Don’t forget the Great Avocado Famine of 1984
There are lots of good things in this cookbook. Good enough to make me want to buy it, anyway. I’m a big fan of Irish pubs (and I even have an Irish passport these days – thanks to Mr ND’s ancestors) so a book about Irish pub food obviously appealed to me. I bought it.
Hmmm. On closer inspection, it’s really too American for me. The measurements are all in “cups”. What the heck is that? I thought cups were a bra size. To be fair, at the back of the book there are conversion charts for US and metric. Do I care? I never measure or weigh anything anyway.
The blurb at the front of the book burbles on in American-speak about “recipes to comfort your soul” including things like Shepherd’s Pie (OK) and Seafood Chowder (yeah, that well-known Irish dish. Tsk).
The book consists of several parts:
This consists of a somewhat sentimental view of Irish pubs and how fantastic the food is in them. I like Irish pubs but there’s good and bad everywhere so I’m not so keen on this romanticised introduction.
CHAPTER ONE: STARTERS
This chapter consists of various ways to cook oysters, the inevitable something with Guinness – in this case, mussels – and a few other things including a prawn cocktail. The prawn cocktail recipe looks OK. At least they suggest adding sherry to the Marie Rose sauce. Personally I think that brandy is the best bet. You really need to have brandy in the kitchen. It’s a must-have.
There are also some pretty good photos and pages to explain the history and culture of Ireland. But it’s all just so American. I’m starting to wonder why on earth I bought this book. Let’s look at the rest of it.
CHAPTER TWO: SOUPS
This starts with a spiel about the climate in Ireland. “The coldest months are January and February…” Gosh! Really? I’d never have guessed that. But don’t worry because “it’s soup that provides sustenance, warmth, and a big dose of “comfort.”
We are also informed that “Irish people will eat soup at every main meal both winter and summer.”
It must be true – I read it on the Internet.
Well, OK, there’s potato and leek soup. I suppose that’s traditional enough. But the other soups aren’t Irish at all. Red pepper soup? I can just see all the Irish peasants growing peppers in their cold frames.
There’s also a section about making stocks in here. It looks OK but I don’t quite “get” the insistence of the brand loyalty. Butter is butter. Does it really have to be unsalted Kerrygold Irish butter? I’m really going off this book.
CHAPTER THREE: SALADS
There are some amazing facts in here; for instance, “peppery arugula (also known as rocket in Ireland)” is good in salad. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard of peppery arugula. Hey, I thought this was supposed to be an Irish cookbook.
The salads include such delights as a crab and avocado tian. Ah yes, that well known Irish vegetable.
Don’t forget the Great Avocado Famine of 1984. Póg mo thón!
Jalapeño peppers are an essential ingredient for this dish. Let’s move on…
Further into the chapter we have a page telling us:
“There’s nothing in the world quite like an Irish pub, a rare mix of music, conversation, drink, hospitality, and humor [sic]. If you’re interested in starting a business you can add ‘exceptional investment opportunity’ to the list as well.”
Gee, thanks for the business advice. I’d thought I was going to learn how to cook some Irish food.
CHAPTER FOUR: HOT POTS, MEAT PIES, AND SAVORY [sic] TARTS
“The most popular version in Ireland is Irish stew.”
The Pope is Catholic. And bears have been known to defecate in the woods. Sometimes.
Next we have a couple of Irish stew recipes and a beef and Guinness pie. I’ll have a go with the beef in Guinness thing (see my photo essay), if I can manage to get the Guinness away from Mr ND.
CHAPTER FIVE: MEAT AND POTATOES
There are several potato recipes in here including rösti (very traditional, that… if you’re Swiss) and various other things such as caramelized [sic] duck breast with pineapple chutney.
Just like Mr ND’s old Irish grandmother used to make.
CHAPTER SIX: SEAFOOD
Now we’re into the realms of such delights as pan-seared salmon with basil risotto, and various other exotic Irish favourites. I’m lost for words.
CHAPTER SEVEN: SWEETS
“All Irish people have a sweet tooth…”
All Scots are thrifty. Germans do not have a sense of humour.
Next we are presented with typical 1990s favourites: pavlova, banoffee pie, etc, as well as Irish cream cheesecake and the like.
The glossary is full of information which might only be of use to an uneducated American.
“Courgette – In Ireland, zucchini squash is called by this French name.”
“Vol-au-vent – …a small, cup-shaped pastry shell with a lid…”
I can’t read any more, it’s just too silly.
This section contains addresses and links to suppliers of Irish produce in the US. You can buy your Kerrygold butter from here too!
It’s an A to Z. I’m glad to see they got at least one thing right.
TABLES OF EQUIVALENTS
It’s US or metric, there’s no imperial measurements. Fat lot of good.
This book tries to do two things at the same time and fails at both. On the one hand, you’ve got the over-sentimentalised, leprechauns-with-crocks-of-gold portrayal of the Irish pub as a haven of traditional Oirishness. And then on the other you’ve also got a load of “trendy” recipes – but already dated, even though the book came out in 2006 -that have absolutely nothing to do with that romanticised picture. It’s fusion cooking at its worst – con-feckin’-fusion, more like.
Don’t buy it.
Please also see my photo essay of how to cook the Beef and Guinness Pie from this book.