamese pot noodles; raspberry chocolate brownie with salted caramel sauce; MacNean wheaten bread; maple glazed ham with pineapple salsa.

Relish BBQ by Rozanne Stevens

After the scorcher of a summer we just had, Rozanne Stevens’s new cookbook couldn’t have been better timed. Rozanne, who is originally from South Africa, has put her own al fresco spin on 10 different world cuisines (South African, Irish, Thai, Indian, Italian, Mozambique, Chinese, Mexican, Greek, American). The salads are particularly tempting and you’ll never want to settle for a bottled barbecue sauce again after trying these marinades, bastes and sauces.

Recipes to try: Black pudding burgers; soy-glazed salmon burgers; strawberry chilli flattie chicken; smoked paprika BBQ pork chops with guava salsa; BBQ prawn, avocado and melon salad; Monica’s berry Baileys meringue roulade.

The Weekend Chef by Catherine Fulvio

For home cooks, one of the best things about weekends is the chance to happily potter in the kitchen, luxuriating in long, leisurely breakfasts over coffee and the papers, a bit of baking or a proper Sunday lunch with family and friends. Catherine Fulvio’s fourth cookbook was made for this kind of cooking, with chapters dedicated to play dates, curry night, movie night, late night supper, food for the match, afternoon tea, baking day, tapas night, dinner parties, Sunday brunch and Sunday lunch. Forget about hurried midweek meals, this is food to unwind with.

Recipes to try: Chilli bhajis with spicy apricot pickle and coconut raita; spicy chicken tacos with lime and avocado salsa; celeriac soup with lemon gremolata; Greek lamb with feta topping; crispy pork belly with chilli ginger caramel and sweet potatoes; cinnamon and walnut rolls; coffee cheesecake; wicked mousse layers.

Wild Food by Biddy White Lennon and Evan Doyle

There are few things as simple and satisfying as foraging for wild food and turning it into something tasty in your kitchen. Far from being a passing fad, foraging is more popular than ever, which makes this a well-timed book. It looks at 25 wild foods and is helpfully organised according to what’s in season, from February straight through to December. Each wild food is broken into sections on where to find it, what it looks like, how to pick it, how to prepare it, traditional uses, how to preserve it and a few recipes for it. Written by Biddy White Lennon, an active Slow Food member who has been foraging for wild food for as long as she can remember, and Evan Doyle, who owns the BrookLodge Hotel and Ireland’s only all-organic restaurant, The Strawberry Tree, with its famous wild food pantry, this small but mighty book is an invaluable guide.

Keep your eye out for the following Irish cookbooks too:

And while they’re not cookbooks, these food books were also published in 2013:

 *I received review copies of the following: Apron Strings, Extreme Greens, Food for Friends, Like Mam Used to Bake, Lilly Higgins’ Dream Deli, The Nation’s Favourite Food, The Weekend Chef and Wild Food.

In addition, I was the editor for the following: From Lynda’s Table, Good Food, Lilly Higgins’ Dream Deli, Relish BBQ, The Nation’s Favourite Food and The Weekend Chef. If you’re working on a cookbook and need an experienced editor, email me at kristin (at) edible-ireland (dot) com.


Blackberry Jam

by Kristin on September 6, 2013

It was a verb that stopped me in my tracks last Friday: was.

‘The best Irish poet since Yeats, Heaney was 74.’ And then the sinking realisitation of exactly what that past tense was meant — the death of Seamus Heaney, Ireland’s most beloved poet. One week on, the nation is still reeling from the loss.

Heaney often wrote about food:* oysters, potatoes, grain, sloe gin, milk, mint, butter, blackberries. Scones ‘rising / to the tick of two clocks’. Butter being churned into ‘coagulated sunlight’. Fodder ‘falling at your feet, / last summer’s tumbled / swathes of grass / and meadowsweet’. ‘I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.’ Threshed corn that ‘lay piled like grit of ivory’. Oyster shells that ‘clacked on the plates’ and whose ‘tang / Might quicken me all into verb, pure verb’. Mint ‘Growing wild at the gable of the house’ that ‘spelled promise / And newness’.

