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Georgina Campbell's Book Reviews

HOME: Recipes from Ireland by Trish Deseine (Hachette Cuisine; hardback, 356pp; photography by Deirdre Rooney; €29)From the terrific autumn crop of food books that’s piling up on my desk, I’ve selected two especially gift worthy volumes for this month’s reviews. Trish Deseine’s new book, HOME: Recipes from Ireland (Hachette Cuisine; hardback, 356pp; photography by Deirdre Rooney; €29) & SEA GASTRONOMY Fish & Shellfish of the North Atlantic by Michael O’Meara (Artisan House hardback 440pp with original photography by the author, €30)

Both are impressive big books, weighing in at nearly 2.5kg - which means a cost of €10 if posted within Ireland; €30.50 to UK and all EU countries; and €36.50 to the ‘Rest of the World’. But, at €30 or less, they are so attractively priced that either would make a splendid Christmas present without breaking the bank, even if sent by post.

Described accurately by her publicists as “a heartfelt love letter to Irish food”, Trish Deseine’s new book, HOME: Recipes from Ireland (Hachette Cuisine; hardback, 356pp; photography by Deirdre Rooney; €29), is both a poignant reminder of the Ireland that we have all left behind and a (mainly) joyful welcome to the one that has replaced it.

The Northern Ireland of her childhood may have been a place of mixed blessings but, looking back after 25 years in France, Trish Deseine now sees afresh how the good, simple food of the family farm in Co Antrim - in the days when ‘eating local was the only option’ - has influenced her, and there’s a strong traditional thread running through this book.

But it is also, quite literally, a voyage of discovery, as Trish researched her labour of love the old fashioned way, by taking to the road. For six months she travelled the length and breadth of the country, sometimes rediscovering a half forgotten food past and, at others, seeing with fresh eyes a new and vibrant foodscape that we can all now enjoy in sharper focus through her story. 

Along with well chosen producers of this country’s ‘larder of fine ingredients’, she visits some of the chefs (many of them GCGuides’ Award winners) who are making Ireland’s reputation as a dining destination - including Derek Creagh of Harry's Shack; David Hurley of Gregan’s Castle on The Burren; Graham Neville of Dublin's Restaurant FortyOne; Stevie Toman of Ox, Belfast; Enda McEvoy of Loam, Galway; Jess Murphy joint-owner and chef of Kai, Galway; Kevin Aherne of Sage, in Midleton and Robbie Krawczyk of Tankardstown House, Co Meath - and, like her own more homely dishes, the recipes she has persuaded them to divulge are surprisingly do-able.

Trish DeseineIt is as good to see the traditional Irish ingredients like oats, kale, cream, apples, bacon and bread (including that uniquely Northern Irish speciality, Veda bread!), treated with such warmth and respect, as it is to share the pleasure Trish enjoys when finding new products and dishes that have developed while she was away.

The much talked about new Northern Ireland blue cheese Young Buck, for example, features in her Oat Cookies, and dishes like Durrus Cheese, Sea Beet and Nutmeg Pizza, from Good Things Café, demonstrate beautifully the balance between innovation and tradition that is the hallmark of chef and teacher, Carmel Somers.

While Home is a personal hymn to an Ireland rediscovered, it is not uncritical. Thus, for example, the introduction to a recipe using the very popular ‘crab toes’ (claws) does not shy away from explaining the ‘rather unpalatable truth’ about the ways in which they may be harvested (crabs are often declawed at sea then thrown back). Similarly she outlines the options between ‘free range organic’ and ‘industrialised production’ pork products, and addresses other such issues when necessary throughout the book.

And then there is Deirdre Rooney’s brilliant photography, which is a constantly illuminating presence guiding the reader through Home - in fact, the visual element is so strong that even those with little or no interest in cooking might very well seek this book out simply because it is such an evocative portrait of Ireland. Her food photography is superb, but the landscapes, seascapes and - especially - the skyscapes are hauntingly beautiful and, at a whopping 31x21cm, the page size really does them justice.

The size, photography and design make this a good old-fashioned ‘coffee table’ book but it is also a very practical reference - and surprisingly modestly priced for its size and quality. There is much more that could be said about this wonderful book, but that is no substitute for seeing it for yourself - and, fortunately, it offers exceptional value too.

***Trish’s recently filmed 3-part BBC NI TV show Trish Deseine’s Doorstep Food – a series on eating local, celebrating Northern Ireland's ‘food revolution’ - is BBC1 NI from Monday 9th November, 7.30pm

Mutton Pot Roast With Onions And CarrotsSAMPLE RECIPE: Mutton Pot Roast With Onions And Carrots

This is a really interesting recipe from Home to pick as a sample, because it illustrates the kind of food dilemmas we find ourselves in today, and of which Trish Deseine is clearly very aware.

It’s in a chapter entitled Mutton, Beef and Game and, while the beef and game probably seemed straightforward enough (at the time of writing anyway), the mutton is in reality almost nowhere to be found and even hogget (the name for a young sheep once it’s over a year old) is now more likely to be sold as ‘lamb’.

