It's almost St. Patrick's Day! Time to get busy in the kitchen and get your Irish on! Here's a review of two great new Irish cookbooks.
The Farmette Cookbook, Recipes and Adventures from My Life on an Irish Farm
By Imen McDonnell
Saint Patrick's Day is nearly upon us and there's no better time to get busy in the kitchen for whatever get togethers you've planned, be they large or small.
And if that's what you have planned, have I got a tip for you - author Imen mcDonnell has written one of the best guides to Irish cooking to have hit the shelves in the last two decades and you should really check it out.
How do I know The Farmette Cookbook, Recipes and Adventures from My Life on an Irish Farm is a keeper? Because everything that I have baked, fried or roasted from it since it has come into my possession recently has been an unqualified triumph. That's praise indeed.
From soda scones to blaas (pillow soft Irish style rolls) to pies, to tarts and flavorful Sunday roasts, this immensely curious American blow-in has gone native in the kind of inspired cultural exchange we should be highlighting at the Irish tourist board (and possibly to Nobel committees).
The dairy farm in County Limerick where McDonnell now makes her home is a very far cry from the exciting career in broadcasting that once took her from Los Angles to Minneapolis to New York, but McDonnell fell in love with an Irish farmer and frankly we should all be grateful to him.
Finding her feet in her adopted homeland meant grappling with its distinctive and surprisingly rich culinary and baking traditions and the journey has been an outstanding success if the book that results is a gage, and indeed it is.
The premise of The Farmette Cookbook, Recipes and Adventures from My Life on an Irish Farm reads like a light romantic comedy (love leads a woman on an unexpected adventure) but there's nothing insubstantial about the delicious fare it offers.
From finding her way around an Irish kitchen for the first time to learning about our distinctive regional dishes and bringing some American flair to our traditional offerings, it's the kind of cross cultural conversation that improves on both.
One of the great challenges of Irish baking is creating a really superior brown bread, another is baking the perfect apple tart. Let's face it, even a well made Irish soda bread is no walk in the park and McDonnell arms you with the tried and tested approach that took her own offerings along the arduous path from good to great.
Nothing escapes her gaze. From the ingredients foraged from ditches on a country walk to the mid Atlantic marriage of some Irish and American classics, this indispensable book will take your appreciation of both countries to new levels. Buy it. Commit it to memory. Thank me later.
Roost Books, $35.00.
Dingle Dinners, compiled by Trevis L. Gleason
Admit it, Dingle Dinners is an unintentionally funny book title. Named after the famous foodie town in County Kerry, it might give international readers pause.
Dingle what, they might ask? But there's nothing remotely funny about the delicious and often quite substantial dinners on offer here.
The work of another inspired American arrival, this time from Seattle, what is going on with the glut of Americans who are discovering the sheer taste and variety of Irish cooking and writing books about it? Why, it's almost as if we have a distinctive culinary tradition that's different to our neighbors to the east and to the continent beyond. Who'd have thought it?
Well, immigrants deprived of decent Irish baking and cooking would have thought if it for a start. Perhaps visitors can appreciate what the locals take for granted and what the poor sad exiles crave. That's the case with Dingle Dinners, an inspired cataloger of signature dishes from some of the town's award winning restaurants.
The book will help you assemble three course dinners for everyday dining that are still unmistakably sophisticated. Many of the meals are of the kind that international chefs would cook for their friends and family, which is to say approachable and delicious but not overwrought.
If your idea of Irish cooking is in need of an upgrade a visit to this foodie haven in Kerry is in order and the impressive new selection of Irish dishes included here is another step worth taking.