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Review: Rachel's Irish Family Food

The recipes you'll need for St Patrick's Day

By Kate Thornberry, 9:30AM, Sat. Mar. 16, 2013


Fresh, hot Irish Soda Bread
Let’s face it--Ireland isn’t known for it’s fine cuisine. Historically, most people associate Ireland with starving hordes of potato farming peasants fleeing to the Americas in order to survive the famines of the 19th century. A starving population is not one enslaved by the rigors of gourmandaise!

There are a few standout Irish dishes that most of us have heard of (largely because of the aforementioned Irish diaspora): Irish Stew, Irish Soda Bread, and Colcannon. With this book Rachel Allen sets out to tell the rest of the story.

Rachel Allen has been described as “the Nigella Lawson of Irish Cooking”. A teacher at the prestigious Ballymaloe Cookery School in County Cork, she has a large television following, and this new cookbook, Rachel's Irish Family Food (HarperCollins, $29.99, ppg. 256) is bound to expand it. This cookbook is elegantly simple and practical. In a time of increasingly technical and chef-driven cookbooks, these recipes come as a grateful relief. They hearken back to the times of “Plain Cookery”, where garden-fresh ingredients cooked simply were the unapologetic basis of the Western diet.


Here is what the book looks like!
Some of the dishes are so simple that most cooks wouldn’t even need a recipe: Roasted Potatoes, Buttered Artichokes, Creamy Mashed Potatoes, and Buttered Leeks come to mind. But for each of these exceedingly simple recipes, there are numerous interesting and informative ones, such as Dublin Coddle, Ham and Egg Pie, Fluffy Lemon Pudding, Ballycotton Fish Chowder, and Steamed Ginger Treacle Pudding. Irish Family Food really succeeds perfectly of presenting what a diet of first-rate, traditional Irish cooking looks like. Every dish is paired with a big glossy photograph, and there are scores of photographs of the Irish countryside as well.

Hand-made Bangers and Mash
Additionally, the final section of the book, Breads and Cookies, could easily be a stand-alone cookbook of it’s own. Soda breads, yeast breads, scones, cookies, and oatcakes are all present, and the recipes are foolproof. I have baked several, and I can’t wait to try the rest.

I have no doubt that the publishers would really love to see Rachel Allen (and this book in particular) to catch on with the millions of Irish-Americans in the United States. As an Irish-American myself, I give it a total “Thumbs Up!” If it were given to me as a gift, I would love it. There isn’t a better resource out there to serve as a basis for your St. Patrick’s Day feast!

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