A superb production, with stunning photography from Barry McCall, this follows an international trend whereby Michelin-starred chefs serve up pages as sumptuous as anything appearing on their plates. Lewis’ book goes much deeper.
The prospect of replicating, say, Poached Chilled Rock Oysters with a Smoked Red Dulse Jelly, Oyster Cream and Wilted Baby Gem Lettuce with Smoked Bacon Crackers may terrify the average domestic stove-jockey but a half-decent cook will mine the book for its bottomless reserve of inspiration.
In future days, when we can eventually acknowledge the existence of a truly modern native cuisine, Lewis’ DNA will be visible throughout, this magnificent book, the source code.
Master It arrived with a fraction of the hullabaloo of far lesser productions but is set to become a classic, a teaching tome that should be the bedrock of any decent kitchen, recalling a time when cookbooks were purchased solely for the culinary information within.
In a world where cookbook authors sell a ‘lifestyle’ before ever a ladle is lifted, the absence of any such frippery in O’Connell’s book is a formidable statement of intent. Minimal photography is employed and recipes are but a fraction of the overall text. O’Connell’s magpie methods are everywhere evident: a classical Iles Flottante, milk-poached meringues served in Crème Anglaise, matched with Green Gooseberries with Elderflower; an elevated, Irish farmhouse twist typical of his original mentor, Myrtle Allen.
You’d be forgiven for expecting such a celebratory tome to be a compilation of the cream of the hugely prolific Allen’s literary output since the foundation of the East Cork Cookery School, now an institution of global renown.
Certainly, a recipe for Mummy’s Scones is the quintessence of her roots in traditional Irish farmhouse cooking, but it is also top-heavy with new material, much of it from visitors to the school: from former students to the international culinary superstars who have guest-lectured over the years, including Marcella Hazan and Madhur Jaffrey.
But it is more than a cookbook as the fascinating evolution of the school and its monumental influence gradually unfolds in dedicated chapters. And throughout, it reiterates the core philosophy of the primacy of fine, local, seasonal Irish produce.
Máirín Uí Chomáin
The ‘wild versus farmed’ debate rumbles on, but there is no doubting salmon’s deserved iconic status in Irish cuisine and Uí Chomáin’s book is a fitting tribute.
Combining her recipes with contributions from some of the country’s finest chefs, dishes range from the Spartan ascetic of Wild Salmon Sashimi with Melon and Pomegranate to the deeply comforting and traditional.
Sally Barnes of Woodcock Smokery believes the acidity of lemon ‘ruins smoked salmon’, suggesting ginger instead while Irish whiskey is nominated for a native take on gravlax.
The bright and chirpy ‘livery’ may not be quite in keeping with the current vogue for weightier tomes basted in gravitas but most importantly, in Uí Chomáin’s case, content is king.