This March 17, you can move beyond corned beef and soda bread with help from new cookbooks on Irish cuisine. While they still feature familiar and comforting dishes, the books also delve into recipes that reflect a more modern Irish palate.
“The U.S. has a huge Irish-American population, a large Irish immigrant population still, and everyone wants to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day,” said Donna Spurlock, director of marketing at Charlesbridge, which released The New Irish Table: Recipes from Ireland's Top Chefs in February. The book, compiled by Leslie Conron Carola, showcases the recipes of 10 Irish chefs, all in service of dismantling the reputation of Irish cuisine as being “a boil, a fry, or soda bread,” according to the publisher.
“Past travelers to Ireland often expressed disappointment with the food, many of them knowing only pub food,” said Carola. “The general misconception has been that Ireland’s food, the produce itself, was of poor quality.” Although the prepared food may have been heavy, said Caron, like a hearty Irish stew or bread, the natural produce—fresh fish, meat, vegetables, cheese, butter—are high-grade. “Ireland has a perfect climate for producing an extraordinary bounty of fine natural foods,” added Caron.
Among the chef contributors to the book are Kevin Dundon, host of PBS's Kevin Dundon's Modern Irish Table; Darina Allen, founder of the Ballymaloe Cookery School; and celebrity chef Neven Maguire. Recipes include Seared Scallops with Black Pudding Crumb and Homemade Potato Bread, Poached Salmon with Irish Butter Sauce, and an Irish Mint Truffle Torte.
On February 7, Forge released An Irish Country Cookbook by Patrick Taylor. The book blends stories from the author’s Irish Country series with traditional recipes, all of which have been in Taylor’s wife’s family for generations.
Taylor, like Caron, sees common misconceptions of Irish food—that the Irish only eat potatoes, overcook their meats, and always eat corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day. “I'd never seen corned beef in my life until I came to North America,” said Taylor.
Instead, he said traditional Irish cuisine is “as tasty as anything else and less pretentious than some modern forms,” with recipes in his book also borrowing from global sources. “Chicken Liver Pate is English, Corned Beef Curry is a variant on an Indian dish, and Eton Mess is English,” said Taylor.
For those looking to whip up Irish dishes beyond the holiday, in May, HarperCollins will be releasing Recipes from My Mother by Rachel Allen (dubbed the “Irish Nigella” by the Evening Standard). The book, too, celebrates Ireland’s embrace of international cuisine. Allen herself is half-Irish and half-Icelandic, and gathers here recipes from her childhood—from Irish comfort food like Irish Stew with Pearl Barley, to Skyr, otherwise known as Icelandic curds.
When asked how she would craft the perfect St. Patrick’s Day meal, Allen said though it sounds “cliche,” she’d go with Irish bacon and buttered Spring cabbage, after “lots” of native oysters from the west of Ireland.
For Taylor, the ideal feast includes: Smoked Mackerel Pâté on Irish Wheaten Bread, Leek and Potato Soup, Glazed Roast Ham with Seasonal Vegetables and Potatoes, Sticky Toffee Pudding, and a draught Guinness or a dry Sauvignon Blanc. Adding, “And someone to push me home in a wheelbarrow afterward.”