First Thoughts

Joe McNamee looks at some recently-released cookery books

LET’S GO DISCO

Martijn Kajuiter 

The Cliff House Hotel, €45

Kajuiter’s mighty tome is never likely to wind up dog-eared and food stained for this is not a cookbook in the traditional sense. An exquisite production, Shane O’Neill’s gorgeous photography of Kajuiter’s plated pyrotechnics shimmers on every page and the Dutch chef will surely — like many of the world’s great chefs — acknowledge a visual debt owed to French master Michel Bras, but with Kajuiter’s own original twist inspired by fabulous Irish produce.

Certainly, there are recipes but not of the ‘meat-and-two-veg’ variety. ‘Dish 02 Green Asparagus’ would hardly register on a menu, but the end result consists of 13 elements, including the aforementioned asparagus cooked nine different ways; plated, it is as if one had happened on the edge of a bewitching bonsai rainforest. Pros and serious domestic cooks will find inspiration aplenty; even Breakfast Roll Man will swoon at the photography.

GU CHOCOLATE COOKBOOK

Collins, €22.99 

Delightfully shorn of pretension or condescension, it begins with some simple explication of ingredients and techniques. Recipes are concise and easy to follow, clever little tricks and tips freely available; it’s not all chocolate, a Citrus Dust will perk up many a home-cooked dessert.

The home cook could build up a rock-solid repertoire with just four or five of the classic chocolate desserts (souffle, parfait, fondant and so on) and even develop a rep for the outré utilising the savoury recipes (Parsnip Puree with White Chocolate to accompany Rabbit Ragu, Scallops with Chocolate Dressing). A corporate cookbook with a domestic heart.

EAT LIKE AN ITALIAN RECIPES FOR THE GOOD LIFE

Catherine Fulvio 

Gill & MacMillan, €22.99 

Irish Cookbook of the Year, Fulvio’s latest does a very seductive job of placing food at the heart of an overall package, her love letter to an Italianate lifestyle of food and family.

It is hard to find new ground to plough in this overworked field, one of the great global cuisines, so Fulvio sticks to her own simple, straightforward intrepretations of some classic dishes with a several pleasing personal tweaks.

A reworking of an Asparagus and Pear Risotto first sampled in Florence shows a canny eye for reinvigorating the familiar while a Herb-Wrapped Fillet of Beef with Wild Mushroom Sauce using superior Irish beef is mouthwatering.

THE IRISH COUNTRYWOMEN’S ASSOCIATION COOKBOOK

Edited by Aoife Carrigy 

Gill & MacMillan, €22.99 

Despite the patronising of generations of urban Irish ‘sophisticates’, the wonderful ICA is long a repository of traditional Irish cooking knowledge so this mixum-gatherum of contributions from modern-day members comes as a bit of surprise.

When did farmer’s wives apparently ditch the butter, cream and eggs and start knocking out Hummus, Salsa Roja and Sweet Chilli Sauce? Well, welcome to 21st century Ireland.

There are ingredients and recipes which would have been unimaginable from the same source just 20 years ago — Courgette and Feta Frittata? — but a fantastic slew of jam and preserve recipes and some very strong cake recipes shows these ‘Countrywomen’ are still ‘Irish’ to the bone — it’s just the country that’s changing.

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