Enjoy! Food You'll Love

By Sheila Kiely

What is Irish cooking? Some of the most talented people in the country have been answering that interesting question for over four decades now, and increasingly their voices are being heard around the world.

One of the most interesting new voices in this field unarguably belongs to Sheila Kiely, who first came to prominence through her remarkable Irish food blog Gimme the Recipe and then through her terrific 2012 debut cookbook of the same name.

Kiely's genius is to mammy-proof her recipes. She teaches you brilliant but easy to follow twists on classic Irish dishes, breads, soups, stews, roasts and desserts, but then she mixes it up with real continental flair and impressive international awareness, making dinner night extra special every night of the week.

But what's the point of creating superb and inventive dishes if your loved ones really don't want to eat them? Kiely knows this and creates recipes that find that sweet spot between gourmet and genuinely good dinners.

Another reason she's become so popular is the ease of the recipes that she lays out. The ingredients are easy to find in your local store, there are no cheats, you won't have to trek out to specialist shops in search of a host of spices you've never heard of.

"In Enjoy! Food You'll Love" she's taken the title literally. Handsomely produced and photographed, it's the kind of go-to cookery book that will inspire you to take more interest in weekday dinners and help you reconsider and rework dishes you already know and love.

This isn't hard, she reminds us. It takes as much effort to make a bad meal as it does to produce something wonderful, so why not take the latter route? Recipes that get made in under an hour from start to finish are recipes that you'll return to.

With an Irish family of her own to impress she has the perfect sounding board for what works. Pick up this book and catch a rising star who will help you answer what Irish cooking is – and take real pride in it. Highly recommended.

Dufour, $27.

According to Their Lights: Stories of Irishmen in the British Army, Easter 1916

By Neil Richardson

For decades the Irishmen who served in the British Army usually refused to acknowledge it when at home, for a host of compelling reasons. Over the decades many factors contributed to their decisions to enlist, but a prolonged silence usually followed it, especially if they returned to live in their homeland.

In Neil Richardson's utterly absorbing new book he looks at the Irishmen who fought for the English in Ireland’s April 1916 Easter Rising, where an exquisitely complicated clash of allegiances quickly came into play.

History records the Rising as Irish rebel against English soldier, but the truth was much more complicated. How could it not have been, by then the English had been a presence in Ireland, in one form or another, for 700 years.

The fact is that thousands of the British  soldiers fighting in the Rising were native born Irishmen. Many had enlisted to fight for Irish Home Rule or to defend the Ulster Covenant, and others had enlisted to travel the world or escape from, by then, generational poverty they were trapped in.

In the years before the Rising few of them would have imagined that they would one day find themselves on the streets of Dublin facing the business end of the guns of their own compatriots and killing – or being killed by – fellow Irishmen.

Nevertheless, the facts are stark: 41 Irishmen in the British Army died while in action during the Rising and 106 were wounded. These men quickly became a forgotten part of the country’s history, so they deserve to be rescued from the deliberate obscurity that fell around them.

Oscar Wilde, a brilliant Irishman, once wrote that “the truth is rarely pure and never simple” and Richardson's book does a find job of reminding us of this occasionally inconvenient truth. But it is better to know our true history, and to learn from it, than pretend it didn't unfold the way it did and hoodwink only ourselves. The tragedy of colonialism affected everyone who participated.

Dufour, $32.