The Best of Irish Country Cooking, 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, contemporary recipes such as Ragout of Cod and Clams, Rose-Petal Ice Cream, Salad of Lamb’s Lettuce and Dandelion Greens, Salmon Cakes with Dill Sauce, and Oysters in Champagne Sauce.
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.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Interlink Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and openings are my own.
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.
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. Cubed beef shanks 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 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.
Beef and Mushroom Pie with Guinness
Adapted from The Best of Irish Country Cooking
2 pounds (900 grams) beef shank, trimmed and cubed
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 bay leaf
1 fresh thyme sprig
1 fresh parsley sprig
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 canned anchovies, drained
2 cups (450 milliliters) Guinness
8 ounces (225 grams) fresh mushrooms, sliced or quartered
8 ounces (225 grams) puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten
Mashed potatoes, boiled baby potatoes, or crusty bread and salad for serving
In a large bowl, toss the cubed beef shank in the flour. Tie together the bay leaf, thyme, and parsley with kitchen twine to make the bouquet garni.
In a large pot, drizzle oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the flour-coated beef and brown on all sides. Remove to a plate and add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften. Mix in the carrots, celery, bouquet garni, salt, and pepper. Finely chop or mash the anchovies and mix in.
Pour in the Guinness and bring to a simmer. Stir, cover, and reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook until the meat is nearly tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
Stir in the mushrooms and cook for another 25 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C).
Pour the filling into a deep pie dish or single serving dishes.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry. Cut out a large circle about 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) larger than the pie dish. Cut out a smaller circle 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) around the inside of that circle.
Dampen the edges of of the pie dish and line with the outer strip of the circle. Press down to seal. Top with the inner circle and press well to seal and crimp the edges. Make a vent in the center and use the excess pastry scraps to make flowers or leaves to decorate the top.
Brush the top with the beaten egg and bake in preheated oven until golden and puffed, about 35 minutes.
Serve with the mashed or boiled potatoes or crusty bread and salad.