Food is part and parcel of what I love best about Heaney’s poetry: the way he could shine a light on ordinary moments of quiet, everyday domesticity to reveal their beauty and grace, like these lines from ‘Mossbawn: Sunlight’, where the act of baking is elevated into an expression of love:

here is a space
again, the scone rising
to the tick of two clocks.

And here is love
like a tinsmith’s scoop
sunk past its gleam
in the meal-bin.

If you are at all literary minded and live in Ireland, chances are that you associate the end of August or the first sighting of fat, ripe blackberries in the hedgerows with Heaney’s poem ‘Blackberry-Picking’:

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.

You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for

We headed down to a nearby lane two nights ago and picked a heaping bowl full of wild blackberries. But what to do with them? I had to make my mind up quick, for ‘Once off the bush … the sweet flesh would turn sour’:

I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.

I turned them into jam that night, suspending the sunny September evening in darkly gleaming jars — a way to make them ‘keep’ after all, even when so much else is fleeting.

Wild Blackberry Jam

Makes about 1 litre

A few tips before you begin: You’ll be working with a big pot of boiling sugar, which can burn badly. Keep kids out of the kitchen (or make your jam after they’ve gone to bed) and be mindful of your own safety too. Don’t be tempted to lick the spoon for a little taste!

When making preserves, you need to use spotlessly clean, sterile jars, lids and rings (if using a Kilner/Le Parfait type of jar). If you have a dishwasher, you can simply run everything through a hot cycle. Otherwise, wash everything in hot, soapy water, rinse well, then place the jars and lids on a baking tray in an oven heated to 140°C (285°F) and keep them there until you’re ready to use them.

1kg (2lb) blackberries
1kg (2lb) caster sugar
juice of 1 large lemon (about 100ml/3.5 fl oz)

Place a saucer in the freezer for testing the jam later (have a look at this one-minute video on how to test jam using the wrinkle test).

Gently wash the blackberries, discarding any stems. Tip them into a large preserving pan or a non-reactive pot along with the sugar and the lemon juice. Cook over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring frequently with a long-handled spoon, then raise the heat and bring everything to a boil. Keep at a steady boil for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Start testing the jam after 10 minutes. Place a teaspoonful of the jam onto the freezer-cold plate and push it with your finger — when it wrinkles up, it’s ready. Remove from the heat and skim off any foam that might still be on the surface.

Pour the jam into warm, dry, sterilised jars (see above) to within a few millimetres of the rim and seal immediately. Store in a cool, dry place and use within 2 years.

* Here are some of Heaney’s poems that deal with food if you would like to seek them out. His book Opened Ground: Selected Poems 1966–1996 is a good place to start: ‘Digging’, ‘Churning Day’, ‘The Barn’, ‘Fodder’, ‘Mossbawn: Sunlight’, ‘Oysters’, ‘Sloe Gin’, ‘The Milk Factory’, ‘Mint’, ‘When All the Others Were Away at Mass’.



5 Irish Summer Cookbooks

by Kristin on July 25, 2013

For the first time since I moved to Ireland 14 years ago, I’ve been avoiding turning on my oven for the past month. I’ve also kept the shades drawn to keep rooms cool, thrown open every window and the kitchen door all day long and dragged the fan down from the attic. In a country whose climate is usually more suited to stews and casseroles and long, slow braises on a cold rainy day, a spate of hot sunny weather like we’ve been having this July can leave you at a loss for what to cook outside of your usual repertoire. After all, we’re more accustomed to the dark, cozy pub than sunny poolsides. Here are some cookbooks — some new and some oldies but goodies worth revisiting — that have been getting a lot of play time in my kitchen this summer.

