Darina Allen picks out some top cookbooks and recipes of the year

WELL Christmas is well and truly over for another year.

I’m not sure about you but I’ve already managed to break several of my New Year resolutions.

Despite the dark evenings I do love this time of year. Lots of chunky soups, comforting stews, steamed puddings and the smell of Seville orange marmalade bubbling in the pot.

The bitter oranges are in the shops now, so rush out to buy more than you think you need, freeze some and use my Whole Orange Marmalade recipe whenever you are running out of Seville orange marmalade during the year.

Meanwhile how about some fresh new ideas to liven up your cooking for 2019.

Here are some of my favorite new cookbooks to use up your Christmas book vouchers;

  1. The Noma Guide to Fermentation by René Redzepi and David Zilber
  2. Ottolenghi Simple: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi
  3. Extebarri by Jon Sarabia and Juan Pablo Cardenal
  4. Ethiopia: Recipes and Traditions from the Horn of Africa by Yohanis Gebreyesus
  5. Zaitoun: Recipes and Stories from the Palestinian Kitchen by Yasmin Khan
  6. Jamie Cooks Italy by Jamie Oliver
  7. Venice: Four Seasons of Home Cooking by Russell Norman
  8. Copenhagen Food: Stories, Traditions and Recipes by Trina Hahnemann
  9. How to Eat A Peach by Diana Henry
  10. Cook, Share, Eat, Vegan: Delicious Plant-based Recipes for Everyone by Áine Carlin

It may not be to everyone’s taste but my book of the year is the Noma Guide to Fermentation by René Redzepi and David Zilber.

Few chefs know or understand how to use fermented foods to their full potential like René does. For several years now, David Zilber, Arielle Johnston and Lars Williams have been experimenting and perfecting all manner of fermented foods in their bunker turned fermentation lab beside Noma in Copenhagen, and have gone where few others have dared to venture.

For those of us who have been experimenting over the years this book is the master class Penny, Marie and all of us in the ‘Bubble Shed’ at Ballymaloe Cookery School have been eagerly anticipating.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s new book, Ottolenghi Simple: A Cookbook, has taken the US by storm as well as this side of the world. Israeli born Yotam, author of Jerusalem and Plenty, already has quite the following for his take on his beloved Middle Eastern food.

However, he is not known for simple recipes so in the nick of time, before people get too exasperated, he’s published this volume of enticing dishes, many with fewer than 10 ingredients – and several that take less than 30 minutes to get on to the table. I love this book of quick and everyday recipes from one of the most creative chefs on the current food scene.

Ethiopia

Recipes and Traditions from the Horn of Africa by Yohanis Gebreyesus was another favourite this year. It’s always fascinating to learn about the food of an area that is totally unfamiliar, so I was intrigued to find this book published by Kyle Books. I first tasted Ethiopian food in Santa Fe in California and later ate Teff, the fermented flat bread from a stall in Union Square Market in lower Manhattan.

Ethiopia is a fascinating country that has never been colonised but its intriguing cuisine is enriched with the different religious influences of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, a combination unique to Africa.

Chef Yohanis Gebreyesus, takes us on a journey of the essential Ethiopian dishes, interwoven with enchanting stories of local people and customs. He whetted my appetite not only for the food but for the country — I must visit soon…

For a taste of Ethiopia over here rush to Fizzy’s stall at the Mahon Point and Midleton Farmers Markets. She also sells the quintessential Berber spice mixture that you’ll need for many of the dishes.

Trina Hahnemann’s name is not nearly as well known as René Redzepi but in her own way she is a much loved and highly respected ambassador for Scandinavian food. Trina has written 10 best selling cookbooks full of gorgeous simple recipes. She is an enthusiastic advocate for sustainable solutions, organic sourcing, and food cooked with love. Copenhagen Food is a love letter to her native Copenhagen and the delicious dishes enjoyed from her home town.

Extebarri Red Prawns over wood coals

There are three core pillars behind the excellence of the red prawns served at Etxebarri. One of them is the raw material. These prawns weigh 60g each and have fabulously firm meat as a result of the exceptional properties of the habitat in which they live: two small fishing grounds in the waters of Palamós that are little known places and where the prawns are caught quickly and responsibly so they are not injured in the net.

They could not be fresher as the prawns caught that day are sent off to Etxebarri that same afternoon. The logistics by road from Gerona to Biscay are arranged in such a way that the prawns lose none of their original properties. They travel overnight, partially immersed in isothermal buckets containing seawater and ice. On reaching Etxebarri, the water is immediately changed and the seawater and ice are replaced until the meal service begins. 

It is essential to conserve them so that the extraordinary texture of the prawns is ensured. Lastly, the goal when grilling them is to ‘cook them so that they are done, yet intact, and look as if they have just been caught,’ Bittor explains. The difficulty lies in grilling them so that neither half is too cooked or remains raw. He puts fewer wood coals under the body and livelier wood coals under the heads so that they cook more. According to Bittor, it is crucial to conserve the juices in the prawn’s heads as it is ‘the best fish soup a cook can offer you’.

Prawns Olive oil

Take the prawns out of the seawater and ice, dry them and set aside. They are served whole and there is no need to remove the antennae, nor to salt them as the seawater provides the perfect point of salinity.

Arrange two levels of wood coals under the grill. A livelier one, so that the heat reaches the heads and where they join the bodies; and a smaller one to cook the prawn tails to perfection.

Spray the prawns with olive oil and place on the grill. Grill over a low heat and at a medium height for 3 and 2 minutes per side, respectively. Remove and serve.

