Book Reviews

If size counts - and it certainly does where kids are concerned - GIY’s Know-it-Allmanac is a winner. Checking in at 39cm x 28cm it’s at least twice as big as most books, which is just as it should be for one that aims to be shared around - and to entertain and educate in equal measure. As GIY Founder Michael Kelly says, “The Know-it-Allmanac is funny, colourful, tongue-in-cheek, slightly irreverent, bursting with fun characters, information, trivia and loads of food knowledge. Everywhere you look there’s more to learn, see and a fun gag. Making it really easy for any child to grow and cook it themselves, regardless of how much space they have. Kids of all ages will absolutely love it.” He’s dead right and - especially since we know that the best way to teach adults is through pressure from kids - there should be a copy of this hilarious and refreshingly original month-by-month grow-it-and-cook-it guide in every home. Written by Michael Kelly and Dig in Diner’s Muireann Ní Chíobháin, together with award-winning illustrator Fatti Burke, GIY’s Know-it-Allmanac is published by GIY (hardback, 104 pages; €25); available from all good book shops or online from

And there’s been another original mind or three at work in Skerries, Co Dublin, where chef Terry McCoy (former owner of the famous Red Bank Restaurant, which he and his late wife Margaret established in 1989), together with associates Fergus Gannon and Joe Shannon, has come up with the fascinating Saint Patrick’s Plate, A Cookery Book Inspired By The Saint And His Saga. St Patrick’s first Irish monastery was established on St Patrick’s Island off the coast near Skerries in 432AD and, ever since he settled in Skerries, Terry has been fascinated by the saint and his saga. Specifically, it struck him how few food references there are in the stories and legends associated with the saint and, thinking about the likely Roman culinary influence of the time, he determined to imagine the healthy, high energy recipes that might have been used in the 5th century. What he ended up with is a collection of over 60 recipes interspersed with stories and legends - and there’s no need to be too concerned that the recipes will be obscure or challenging. Many, including his famous Wild Garlic & Nettle Soup and Skerries Razor Clams (see below), will in fact be reassuringly familiar to fans of the old Red Bank Restaurant - and, for each one, Terry not only provides a relevant introduction but he also devised a section entitled ‘In Patrick’s Time’ to present them in 5th century context. Published in paperback, St Patrick’s Plate costs €19.99 online from and from selected outlets.

This is a dish that all the family and friends can become involved in - a razor clam hunt for dinner. Simply choose a beach in a clean area. Skerries on Dublin’s coast is a perfect example - in fact, the locals call the rocks that are only visible at very low tides “Razor Rocks”. Prepare a solution of saturated salted water in a sports drink bottle. Look for the oval shaped dimples of the Razor clam burrows at low water tide. Squirt the solution into several burrows in close proximity. The clams should quickly rise to the surface. Stand in seawater for a few hours to purge them of sand. Cooking the razor clams is really simple and the meat is uniquely sweet.

4 Razor fish per portion
1 Crushed clove of garlic
4 Leaves of Basil (chopped)
3 Sprigs of Parsley (chopped)
Salt & Pepper
1 Knob of unsalted butter

Ensure the razors are purged of sand.
To take the fish from their shells, gently warm the shellfish in water until the
shells begin to open. Remove from the water take all the white asparagus-shaped meat out. The spear should still be alive and pulsing.
Discard any that are not.
Clean the shells and place the live spears on the shells. Arrange 2-4 shells per portion on a serving plate.
In a pan, melt the unsalted butter. Add the crushed garlic, basil and parsley
and sweat for 2 mins. Drizzle this over the arranged plated shellfish.
Place the plated dish under a preheated grill for a short time until the butter
mixture is bubbling and cooking the spears. This is the critical point. If cooked too much the fish will be tough and rubbery. The reward for getting it just right is sensational. Serve with Brown Bread (see Terry’s recipe in the book) and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc or Guinness.
In Patrick’s Time
Like many places the fishing village of Skerries on Dublin’s coast lays claim to a strong St. Patrick’s connection. Legend has it that the Saint founded his first church on St. Patrick’s Island, just off the Skerries coastline. What I can say for sure is that Razor Clams are plentiful along the beaches of Skerries when there is a very low tide. If the legend is true, St. Patrick certainly would have dined on the razor clams for which Skerries is famous.

Ten years ago Prannie Rhatigan’s beautiful Irish Seaweed Kitchen took the Irish food world by storm and re-awakened us to the magical ingredients that we have on our foreshores and tidal fringes - and that were once an essential part of everyday cooking in coastal areas. And then, what joy, along came Prannie Rhatigan’s Irish Seaweed Christmas Kitchen. Described as “an exciting food fairy tale taking you from winter solstice to the Women’s Christmas with lots of seaweed cookery adventures in between”, it’s the perfect follow-up with all the warmth and originality that goes with everything that this much-loved Sligo GP and seaweed adventuress does. You’ll find old favourites like plum pudding, mince pies and Christmas cake “without the overload of unhealthy ingredients that everyone wants to avoid at this time of year”; gifts like homemade sea salt and seaweed chocolate; plenty of alcohol to cheer you along towards New Year (think gin soaked duileasc, and Danish juleglögg) and the usual sprinkling of anecdotes that makes Prannie’s books unique. This is one for your own Christmas bookshelf, as well as making a lovely gift. [Softback, 186 pages, full colour.]

RECIPE: Seaweed Blend Pesto
We can all use a touch of magic in the kitchen, especially at Christmas. Add a dollop of pesto and transform the plainest store cupboard staples into snacks that can certainly go to the ball... A magic wand in a jar. This recipe uses Prannie’s own dried seaweed blend (available to purchase and it makes a lovely small gift to bring along when visiting friends and family.

Makes 5 servings; Seaweed used: dried seaweed blend
1 rounded tablespoon dried seaweed blend
5 tablespoons best quality olive oil
clove of garlic, pressed

Tip the seaweed into a small glass jar with a lid
Add the olive oil and hint of garlic.
Stir well and use at once or store in the fridge for up to five days.

Drizzle over rice cakes, baked sweet potatoes, roast vegetables, pasta, rice noodles, tofu, smoked salmon and cheeses.

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