Relish BBQ by Rozanne Stevens

Launched in May, Rozanne’s new cookbook couldn’t have been better timed. Rozanne, who is originally from South Africa, has put her own al fresco spin on 10 different world cuisines (South African, Irish, Thai, Indian, Italian, Mozambique, Chinese, Mexican, Greek, American). The salads are particularly tempting and you’ll never want to settle for a bottled barbecue sauce again after trying these marinades, bastes and sauces.

Recipes to try: Black pudding burgers; soy-glazed salmon burgers; strawberry chilli flattie chicken; smoked paprika BBQ pork chops with guava salsa; BBQ prawn, avocado and melon salad; Monica’s berry Baileys meringue roulade.

Fresh from the Sea by Clodagh McKenna

Fish is the ultimate fast food, often taking only minutes to cook, which makes it perfect for those summer evenings when you want to escape the heat of the kitchen. With beautiful photography and celebrating some of Ireland’s fishermen and artisan producers, this cookbook focuses solely on seafood (with a few sides and desserts thrown in at the end for good measure) and is made for summer, when you want fast, light food.

Recipes to try: Roasted herb-crusted mussels; pan-seared scallops with smoked streaky bacon; crab cakes with lime guacamole; hake seared in a sun-dried tomato tapenade; smoked salmon mousse; chilli fried mackerel; marinated salmon in mint and lemon.

Martin & Paul’s Surf ‘n’ Turf by Martin Shanahan and Paul Flynn

One of my favourite new cookbooks last year, this is a collaboration between Paul Flynn, chef/owner at The Tannery in Co. Waterford, and Martin Shanahan, chef/owner at Fishy Fishy in Cork. At this time of year, the Salads and Quick chapters are the most well-thumbed, with plenty of recipes that are perfect for weeknight suppers, no matter which camp — surf or turf — you fall into.

Recipes to try: Crab claws, lemon, chilli and basil cream; mussels with sweet chilli and lime butter; butterbeans, chorizo and cider; grilled scallops, black pudding, lemon and thyme dressing.

Neven’s Food from the Sun by Neven Maguire

Inspired by Neven’s annual travels abroad, this book brings a bit of the sunny holiday flavours of Spain, Thailand and the Mediterranean to your kitchen. A little taste of the costas here at home in Ireland.

Recipes to try: Oven-roasted Dublin Bay prawns with tomato and chilli; crispy fried squid with harissa and creme fraiche; spicy chicken and mango noodles; baked Mediterranean vegetables with tomato, Cooleeney cheese and Parmesan; pineapple tarte tatin; coconut creme caramel.

Murphy’s Ice Cream Book of Sweet Things by Seán and Kieran Murphy

Summer. Ice cream. Need I say more? But if you need further convincing, Murphy’s is one of Ireland’s best-loved ice creams. Handmade in Dingle with milk from Kerry cows and premium ingredients, they say it best themselves: it’s ice cream that knows where it’s coming from. Head over to Bibliocook for an in-depth review of the book.


Elderflower Fritters

by Kristin on July 16, 2013

With the hot, sunny weather we’ve been having these past two weeks, the musky scent of elderflower hangs heavy in the still air, perfuming the countryside and drifting in the open windows at night as we fall off to sleep.

The elderflower was late to bloom this year, but the trees have made up for the delay by being especially abundant. After making the obligatory batch of cordial, I wanted to experiment with something new to me this year: elderflower fritters. The fritters are basically just deep-fried flowers; it’s like crossing the notorious fried foods of an American state fair with the Irish countryside. Delicate, crisp, sweet and floral, they are ethereally delicious.

The elderflowers are already starting to turn and by next week the flowers will be past their prime, so if you want to bring them into your kitchen, do it quick, before it’s too late this year.

*For more elderflower and wild food recipes, check out the archive.

Elderflower Fritters
adapted from Nigel Slater in The Guardian

Serves 4–6

The best time to pick elderflowers is on a dry, warm day, well away from traffic and roadsides. Shake the flowers gently to get rid of any insects.