In particular, mountain lamb is a very seasonal late season product and this small, lean animal is never likely to be offered for sale at anything like the size or maturity associated with mutton. But mutton, which is enjoying renewed popularity in the UK, must be due for a comeback here too, so this will be the very recipe for it when it does.

‘It's not that easy to find mutton or hogget in Ireland these days, as modern taste has, for years, preferred the sweeter, more delicate meat of lambs butchered before the connective tissue has time to grow. In the old times, the greatest asset of sheep was their wool, not their meat, but now it is rare to find ram meat over six months old. When you do come across mature sheep meat, it's best to cook it long and slow.

Mutton, after kid, would have been the meat traditionally found in Irish stew, and this is a pot roast version of it, with a little extra luxury in the form of carrots. A leg of mutton is best poached for a couple of hours, like ham, and served with Colcannon and caper sauce.

Irish lamb is famously delicious, and enjoyed all over the world, but the Calvey's family Achill Mountain Lamb is truly special. Look out for it!’

For 4

5 minutes preparation 2 to 3 hours cooking

30 g butter
2 kg piece of neck of mutton
2 large onions
4 carrots
Salt and pepper

Peel and slice the carrots and onions.

Pre-heat the oven to 150°C.

Heat the butter in a heavy based casserole dish (with a lid) and brown the mutton all over. Add the carrots and onions and brown them in the mutton fat.

Pour in a glass of water - just so the base of the meat and the vegetables are covered - season lightly with salt and pepper and bring to the boil on the hob.

Once simmering, put the lid on and cook in the oven for 2½ to 3 hours, until the meat is melting.

You can remove some of the fat, before serving with fluffy potato mash.


SEA GASTRONOMY Fish & Shellfish of the North Atlantic by Michael O’Meara (Artisan House hardback 440pp, with original photography by the author; Foreword and wine guidance by Ernie Whalley. €30SEA GASTRONOMY Fish & Shellfish of the North Atlantic by Michael O’Meara (Artisan House hardback 440pp, with original photography by the author; Foreword and wine guidance by Ernie Whalley. €30 from bookshops nationwide, also from Oscar’s Seafood Bistro, Galway (www.oscarsbistro.ie) and online from www.artisanhouse.ie.

The talents that Michael O’Meara deploys with such skill in the kitchen of Oscar’s Seafood Bistro - the Galway restaurant that he runs with his wife, Sinead - have been given free rein in this stunning and very timely book.

Another beautiful tome from the Connemara publishers, Artisan House, SEA GASTRONOMY Fish & Shellfish of the North Atlantic is a must-have reference for any seafood lover - and, although Michael shares a huge range of recipes (235 in total), this encyclopaedic but very readable culinary study of the huge variety of fish and shellfish in the North Atlantic is much more than a cookbook.

Combining the beauty of Michael’s photography with information on an astounding range of fish and shellfish (many of which will be totally new to most readers as they have, until now, been discarded as unwanted by-catch) and their sustainability, it’s the culmination of two decades of research by a gifted chef who - thanks to the skills passed on by his parents - has had a joint passion for fish and cooking since the age of six. 

A deep respect for marine resources is the cornerstone of Sea Gastronomy and that, especially, will make it an invaluable resource for schools and colleges as well as home cooks. The responsible seafood lover will find that Dr Peter Tyndall’s notes on sustainability make sense of a topic that is confusing to many, helped in practice by Michael’s detailed and well illustrated information and advice on the many types (an amazing 120 species) of north Atlantic fish and shellfish, how to buy and store them, and the basic preparation and cooking methods organised by type.

In his role as photographer, Michael has for many years been working on the portfolio of images that would enable this book to become reality. The 375 photographs selected from his collection contribute something very special - and so do his original recipes which, while contemporary, transcend fashion and will be a source of inspiration to cooks and chefs for many years to come.

An outstanding work, SEA GASTRONOMY Fish & Shellfish of the North Atlantic is surely destined to take its place alongside classics like Alan Davidson’s North Atlantic Seafood (1979) and Rick Stein’s first book English Seafood Cookery (1988) as a game changer in the way we understand, value and cook with the treasures of the ocean.

A book to treasure.

Seafood coddleSAMPLE RECIPE: Seafood coddle

This is a simple one-pot dish that will pose little challenge to even the most inexperienced cook. A dish this simple, however, will require the best possible ingredients. Substituting the fish stock for a good chicken stock also works well, especially for those who prefer less intensity to their seafood.

Serves 4

300 ml chicken stock or fish stock
4 sprigs of thyme?
2 bay leaves
1 wet (freshly harvested) garlic, finely chopped
150 g leek, cleaned and cut into medium-sized pieces
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
5 new season Queens potatoes,? washed well and sliced
350 g mixed fish and shellfish, such as scallops, salmon, crab, prawns, bluemouth, mussels
salt and black pepper, freshly ground, to season
15 g flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Put the stock into a medium-sized pan and bring to a gentle simmer.
Add the potatoes, thyme, bay leaves and onion; simmer until the potatoes are three-quarters cooked.
Add the wet garlic, leek and all the fish, cover the pan and gently simmer until the fish is cooked.
Season with salt and pepper and serve in a bowl. Garnish with the flat-leaf parsley.

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