Monday, March 10, 2014

Irish Country Cooking from The Irish Countrywomen's Association

When I was first asked if I'd like to take a look at and possibly review the cookbook, Irish Country Cooking: More Than 100 Recipes for Today's Table from The Irish Countrywomen's Association, there's was no way I'd say no. I mean ... Irish. Country. Cooking. Was there any question this wouldn't be a book I'd love?

With a huge portion of my own ancestry being Irish, I'm always, always interested to know more about the country, customs and especially, the food and cooking. When the book first arrived I knew it was a winner. Just look at the cover of this beauty:

It's something I know I'd pick up off the shelf of any local bookstore and sit to read cover to cover. It's what I do with cookbooks ... each is read like a novel from front to back. This one is no different. I read it through and chose recipes I wanted to make immediately.

What makes this Irish cookbook so different is the diversity. It's not all corned beef and cabbage (in fact, it's not even in there), but rather a collection of recipes from all over the world including real Irish cuisine, each with it's own special Irish touch.

Did you ever think you'd see Pasta with Tomato and Vodka Sauce, Hungarian Beef Ghoulash, Parisian Potatoes or Salsa Roja in an Irish cookbook? Neither did I, but they're in there with a whole host of unexpected delights offered up by the members of The Irish Countrywomen's Association. Each recipe lists the member who created it with a one-line bio giving you a tiny glimpse of the differences and beauty of each woman in the association.

The photos are sublime in this book. I found myself wanting to dive into the page and eat my way through, or simply to visit the kitchen or dining space the photo was taken in. The images do such wonderful and delicious justice to the food that I had to share that sentiment with the photographer, Joanne Murphy.

All together, the stories, the recipes and the photographs make this book an instant favorite of mine that I'm certain I'll turn to again and again over the years. I'm also certain it will be passed down in my family and last a very long and beautiful life.

Just in time for St. Patrick's Day, here are two traditional recipes from the book that are just perfection.

Lickeen Colcannon from Claire Ann McDonnell.
Photograph by Joanne Murphy, styling by Orla Neligan

Lickeen Colcannon
Claire Ann McDonnell, Wicklow: Loves gardening and the country air

This is my original take on traditional colcannon, and was such a winning combination of leftovers that I make it regularly. It’s very popular and very tasty.   

Makes 6 individual servings 

• 675g (1½lb) potatoes, peeled and quartered 
• 450g (1lb) green cabbage, shredded 
• 50g (2oz) butter 
• 1 small onion, finely chopped 
• salt and freshly ground black pepper 
• 2–3 tablespoons grated Cheddar cheese 

to serve 
• 6 streaky rashers (optional) 

1. Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4. 
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and simmer the potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes. In another pot of boiling water, simmer the shredded cabbage for 10 minutes and drain well. 
3. Drain the potatoes once cooked, and mash well with butter. Add the cabbage and onion and season to taste. 
4. Divide between six ovenproof ramekin dishes. Lightly score the top of each so it crisps up nicely and sprinkle over grated cheese. Transfer to preheated oven and cook for 20 minutes until it is golden. 
5. Meanwhile preheat a grill to hot and cook the streaky rashers until crispy. Cut each in half and serve the individual ramekins garnished with two half slices each.

Dublin Coddle by Maureen Butler
Photograph by Joanne Murphy, styling by Orla Neligan

Dublin Coddle 
Maureen Butler, Meath: Bridge-playing mother of four

As a child growing up in Dublin, we always had this served to us at the end
of the week when all that was left were rashers, sausages and potatoes.
Everything was put into the one pot and cooked. It was delicious,
particularly on a cold winter’s day.

Serves 6 

• 2kg (4½lb) potatoes, peeled 
• 500ml (1 pint) boiled water 
• 1 ham, chicken or beef stock cube (optional) 
• 450g (1lb) good quality pork sausages 
• 450g (1lb) piece thick-cut bacon 
• 2 large onions, sliced 
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley 
• salt and coarse ground pepper to serve 
• fresh soda bread ICA Tip Pork sausages are best bought from a local butcher. 

1. Preheat oven to 150ºC/300ºF/Gas 2. 
2. Cut any larger potatoes into three or four pieces, leaving smaller ones whole so that they will cook evenly. Dissolve the stock cube in the boiled water, if using. 
3. Grill the sausages and bacon long enough to colour them but taking care not to dry them out. Drain on paper towels and chop the bacon into 2½cm (1in) pieces. You can chop the sausages into bite-sized pieces, though some prefer to leave them whole. 
4. In a large ovenproof casserole dish with a tight lid, layer the onions, bacon, sausages and potatoes, seasoning each layer liberally with pepper and parsley. Continue until the ingredients are used up and pour the hot water or bouillon mixture over the top. 
5. On the stove, bring the liquid to a boil. Immediately reduce heat and cover the pot. You may like to put a layer of foil underneath the pot lid to help seal it. 
6. Place the covered pot in preheated oven and cook for at least three hours (up to four or five hours will not hurt it). After two hours, check liquid levels and add more water if necessary. There should be about an inch of liquid at the bottom of the pot at all times.
7. Serve hot with fresh soda bread to mop up the lovely gravy. 

You can find your own copy of Irish Country Cooking: More Than 100 Recipes for Today's Table from The Irish Countrywomen's Association at

Please do take a look and "Like" The Irish Countrywomen's Association Facebook page (I did!) and also check out the website: Irish Countrywomen's Association

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