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A look at books - Irish cooking, history and fiction

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Irish Traditional Cooking
By Darina Allen

Can you call yourself Irish if you don’t own at least two Irish cookery books by Darina Allen? Simply put no one else has ever assembled the classic Irish dishes with the range and scope and appreciation for Irish tradition that she has.

In Irish Traditional Cooking Allen has assembled over 300 recipes that are as wholesome and unpretentious and the books title. Allen is a seasonal cook, which means she lists dishes that are in tune with the produce on offer year round, which makes this book an especially worthwhile purchase for discerning cooks.

This is magical food, prepared and presented in simple step-by-step measures that won’t intimidate. It’s made simple because Allen’s knowledge is authoritative, and she knows Irish cuisine inside out.

What’s especially fascinating is her knowledge not just of the recipes but also of the Irish cooking and baking traditions that produced them and her passion to preserve them is infectious.

Food can be a powerful gateway into the past and Allen knows this, and her chapter on making Barm Brack will probably take you back to your own childhood days in Ireland if you were lucky enough to experience it. If you weren’t this book is as close as you are ever likely to come. It can not be recommended highly enough.

Kyle Books, $35.00

Pure Cork
By Michael Lenihane

The garb changes from generation to generation, but the faces in the photographs in Michael Lenihane’s new book clearly belong to our tribe. From its origins as a medieval walled town to its status now as one of the top ten cities on the Lonely Planet’s Guide, Lenihane’s book Pure Cork traces the illustrious history of this mold-breaking city and the vivid people who make their homes there.

In a way never seen before Lenihane’s new book visually captures the city’s rapid evolution through a series of judiciously chosen photographs, post cards, maps, sketches and drawings, bringing to life the sights and sounds of the of the rebel city in the process.

Two hundred years of Irish history is contained within its pages and it’ll be a gift best appreciated by those who know what it means to be pure Cork, boy!

Dufour, $39.95.

Sharp Sticks, Driven Nails
Edited by Phillip O’Ceallaigh

The Irish are the world’s acknowledged masters of the short story form. In this punchy new collection from the innovative Irish publishing group The Stinging Fly Press we’re introduced to a new generation of Irish writers, this time edited by the award winning short story writer Phillip O’Ceallaigh.

This is a discerning new collection of emerging and established Irish voices that at times achieves startling originality and surprise with tales that involve murder, mayhem, love, confrontation and even sedate pastimes like taking Italian lessons taking unexpected turns.

The Irish short story form (and its writers) are looking further than the four green fields to Europe and in acknowledgement the editor has for the first time included European writers in the mix, adding an extra dimension to the already rich layers of metaphor and cultural exchange that already underscore the Irish experience.

Dufour, $21.95.

Citizen Dwyer
By Sean McCarthy

Authors often have to issue a caveat when it come to writing about Irish history, as if to explain the at times blatantly contradictory attitudes of the people themselves. This is as it should be. Everything is always being contested in Ireland; from the name of a child to the boundary of a property, you can be certain that someone somewhere is going to take a different view, and most likely at the worst possible moment.

Meet Wicklow Chieftain Michael Dwyer, the hero of McCarthy’s novel. Composed of delightfully contrasting characteristics, he’s a revolutionary idealist, and inspirational guerilla leader and a violent alcoholic. Hey, you have to take the bad with the good, after all.

In McCarthy’s sprawling new tale we follow McCarthy and his family as they are deported to a penal colony in Australia. In case you’re wondering it’s a fictional tale based on real characters, and it tells a sobering tale about the ravages of an uncontrollable addiction. Booze can make a meal of even the most accomplished men and so it proves in McCarthy’s moral fable.

Dufour, $27.95

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