100g plain flour
175ml sparkling water
sunflower oil
caster sugar
1 egg white
12–16 elderflower heads
gooseberry and elderflower compote, to serve (optional)

Sift the flour into a large bowl, then add the sparkling water and 2 tablespoons of the sunflower oil. Whisk together until a thick paste forms, then stir in 1 tablespoon of the caster sugar. Set aside for 30 minutes (don’t be tempted to skip this resting time, it’s essential for a light result). Just before you’re ready to fry the elderflowers, beat an egg white and fold it into the batter.

Gently swirl the elderflower heads in a bowl of cold water to clean them, then lightly shake them dry. Line a plate with some kitchen paper and sprinkle a good few tablespoons of caster sugar into a shallow dish.

Pour about 3cm (1 inch) of sunflower oil into a heavy-bottomed, deep-sided pan and heat the oil until it reaches 180°C (350°F). (If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test that the oil is hot enough by dropping in a cube of bread — the oil is ready when the bread turns golden in just a few seconds.) Dip the elderflowers into the batter and lower them into the oil. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes, until the batter is golden and crisp. Lift out and blot on the kitchen paper-lined plate to soak up any excess oil, then dip into the dish of caster sugar. Eat the fritters straightaway, while they are hot and crisp, pulling the fried flowers off the thick woody stems. You can serve them with a gooseberry and elderflower compote, but they are a delicious, decadent summertime treat just on their own.



by Kristin on June 20, 2013

Oh, Ireland. On a warm, sunny day, all is forgiven. The coldest spring on record that we just had? Let’s not speak of it. The past few washout summers? A distant memory. That day last year in July that I looked out my window at yet another cold, rainy day and actually cried? I’m not holding a grudge.

I’m not greedy. I don’t need, or even want, sweltering Continental temperatures. 20°C (70°F) qualifies as a scorcher here and suits me just fine: warm enough to sit outside with a book, maybe even without a jacket. Is a mere 20°C too much to ask for? Well, yes, apparently. Two weeks ago we had the best weather we’ve seen in years and it was “only” in the low 20°s (70°s) — old American me is laughing at how I now consider that to be a heat wave. In the 14 years I’ve been living here, I’ve never seen the beach as crowded as it was that weekend. Just look at that blue! Not a cloud in the sky, not a care in the world.

Such (rare) spectacular summer weather calls for something cold and refreshing to drink. There are the obvious choices — Pimm’s, G&Ts, maybe even an elderflower Bellini — and those are all fine if you just want one or two. But if you’re looking for something to sip over a long, hot afternoon, a shandy is the drink for you.

Beer cocktails are all the rage now, but the old school shandy isn’t getting much air time. In Ireland, a shandy is simply half beer, half lemonade, but check out all the versions of a shandy around the world, from a black shandy in Canada (stout and lemon soda) to a brass monkey in the US (beer and orange juice) or a tango in Portugal (beer and gooseberry cordial). A rock shandy refers to a non-alcoholic shandy, usually half lemon soda, half orange soda. And despite its wimpy image, shandy is a great drink if you’re out for the night and want to pace yourself.

My idea of a perfect summer day is pretty simple: a good book, a lounger, plenty of sun and something nice to drink. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for lots more shandy weather this year.


sparkling lemonade
light lager beer or pilsner

Half-fill a pint glass with the beer, then top up with sparkling lemonade — though you can of course adjust the ratio of beer to lemonade to your own taste. You could also try some of these variations in place of the lemonade:

  • Ginger beer or ginger ale (in which case, it becomes a shandygaff)
  • Orange soda (called a quianti in Argentina)
  • 7Up (called a Snow White in the Netherlands or a panaché in France)
  • Cola (called a diesel in Portugal and Germany)
  • Apple juice
  • Strawberry chile syrup


Postcards from Ireland #12

by Kristin on June 14, 2013

The Great Beech of Balrath Woods, County Meath.

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

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