Friday, April 23, 2010

The Country Cooking of Ireland - dig in

Thought I'd show the lovely image from the front cover of Colman Andrews book, it makes you want to dig in and start cooking right away.
He really has done a great job, really getting to grips with the essence of Irish food. The cooking collated here is the type of stuff that reminds me of my nana's kitchen, especially with his focus on the traditional staples such as soda breads which has almost spurred me into taking them on again. Any attempts I have made in the past have yielded brick-like disappointments, and even when I got the consistency right, the taste just wasn't there.

I think my soda bread standards have been ruined by memories of being a little girl and getting out of bed on cold wet mornings in my nana's house in Donegal to find slabs of warm soda bread dripping in butter on the table. Oooooh how good it tasted! I would eat my soda bread, and perhaps if I was motivated, spread it with some honey from the hives outside. I remember every detail of the scene; the blue and white crockery, the milk jug with rose blossom and the Sacred Heart looking dolefully down from the wall. As I ate my soda bread the mist would clear in the field that lay on a hill overlooking the garden, and the cattle would began to graze again and enjoy some early sun on their backs.

My nana baked bread every morning of her life, in a range oven, fired by burning peat from the strip of bog that they cut every year. The smells of that time will never leave my head, nor my nana’s cooking which was about using the food she grew yourself and whatever few bits she could buy on top of that with the household money she made from keeping poultry and selling eggs. She was a typical Irish woman of her time and learned to cobble together great cooking in often very austere times. But there was always plenty of butter. Like rural France, butter is the make or break ingredient when your foodstuffs are limited.
Again, really wonderful publication from Andrews and great to see Peter Ward involved in setting him on the right road in his exploration of Irish food. He couldn't have a better guide x

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