Georgina Campbell's Book Reviews

Lucy Madden's The Potato Year, 300 Classic Recipes (Mercier Press, hardback; 350pp; €14.99)A brace of books this month, all about the humble tuber that has become our national vegetable: the potato. Lucy Madden's The Potato Year, 300 Classic Recipes (Mercier Press, hardback; 350pp; €14.99) and Eveleen Coyle's The Irish Pocket Potato Recipe Book (G&M, hardback; colour photography throughout, 256pp; €4.99)

Lucy Madden is well known to readers of this ezine for the sharply observed vignettes on Irish life and its oddities that regularly enlighten and entertain us. Together with her husband Johnny Madden, ninth generation owner of the wonderful Hidden Ireland house Hilton Park, at Clones, Co Monaghan - and more recently their son Fred, who is a chef, and his family - she has earned an enviable reputation for the wonderful food that she grows in the walled garden and has cooked for decades of lucky visitors. Her book The Potato Year, 300 Classic Recipes (Mercier Press, hardback; 350pp; €14.99) is a result of a particular passion that has kept her happily occupied in both garden and kitchen: growing and cooking potatoes.

This celebration of our best loved and yet most under rated vegetable dates back several decades to the first edition in 1992 - when, home published with the help of Lucy’s daughter, Amelia, it was an unexpected success. All these years later the new edition, which begins with a predictably perceptive Introduction by best-selling author of The Extra Virgin Kitchen and all round “health geek”, Susan Jane White, is very welcome. Kicking off the year, that comforting favourite, Dublin Coddle, sets the tone - and those of us who enjoy traditional cookery books, where a good read is part of the deal and the imagination creates the illustrations, will be happy to find that it’s a refreshingly image-free zone.

There can be few cooks as well qualified to create such a range of potato dishes throughout the changing seasons and, while this is mainly a celebration of the deliciousness and versatility of potatoes in their many varieties, their historical significance and - most importantly - notable health advantages are also highlighted, by both Susan Jane and Lucy.

“So,” says Lucy, “Keep your pasta, polenta and lentils, away with your rice, couscous and quinoa, these are mere upstarts. Bring back the potato to its place of significance on our plates.”

As Susan Jane White concludes her Foreword: this looks set to become a classic.

SAMPLE RECIPE for APRIL: A Warm Salad with Cream and Dill

Dill sown early in a greenhouse should be producing leaves by now. Dill appears with great reluctance if sown outside in my garden and  runs to seed at the first chance.

11/2 lb (700g) potatoes, old or new
3 shallots, finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter, melted
6fl oz (175ml) cream
2 tablespoons dill leaves, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 handfuls mixed salad leaves

Boil or steam the cleaned potatoes until tender. Cook the shallots in the melted butter until translucent, then stir in the cream and the dill. Bring to the boil and season. Put the salad leaves on plates, place the potatoes on top and pour over the warm dressing. Eat immediately.


Eveleen Coyle's The Irish Pocket Potato Recipe Book (G&M, hardback; colour photography throughout, 256pp; €4.99)Also celebrating the potato, Eveleen Coyle - well known in Dublin as an editor and, more recently, for her Fab Food Trails ( walking tours of Irish cities - is the author of a new title in Gill & Macmillan’s popular ‘Pocket’ series. The Irish Pocket Potato Recipe Book (G&M, hardback; colour photography throughout, 256pp; €4.99) offers ‘over 110’ recipes including many from our extensive traditional repertoire as well as some less obvious ones.

While not exactly a pocket book - you would need a poacher’s pocket - this squat little volume is comfortable in the hand, cutely presented (complete with bright blue ribbon marker) and, given the incredibly low price, is bound to find its way into many a visitor’s luggage. On the down side the photography is uneven throughout (the reason is obvious from the long list of credits at the end).

Also, it would be nice to see an Index - there is a contents list but, like too many current cookery books (including The Potato Year), no index. But, overall, this is a very attractive book for the price and is sure to do well.

 Nancy's BoxtySAMPLE RECIPE: Nancy's Boxty

My husband's aunt Nancy Geelen was from the boxty stronghold of Leitrim and was famous for her boxty. This is her recipe.


8 large old or new potatoes
115 g/4 oz flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
225 ml/8 fl oz milk
pinch of salt
2 tbsp butter, plus
extra to serve


Scrub the potatoes and peel them if they are old. Grate into a large dish using the fine side of the grater.

Drain the potato into a clean tea towel to remove the excess liquid. Add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, milk and salt and mix well with a wooden spoon. Melt the butter in a heavy frying pan. When, bubbling, add the potato mixture.

Cook, turning, until browned on both sides. Serve at once with more butter.

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