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Book Reviews

DINNER The Irish Times Selection, by Domini Kemp (Gill & Macmillan hardback, €22.99)Georgina Campbell Reviews

DINNER The Irish Times Selection, by Domini Kemp (Gill & Macmillan hardback, €22.99)

Fans of Domini Kemp’s brilliant weekly column in the Irish Times Weekend Magazine will be delighted to have so many of her best recipes brought together in a book, where they won’t be getting lost any more.

Subtitled ‘166 Recipes to Solve Your Daily Dinner Dilemma’, the focus of this collection is very clear and Domini has trawled through all the recipes she has written since starting her Irish Times column in 2008, to pick out the ‘quick hassle-free diners that you can get ion the table in an hour’.

And what a great collection it is. Domini doesn’t do gimmicks, but what she does do supremely well is to convey her enthusiasm for punchy, do-able dishes that give a nod to food trends and new ingredients, but are never ruled by fashion.

While there have been some big changes since 2008, Domini’s ‘love of great flavours, ease, comfort and, a lot of the time, healthy nutritious recipes’ has been a constant throughout, and that’s very much the tone of this exciting but eminently practical book of one-course meals. Some of the lighter main dishes of this savoury collection would double as starters, but this is not the place to look for desserts.

While not presuming a kitchen stocked up with exotics, a lively range of ingredients is called on (with alternatives suggested for some of the less familiar ones, eg verjus) and the overall balance of the selection is good, including plenty of particularly interesting vegetarian dishes (see sample below).

A few dishes are a bit more suitable for having friends in or special occasions, but this handsome big book is really all about getting an interesting meal on the table day in day out, and it should be just what’s needed to get us all out of the midweek repertoire rut.

Stuffed Peppers With Sweet Potato And ChestnutsSAMPLE RECIPE : Stuffed Peppers With Sweet Potato And Chestnuts

These stuffed peppers are a substantial vegetarian main course. Sometimes, the key to good vegetarian cooking is getting the texture as well as the flavour just right, and this dish has got both thanks to the chestnuts.

You can also make it vegan if you omit the egg and cheese; it will still be super tasty.

Serves 4

1 large sweet potato, diced
2 tbsp olive or coconut oil
1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
200 g cooked, peeled chestnuts, chopped
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tsp thyme leaves
Pinch chilli flakes
1 egg, beaten
4 red peppers, cut in half, pith and seeds removed but stems
intact (this stops the peppers from collapsing in the oven)
Few chunks of goat's cheese
Chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cook the diced sweet potato in half the oil on a parchment-lined baking tray for 15 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile, sweat the onion and garlic in the rest of the oil until soft but not coloured, which should take about 10 minutes.

In a bowl, mix the onion and sweet potato with the chestnuts, tomatoes, thyme, garlic and chilli flakes. Add in the beaten egg to bind it.Stuff the peppers with the mixture and top with a generous sprinkling of goat’s cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve with a green salad.

 

Sláinte, The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer and Cider, by Caroline Hennessy and Kristin Jensen (New Island, hardback 232pp, €19.99) Sláinte, The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer and Cider, by Caroline Hennessy and Kristin Jensen (New Island, hardback 232pp, €19.99)

This is a book that couldn’t have been written ten, five or maybe even a couple of years ago. The resurgence of craft beers and ciders in Ireland has been one of the most exciting aspects of the ‘real food revolution’ that is currently taking the country by storm. But it has arrived with astonishing speed and an increasingly crowded - and confused - market place means that expert guidance is urgently needed.

How fortunate that two of Ireland’s most respected young writers and bloggers, Caroline Hennessy and Kristin Jensen, happen to have a particular interest in beer and craft drinks and a burning desire to share their enthusiasm and knowledge.

Kristin’s popular craft beer column has been enjoyed by readers of our monthly e-zine for many a month now, so nothing but the best would be expected from that quarter - and anyone attending events where craft beers are showcased would be very likely to have found the pair of them tasting, comparing and wondering at the sheer tidal wave of beautiful beers that have been coming onto the market of late. And, while they are there, Caroline - whose husband, Scott ,is one half of the Kiwi-Aussie duo at Eight Degrees Brewing - might just have some special new product to promote as well.

Food Friendly BeerCraft cider makers have been a little more cautious than their brewing brothers, but they are now developing new ciders apace and this book covers nearly twenty, of which several have already made headlines on a regular basis.

Sláinte is jam packed with fascinating facts but it’s also a great read - the sort of reference book that you pick up to check a fact or two only to find, several hours later, that you’ve been drawn down all kinds of unexpected and exciting zythologian alleys.

It’s not only a very timely guide, but authoritative too and certainly destined to become the definitive reference, although it may be hard to keep up to date. It will be seized on by the growing army of discerning drinkers who are keen to find out which craft drinks they will most enjoy, especially when paired with their favourite foods - the latter part of the book has a strong food focus, and a great range of recipes too.

So, even if you don’t know a dunkel from an eisbock, anyone who enjoys real beer and cider should give this book a try - the fun is in the learning.

 

The Nation’s Favourite Food Fast! by Neven Maguire, with photography by Joanne Murphy (Gill & Macmillan hardback 256pp, €22.99)The Nation’s Favourite Food Fast! by Neven Maguire, with photography by Joanne Murphy (Gill & Macmillan hardback 256pp, €22.99)

A new book from the nation’s favourite chef is always welcome and this one is bound to be snapped up by the many people who feel challenged by the clock when it comes to getting a nutritious meal on the table. Compiled by Orla Broderick - herself a busy working mum - every recipe in the book can be on the table within an hour, and many in half of that.

As always with Neven and his team, there’s a great range of do-able dishes that are down to earth yet have an extra little something, or suggest a combination that you mightn’t have thought of, to keep things fresh in everyday cooking.

This collection also takes account of the fact that you may sometimes want to entertain even though time is against you, and cleverly includes half a dozen simple but impressive main courses to look after that particular challenge - and a few desserts too, although one-course meals are generally the practical option for speedy dinners.

As Neven and Amelda’s twins, Connor and Lucia, get bigger, Neven’s bound to become more focused on children’s meals - so it will come as no surprise to find that there’s a chapter on kid’s favourites and some great ideas for lunchboxes too (adult as well as junior). Given the time of year, this is the current challenge for many parents, here’s some of Neven’s advice.

CLEVER LUNCHBOX IDEAS

As we all know, healthy lunch ideas that inspire you to put together real food for your kids are essential if you want your children to have a balanced diet. Packing a lunch into a sectioned lunchbox or small Tupperware containers makes it easy to put together an assortment of healthy bits of food in a way that is appealing to a small child's eye.

It's important to include lots of textures, colours and a well-rounded assortment of food groups. Try to vary what you put in so that you don't pack the same thing every day.

Bento BoxSOME MENU SUGGESTIONS:

Melon ball skewers (using different varieties)
Cheese cubes with red and green grapes on skewers

Banana wrap - smear vanilla yoghurt on a wholemeal wrap,
put in a peeled banana, then roll up to enclose and cut into quarters

Mini wholemeal pittas filled with lettuce, turkey, tomato relish and cherry tomatoes

Baby carrots

Roasted red pepper hummus (shop-bought or homemade)

Bread sticks wrapped In thinly sliced baked ham or Parma ham

Crunchy soya beans

Dried apricots and cranberries

Mixed berry smoothie.
 

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