Book Reviews

A Taste of Cork, A Gourmand?s Tour of its Food and Landscape (The History Press Ireland, large format paperback, 96pp, ?19.99)Print publishing may be in an uncertain place right now, and book shops feeling the force of the move towards e-publishing but, judging by the bumper crop of books that have come in for review this autumn, there’s nothing to beat seeing a handsomely produced book on the shelf – and books still make the greatest Christmas presents.

Pride in Ireland’s evolving food culture is a developing theme in Irish publishing, as seen in two very recent books. A Taste of Cork, A Gourmand’s Tour of its Food and Landscape (The History Press Ireland, large format paperback, 96pp, €19.99) is a collaboration between photographer Seán Monaghan and writer Andrew Gleasure, both based in Cork, with a Foreword by Darina Allen. The photographic element is strong, with portraits of many of the county’s best-loved personalities in the food world and their products, set against the backdrop of the wonderful land- and sea-scapes that are the foundation of so many of the good things that we find in the shops, markets, restaurants – and homes – of Cork. The narrative includes a nicely judged amount of history and factual scene setting – with plenty of general background information on the county’s attractions, as well as food-focused items – making this a book that should appeal to visitors. The price is a little high – a common problem with Irish books when competing with imports - but, on a practical note, it is not too heavy (weighing in at under 500g), so will tuck nicely into the return luggage and is not too expensive to post.

Farmhouse Cheeses of Ireland, A Celebration (hardback, Collins Press, 256pp, ?25)By contrast, Glynn Anderson & John McLaughlin’s Farmhouse Cheeses of Ireland, A Celebration (hardback, Collins Press, 256pp, €25) is smaller and more compact, but it’s as dense as a block of the harder cheeses described between the covers and weighs in at well over 1kg. Expect the trademark Collins Press high production values, with no short cuts taken: this well-designed reference book is built to last and will take plenty of hard wear from the professionals and serious foodies who will value its comprehensiveness and the detailed information it gives on virtually every Irish cheese of note currently in production. A length Introduction sets modern Irish cheesemaking in context, with history, factual production information (answering such fundamental questions as ‘what is cheese?’ and ‘what is farmhouse cheese?’); explaining the classification of cheese, also how cheese is made (including how to make it at home), how to buy well and store correctly. Importantly, especially for those professionally interested, there’s also a section on ‘Cheese administration’, which includes cheese naming in Europe, information on CAIS (the Association of Irish Farmhouse Cheese Makers), Slow Food (that raw milk question raises its head again) and IOFGA (Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association). Each cheese is then described in detail, with a profile of each producer, the cheese(s) made, a table summarising key information, and even the awards received. There’s also a chapter of recipes, many of them contributed by well known chefs, although there is a sense that this was an add-on – it includes some appealing dishes, but without images and it doesn’t have the same comprehensively ‘thought through’ feeling of the earlier sections. Although it may date rather quickly as new cheeses emerge and others go out of production, this is a welcome specialist reference (reminiscent of the Slow Food book, Italian Cheese, published in 2001), and it marks a coming of age for Irish farmhouse cheese in international terms.

Arto der Haroutunian?s Classic Vegetarian Cookery (Grub Street, hardback, 286pp, stg?14.99)Vegetables, and vegetarian cookery, are coming into their own at last and it is good to see this timely new edition of Arto der Haroutunian’s Classic Vegetarian Cookery (Grub Street, hardback, 286pp, stg£14.99). First published as Classic Vegetable Cookery in 1985, it has been out of print for almost twenty years and it says a lot about our changing attitudes to food that publication is once again considered viable. Health, economy, the grow-it-yourself movement, interest in foraging, a growing sense of environmental responsibility – all of these are leading us back to vegetables. And, when they take time to browse through these 250 recipes from all over the world for inspiration, what a delightful surprise is in store for the many who previously thought of them merely as accompaniments, playing second fiddle to main dishes of meat or fish. ‘I believe we have no choice but to eat more vegetables in the future,” the author comments, “I do not think we will all become vegetarians but I am sure we will consume more vegetables, fruit and nuts, many of which are unknown to us and as yet unavailable in our corner shops. What is already there, however, is a magnificent array of all of the goodness of Nature.” Although not illustrated, this is an attractive, well laid-out book and easy to use.

Lindsey Bareham?s The Big Red Book of Tomatoes (Grub Street, paperback, 456pp, ?15.99)Another classic is Lindsey Bareham’s The Big Red Book of Tomatoes (Grub Street, paperback, 456pp, £15.99). First published in hardback in 1999, this new paperback edition is not only welcome but extremely good value. Tomatoes are a staple in every kitchen, but did you ever think there might be over 400 really good recipes for this ‘fruit we like to eat as a vegetable’? Some can be rustled up in a few minutes, most take less than half an hour and then there are those that simmer away comfortingly for ages while you get on with something else. Different types of tomato are considered (and where they are grown best) also the tomato’s affinity with particular foods - eggs, bread, pasta, salads, meat, fish and sauces. Along with one or two other exceptionally versatile foods (such as eggs), the cupboard is never bare when you have a few tomatoes to rustle up a meal – and this is a book that could very quickly become an everyday favourite.

The Phoenix Restaurant Cookbook A Culinary Adventure (Firebird Publishing; available online, ?25 including p&p, and selected local outlets)The Phoenix Restaurant Cookbook A Culinary Adventure (Firebird Publishing; available online, €25 including p&p, and selected local outlets) is by Lorna Tyther, owner of the charming vegetarian Phoenix Restaurant in County Kerry. She has produced a predictably quirky little Irish vegetarian cookbook, which is full of life and warmth - a true reflection of The Phoenix Restaurant itself, and its magical gardens. Stockists include Ballyseedy Garden Centre, The Dingle Book Shop, local shops and farmers’ markets.

Macarons (Grub Street, hardback, 208pp, stg?25) is by Pierre Herm?And so to dessert… Macarons (Grub Street, hardback, 208pp, stg£25) is by Pierre Hermé, ‘the king of French pastry’; with shops in Tokyo, Paris and London, he has given the little macaron star status and this sumptuous book is the first to publish all the celebrated patissier’s recipes together in English. The photography is stunning and the special techniques required for making these delicate treats are explained in 32 step-by-step photo-illustrated instructions for making shells and fillings. Once the techniques are mastered, macarons are basically all about the fillings and all the classics are here – dark chocolate, praline, coffee, pistachio. But you’ll also find Hermé’s famously unexpected combinations too – including orange and cream cheese, for example, Mandarin and pink pepper, and a bright green macaron filled with fresh mint. A gorgeous gift for any foodie – and especially that budding MasterChef in your life.

Gerry Galvin Killer ? la Carte (Doire Press, paperback, ?13.99)And finally, when it comes to the all-important stocking filler, don’t forget Gerry Galvin’s darkly comic crime thriller, Killer à la Carte (Doire Press, paperback, €13.99), in which a famous restaurant critic gets up to dastardly deeds…entertainment a-plenty for quieter times over the Christmas holiday.

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