The Country Cooking of Ireland by Colman Andrews (Chronicle Books, 2009) is a 2010 James Beard book awards finalist in the International category. For a list of all the finalists check out the Project Foodie James Beard Finalists' Guide.
How can you resist a cookbook that devotes an entire chapter to potatoes? Okay, maybe I've let my ethnicity influence my objectivity here, but I think this book is remarkable. And for reasons even more convincing than the mouth-watering spuds.
I have a shelf in my office devoted to Irish cookbooks. As you might expect some are better than others; but up until now all of them were written by Irish chefs or cooks and later adapted for the American market. There's nothing wrong with this, of course; especially since most of the authors have substantial street cred. But it's also one of the things that makes Colman Andrews' book unique.
Andrews has been a respected member of the food scene for many years, most memorably as the co-founder and editor in chief of Saveur magazine. His American roots and global perspective allow us to view Ireland's food with fresh eyes and an open mind; focusing on authentic regional classics as well as contemporary dishes that showcase seasonal farm-to-table ingredients.
In the past decade a lot of attention has been showered on Irish chefs - primarily the "big city" guys in Dublin and Cork, many of whom apprenticed in other parts of Europe. Like any other cuisine, however, once you get past the glitz and glam of fine dining it's always the home-style cooking that captures our hearts.
The beautifully written text is peppered with profiles of local chefs and food artisans, along with bits of history, folklore, and poetry. All of this is enhanced with over 100 lush photos by the award-winning Christopher Hirsheimer. At first glance this hefty volume could be mistaken for a "coffee table book", but the 225 recipes within are much too intriguing to stray far from the kitchen. With dishes like Colcannon Cream Soup; Dublin Bay Prawns with Garlic and Herbs; Broiled Salmon with Butter and Honey; Seared Filet Mignon with Jameson Sauce and Mushrooms; Candied Turnips with Crozier Blue cheese; Dad's Amazing Baked Apples; and every kind of brown and soda bread known to man, it's simply a matter of time before everyone wants to "eat Irish."
The message is clear: Irish cooking is no longer an acceptable punch line for jokes. Andrews deftly guides us on a gastronomic journey that is second only to accompanying him on a road trip through the Emerald Isle. And that's no small potatoes.
From The Country Cooking of Ireland by Colman Andrews (Chronicle Books, 2009).
Crumble is served the year round at Country Choice in Nenagh, County Tipperary, with the fruit changing according to the season and the spice or flavoring changing according to the fruit: This is a springtime version; in the summer it might be made with plums poached with cinnamon. Crumble is particularly good served with clotted cream.
- 2 lb/1 kg rhubarb stalks, cut into 1-in/2.5-cm pieces
- 2 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
- 2 1/2/500 g cups sugar
- 2 cups/200 g flour
- Pinch of salt
- 14 Tbsps cold butter, cut into small pieces
Preheat the oven to 350ºF/175ºC (Gas Mark 4).
Combine the rhubarb and ginger in a medium bowl and mix well. Transfer to a large glass or ceramic baking dish. Sprinkle 2 cups/400 g of the sugar over the rhubarb and set aside.
Whisk the flour, salt, and the remaining 1/2 cup/100 g of the sugar together in a medium mixing bowl. Using a pastry cutter or 2 table knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal flecked with pea-size pieces of butter. Scatter the mixture evenly over the rhubarb.
Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and the rhubarb is soft. Set aside to cool slightly, and serve warm. Or allow to cool to room temperature before serving.
Serves 6 to 8
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