The Best of Irish Country Cooking: Traditional and Contemporary Recipes, written by Nuala Cullen, highlights the new movement of high-quality, seasonal ingredients in Ireland with over 100 traditional and modern recipes. Along with some well-known favorites (Colcannon, Barm Brack, Syllabub, Corned Beef and Cabbage, Irish Stew, Whole-Wheat Scones), there are plenty of exciting new recipes such as Ragout of Cod and Clams, Rose-Petal Ice Cream, Salad of Lamb’s Lettuce and Dandelion Greens, and Oysters in Champagne Sauce. I will also be sharing her recipe for Beef and Mushroom Pie with Guinness following the review.
Disclosure: I received this book from Interlink Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Nuala Cullen lives in Dublin, Ireland as a food writer and author. In addition to numerous newspaper articles and other publications, she is also the author of three previous cookbooks (Savoring Ireland: Cooking Through the Seasons, The Irish Egg Cookbook, and Irish Soups & Breads), a founding member of the Irish Food Writers Guild, and a contributing author to Women in Early Modern Ireland.
The Best of Irish Country Cooking
Chapters are divided based on course: Appetizers, Soups, Mains, Salads and Sides, Desserts, Baking, and Preserves.
You won’t find any fluff or extras in this book. Cullen is straight to the point with delicious, authentic Irish recipes. The photography does an amazing job of drawing the reader in, from the beautifully styled photos of the finished dish for most recipes by Tony Briscoe and the stunning photos of the Irish landscape from Michael Diggin Photography.
Measurements are provided in US Customary and Metric. Some of the recipes include headnotes with background information and tips for preparing the ingredients.
This book is a great pick for those wanting to explore Irish cuisine or even try something more authentic for St. Patrick’s Day. No artificial green coloring will be found here (though the Pea Pod Soup and Spring Green Soup both have beautiful natural green hues). Most of the ingredients are easy to find in the average larger American supermarket. Some of the more difficult to find ingredients include Cashel Blue cheese (can substitute with other blue cheese), juniper berries, dandelion greens, rowan berries, golden syrup, and redcurrant jelly. If specialty equipment such as pie weights are needed, they will be listed with the headnote at the beginning of the recipe. Recipes range from as simple as Cinnamon Toast (bread toasted with cinnamon sugar- a favorite with children) to the more impressive variety of baked goods and pies.
Beef and Mushroom Pie with Guinness
This delicious Beef and Mushroom Pie with Guinness is the best of both worlds, a hearty beef stew made into a pot pie with a puff pastry topping. Cubes of beef shank are browned and mixed with onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms, fresh herbs, and a little mashed anchovies (don’t worry you won’t taste fish- they just add some extra flavor). Instead of the usual stew simmered in stock, the beef and vegetables are cooked in Guinness until tender. The mixture is poured into a deep pie dish, topped with decorated puff pastry, and baked until golden.
The original recipe makes the pie in a large, deep pie dish. I arranged the stew into single pie dishes for easier serving.
I served the pie with some bread and salad, but it is also delicious with creamy mashed potatoes or boiled baby potatoes.
I also made Mushrooms in Pastry; Irish Custard Tart; Pancakes with Cinnamon Custard; and Chicken, Orange, and Arugula Salad with Walnut Sauce.
Mushrooms in Pastry is just that. A puff pastry is rolled into a large rectangle. It is topped with a bed of sautéed spinach with garlic, then seasoned mushrooms. A little heat is added from cayenne pepper. It is covered with the other half of the puff pastry and baked until golden. I love that the accompanying sauce was made from the remaining juices from the mushrooms and cream. This one was the favorite with my daughter.
The Irish Curd Tart has a buttery crust to hold the cottage cheese citrus filling. It can be served warm or cold with whipped cream. For a boost of extra flavor, you can soak the raisins in some whiskey overnight before adding to the custard.
These Irish Pancakes are crepe-like in their thickness and filled with a delicious cinnamon custard. I made the custard the night before so I only had to prepare the pancakes right before serving. You can also top them simply with some sugar, lemon juice, and butter. They were perfect for breakfast on Shrove Tuesday.
The Chicken, Orange, and Arugula Salad with Walnut Sauce is easy to assemble, but full of flavor. Poached chicken is shredded and arranged with arugula and segmented oranges. It is served with a walnut vinegar dressing.
Looking for more Irish Recipes?
Beef and Mushroom Pie with Guinness Recipe
Excerpt from The Best of Irish Country Cooking
Beef and Mushroom Pie with Guinness
- 2 pounds (900 g) beef shank trimmed and cubed
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 fresh thyme sprig
- 1 fresh parsley or sage sprig
- 2 large onions chopped
- 1 carrot chopped
- 1 celery stick chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 canned anchovies drained
- 2 cups (450 ml) Guinness
- 1/2 pound (225 g) mushrooms
- 1/2 pound (225 g) puff pastry
- 1 egg beaten
- Mashed potatoes or boiled baby potatoes, or crusty bread and salad to serve
- Toss the beef in the flour and brown in the oil in a large saucepan. Tie the bay leaf, thyme, and parsley to make a bouquet garni. Add the onions to the pan and toss about until they begin to soften, then add the carrot, celery, the bouquet garni, and seasoning.
- Mash the anchovies and stir them in. Pour the Guinness over the top, stir well, cover, and cook very gently until the meat is almost tender, about 1 1/2 hours. (This can be done in the oven, if preferred.) Add the mushrooms and continue cooking for another 25 minutes. Allow the filling to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 375˚F (190˚C).
- Transfer the contents of the saucepan to a deep pie dish and check the seasoning. On a floured board, roll the pastry out into a large circle about 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) larger than the pie dish. Cut off the surplus 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) of pastry from around the edge of the circle in a long strip, and press this strip onto the dampened edge of the dish. Lay the remaining pastry circle (now the size of your dish) over the pie, pressing it onto the strip to attach it well and crimping the edges decoratively. Make a vent in the center and decorate the pie with leaves or flowers made from the pastry trimmings. Brush with the beaten egg and bake for about 35 minutes until the pastry is risen and golden.
- Eat this with creamy mashed potatoes or boiled baby potatoes tossed in butter and parsley, or fresh crusty bread and a green salad.