Book Reviews

Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina AllenIt’s an exceptionally good year for cookery books so, for a lot of  gift lists, that could be Christmas pretty much sorted. The only question is, which ones suit your nearest and dearest best?

The season’s crop breaks down roughly into three groups – first there are the heavyweights (serious books that you’ll want to keep for life), secondly the chef cookbooks (which, ironically, mainly focus on home cooking this year) – and then (don’t laugh), many of the others seem to major in cupcakes…

The newest of the heavyweights is Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills of Cooking (Kyle Cathie hardback, rrp €31.50); subtitled “the lost art of creating delicious home produce”, this very ‘now’ encyclopaedic 700-recipe tome details the many practical cookery/food skills that the last couple of generations have missed out on.

It’s based on the highly popular Forgotten Skills courses at Ballymaloe Cookery School – which Darina started when she became a grandmother and realised the importance of passing on her knowledge. Saying that “doing it yourself is not just economically sound but incredibly satisfying”, Darina covers subjects as diverse as Keeping a Few Chickens or Using the Whole Pig – to Home Smoking, and Cider and Wine Making; more familiar topics like baking and making old-fashioned stews are covered too – also preserving and making your own yoghurt and butter.

Much of this will be familiar to over 50s who grew up in the country, and will make anostalgic read for some – and younger readers who have never had to make do and now need to save money may be interested to find lots of ideas - including ways to use up leftovers, something which came naturally to earlier generations. Forgotten Skills of Cooking is just hitting the shops now.

Eat Good Things Every Day by Carmel SomersAlso just going into the book shops, Carmel Somers’ beautifully produced Eat Good Things Every Day (Atrium/Cork University Press, hardback 326pp, €39), is an inspiring and brilliantly down to earth book; although not (yet) a household name Carmel, who is owner-chef of the well-named Good Things Café & Cookery School at Durrus, Co Cork (current winner of our Natural Food Award), is totally focused on making the best possible use of fresh seasonal produce - and this highly practical, time- and budget-conscious book is all about being better organised and eating really well without waste: with once-a-week shopping lists, she gives recipes for eight weeks of daily meals – and, like the wonderful food served in her café, it’s healthy and flavoursome fare.

Together, these two books represent Ireland’s best cooking and most inspiring food philosophy – buy them both and see if you can bear to give them away.

Keeping it Simple by Derry ClarkeChef cookbooks always make an interesting gift and there’s no shortage of choice – for the many fans of Dublin’s L'Ecrivain restaurant, Derry Clarke’s Keeping It Simple (Gill & Macmillan, hardback €24.99) may be an first obvious choice, although, with a fascinating introduction by Paolo Tullio, Roly's Café & Bakery (Gill & Macmillan, softback €19.99) could be a close second.

Home Chef by Neven MaguireBut ever-popular chef, Neven Maguire of MacNean House & Restaurant, also has a new book, Home Chef (HarperCollins, hardback €25) and, as he has a special talent for understanding the domestic kitchen and a well-earned following, this adaptation of favourite MacNean Restaurant dishes for cooking at home is sure to be a winner.

For a more international take, restaurateur-chefs Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers of the iconic River Café, The River Café Classic Italian Cook Book (Penguin hardback, €39.60) should tick all the boxes – who was it who taught Jamie Oliver (and many others) to cook, after all?

Cakes from Around the World by Julie DuffThen for everyone who’s loving baking there’s the “cupcake” brigade, led by London’s famous Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook (Ryland Peters & Small hardback, stg£16.99) which features cupcakes galore, along with cakes, pies, muffins, brownies and bars…while fans of Julie Duff’s excellent previous book, Cakes Regionl & Traditional, will snap up her newer Cakes From Around The World (Grub Street, paperback stg£14.99). Ireland’s most famous mother-of-three,

Rachel Allen, brings plenty of experience to her pretty pink-bound Home Cooking (HarperCollins hardback, rrp €30.75) and, although wide-ranging, you’ll find some unusual cupcakes hiding in there too.

From Brendas Kitchen by Brenda CostiganFrom Brenda’s Kitchen
(Gill & Macmillan paperback, €19.99), however, is a cupcake-free zone – which won’t worry the many fans who will be delighted to have 100 recipes from her popular and long-running column in the Sunday Independent in one handy volume.

[See this month’s Cookery Feature for sample recipes from some of the cookbooks mentioned.]

There are currently no comments

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment
Not a member? Register for your free membership now!
Or leave a comment by logging in with: