Country Cooking of Ireland -- Recipes, Bio and More!
Bridge Near the
An Excerpt from Country Cooking of Ireland
There is a sense in which all Irish cooking--at least the good stuff, the real thing--is country cooking. It is almost inevitably straightforward, homey fare, that is, based on first-rate raw materials whose identity shines through. Even in sophisticated urban restaurants, it tends to have an underlying earthiness and solidity that suggest honesty and respect for rural tradition. This is not surprising, since no other nation in Western Europe--not even Italy or Spain--remains as intimately and pervasively connected to the land as Ireland does. Almost any Irishman or Irishwoman you meet, including those Armani-suited business tycoons and Diesel-clad club kids you’ll meet in Dublin or Belfast, will admit to some personal association with a farm: grew up on one, spent childhood summers on one, has a brother or an aunt or a good friend who owns one. At the very least, Grandma kept a cow for milk or Grandpa had a small potato patch or both. (The president of Ireland herself, Mary McAleese, maintains a vegetable garden and a chicken coop on the grounds of the Áras an Uachtaráin, the Irish White House.) Whether the average citizen realizes it or not, this close connection to the soil is one of the island’s greatest cultural strengths, and it helps give great promise to the future of Irish cuisine.
……All over Ireland, from the artisanal ateliers of West Cork to the lush market gardens of County Wicklow to bustling Galway and burgeoning County Antrim and stark but friendly County Donegal, a new culinary world is taking shape: Rural entrepreneurs are bucking food-unfriendly regulators to build little businesses around small-scale food production and distribution; established restaurants are revising their menus to take better advantage of the native bounty, while new ones are opening with a sense of Irish-based imagination and adventure; and scholars and lay writers are delving seriously into the lore and history of Irish cooking and eating, encouraging producers and chefs alike. Forget the jokes (remember how we used to laugh about quality of English cooking, before we dubbed London one of the best restaurant cities on earth?): Ireland has the potential to become, in the very near future, one of the most compelling gastronomic destinations in Europeand it’s already a darned good place to eat.
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Colman Andrews was a co-founder of Saveur magazine and served as its second editor in chief. The recipeint of six James Beard Foundation Awards, among other honors, he is the author of Catalan Cuisine, Everything on the Table, and Flavors of the Riviera, and is the co-author of three Saveur cookbooks published by Chronicle Books.
In speaking of this most celebrated of Irish potato dishes, the musician Mick Bolger--whose Denver--based contemporary Celtic band is called Colcannon--notes that it has a “wonderful affinity” for corned beef and cabbage. And he confesses that he has also eaten it “with fillet mignon and port sauce; with rashers [bacon], tomatoes, and kidneys-in-their-jackets at 4 a.m.; and--God forgive me--wrapped in a tortilla, microwaved, and eaten, over the sink, with salsa.” It is, in other words, a versatile creation. It is also one that exists in numerous variations, depending on the season, the region of the country, and of course personal taste. It is often made with just butter, milk, and kale, but the scholar P. W. Joyce defines “caulcannon” as “potatoes mashed with butter and milk, with chopped up cabbage and pot-herbs.” Mary Ward, when she makes colcannon at her house in Nenagh, County Tipperary, starts with a trip to the kitchen garden, armed with a basket and a pair of shears. This is her recipe.
Serves 4 to 8
2 to 2 1/2 lb/1 kg to 1.25 kg russet or
other floury potatoes (5 or 6)
6 to 8 Tbsp butter
2 to 3 lightly packed cups/400 to 800 g chopped kale or assorted
chopped greens (such as kale, parsley, sorrel, spinach, and/or broccoli or cauliflower leaves)
1 1/3 cups/320 ml milk
4 scallions, green part only, minced
Salt and pepper
Put the potatoes into a large pot, with the larger ones on the bottom, and add water to come halfway up the potatoes. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water begins to boil, carefully drain off about half of it, then return the pot to the heat, cover it again, reduce the heat to low, and let the potatoes steam for about 40 minutes. Turn off the heat; cover the potatoes with a clean, damp tea towel; and let sit for 5 minutes more.
Melt 4 Tbsp of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the kale or assorted greens and cook until just wilted, about 5 minutes.
Combine the milk, scallions, and remaining butter in a medium pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for about 2 minutes, then add the greens and stir in well. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and set aside.
Drain and carefully peel the potatoes, then return them to the pot. Add the greens and their liquid and mash until smooth, leaving a few small lumps in the potatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve in the traditional Irish manner, push the back of a large soup spoon down in the middle of each portion to make a crater, then put a large pat of room-temperature butter into each one to make a “lake.” Diners dip each forkful of colcannon into the butter until its walls are breached.
Roast Pike with Lamb Sauce, Lovage, and Bacon
Pike was once abundant in Irish loughs and rivers and is still fished regularly. One old account claims that a 350-pound/160-kilo specimen was once caught in County Down (highly unlikely); a 90-lb/40-kilo pike caught in Lough Derg in 1862, on the other hand, has been documented. Today, 8 to 12 pounds/3.5 to 5.5 kilos is the usual weight. For some reason, while the Irish like to catch them, the idea of eating pike has rarely appealed to them. That may have something to do with its forbidding appearance: Ian Hill, in his book The Fish of Ireland (1992), describes the creature as resembling “a mottled-olive carnivorous torpedo,” and notes that a bone in the fish’s head takes the form of a cross and was once worn to ward off epilepsy and vex witches. The pioneering modern Irish chef Gerry Galvin created this unusual recipe. He suggests serving it with a mixed green salad enhanced with watercress, sorrel, and thinly sliced apple.
4 Tbsp butter
Four 6- to 8-oz/175- to 250-g pike fillets
Flour for dusting
Salt and pepper
Canola or vegetable oil for greasing the baking dish
1 clove garlic, crushed
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup/240 ml lamb juices; or 2 1/2 cups /600 ml Lamb Stock, reduced over medium heat to about 1 cup/240 ml
1 Tbsp chopped fresh lovage or celery leaves
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 strips bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C (Gas Mark 6).
Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Dust the pike fillets lightly on both sides with flour, season with salt and pepper, then sear them lightly for about 30 seconds on each side. Remove from the pan and transfer to a lightly oiled glass or ceramic baking dish.
Stir the garlic into the lemon juice in a small bowl, then drizzle it over the fish. Roast the fish in the oven for about 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, warm the lamb juices or reduced stock in a small saucepan, then stir in lovage leaves and balsamic vinegar. Keep warm.
To serve, divide the fish between 4 plates, sprinkle the servings equally with chopped bacon, and serve with the sauce on the side.
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