- Taken from Extebarri by Juan Pablo Cardenal & Jon Sarabia, published by Grub Street Publishers

Ethiopia Spice Pumpkin Stew (Duba Wat)

While shopping in weekly souqs or outdoor markets around Addis Ababa, one common item for sale all around the country is duba (pumpkin).

Smallhold farmers generally intercrop duba with maize or other perennial crops, and bring them to the souq, where they sell them cut into large pieces. The amounts here serve a number of people as part of a spread of vegetable dishes. It also makes an excellent side dish to accompany chicken, fish or meat.

Serves 2–4

3 tbsp sunflower, rapeseed or another mild vegetable oil

2 medium red or yellow onions, finely chopped (about 250g)

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tbsp berbere spice blend, or more to taste (recipe below)

¼ tsp ground cardamom

500g peeled and seeded pumpkin, butternut squash, acorn squash or another firm-fleshed hard-skinned squash, cut into 2.5cm cubes

Salt

Berbere Spice Blend (Makes about 55g)

50g dried medium-hot red chillies, such as guajillo or New Mexico chillies

½ tsp nigella seeds

½ tsp cloves

½ tsp ajowan seeds

½ tbsp onion powder

In a large flameproof casserole or sauté pan, heat the oil over a medium–low heat, add the onions and cook for about 10 minutes until soft and translucent. Stir in the garlic, berbere (spice blend) and cardamom, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add a touch of water if needed to keep it from scorching.

Add the pumpkin, season with salt and cover with 250ml of water. Partly cover the pan and cook over a medium–low heat for 25–35 minutes until the pumpkin is fork-tender. Gently stir from time to time to keep from sticking, but avoid mashing the pumpkin as it softens. Add more water if needed or remove the lid to cook off any excess liquid towards the end of cooking – the stew should be moist but not too liquidy. Serve.

- Taken from Ethiopia by Yohanis Gebreysus, published by Kyle Books

Currabinny Cookbook Lemon and Lavender Cake

Combining lavender with lemon and yoghurt makes this cake sticky, subtle and utterly delicious.

Makes 8–10 slices

Butter, for greasing

1 tbsp dried lavender flowers

250g caster sugar

175g cream flour

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

A pinch of sea salt

2 medium organic eggs

250g Greek yoghurt

125ml rapeseed oil

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Dried lavender sprigs, to decorate

For the icing:

200g icing sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

1 medium egg white

Preheat the oven to 160ºC fan/gas 4. Butter a 20cm springform cake tin and line with baking parchment.

Crush the lavender in a pestle and mortar. Put the caster sugar into a large bowl and mix the lavender through. Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt, and stir to combine.

In another bowl, mix the eggs with the yoghurt and rapeseed oil and pour this into the dry ingredients, stirring well. Add the lemon zest and juice.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the oven for around 50 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin for a minute, then turn the cake out to cool fully on a wire rack.

Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl and add the lemon juice, whisking until smooth. Add the egg white gradually to loosen the mixture until it is quite runny and pourable. The icing should be extremely sharp and lemony. Spoon this icing over the top of the cake until it covers the top and starts to drip down the sides.

Arrange some dried lavender sprigs on the top as decoration.

- From the Currabinny Cookbook, by James Kavanagh & William Murray. Published by Penguin Ireland.

Currabinny Cookbook Ruby Chard Korma

William suggests keeping the stalks for another dish but we loved them finely shredded and added them as we were pouring in the water.

Serves 4–6

3 onions

3 cloves of garlic

A thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger

700g chestnut mushrooms

A large knob of butter

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Seeds from 10 cardamom pods, crushed

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground turmeric

A few pinches of ground cinnamon

A few pinches of chilli powder

3 bay leaves

200ml water

350g ruby chard

200g natural yoghurt

150g crème fraîche

To serve:

Toasted flaked almonds

Pomegranate seeds

Basmati rice

Peel the onions, garlic and ginger. Slice the onions and mushrooms, grate the ginger and crush the garlic with some salt. Melt the butter in a large pan and add the onions, garlic and ginger with some salt and pepper.

When the onions have softened a bit, add the cardamom, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, chilli powder and bay leaves. Now add the sliced mushrooms to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring regularly. Pour in the water, stir, and simmer for 15 minutes, then check the seasoning.

Meanwhile, remove the stalks from the chard and add the leaves in batches to the pot until it is all wilted. Turn the heat to low and gently stir in the yoghurt and crème fraîche.

Serve with rice and top with the almonds and pomegranate seeds.

- From the Currabinny Cookbook by James Kavanagh & William Murray

Hot Tips

Antiquity Vegan Bookshop Café: This café is the first All Vegan café to open in west Cork. Based in the old Time Travellers Bookshop premises in Skibbereen, Nicola and her daughters are cooking up some delicious super nutritious vegan recipes. Open currently 7 days a week from 10am – 5pm, call 028-51877 or drop in if you are in west Cork over Christmas.

Dearbhla Reynolds of The Culture Club at Ballymaloe Cookery School: We are really excited to be welcoming Dearbhla to the Ballymaloe Cookery School to demonstrate her ‘fabulously, funky, ferments’. Check her out on theculturedclub.com and see www.cookingisfun.ie for details of Dearbhla’s half day course on Wednesday, January 23.

www.cookingisfun.ie 

www.instagram.com/darina_allen 

www.instagram.com/ballymaloecookeryschool 

www.instagram.com/timanddarina

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