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Irish Traditional Cooking: Over 300 Recipes from Ireland's Heritage    by Darina Allen order for
Irish Traditional Cooking
by Darina Allen
Order:  USA  Can
Kyle Books, 2005 (2005)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Darina Allen, 'Ireland's most famous TV cook', brings us a traditional cookbook, whose chapters open on stunning photographs of Irish scenes. Categories range from Eggs, Fish and Poultry to Offal and Food from the Wild (e.g. mushrooms and berries). Intriguing Appendices discuss Cheese & Cheesemaking in Ireland, The Potato and the Famine, and Cooking Pits of the Fianna. In her Introduction, Allen speaks of her 'magical Irish country childhood', and of 'tradition based around local ingredients, simply and succulently cooked.' Regina Sexton's Foreword gives a history of food in Ireland, including fish and shellfish, cereals, cattle and milk products, honey, the potato, and tea.

On to the best part, the recipes. Soups & Broths include many made with oatmeal, leeks, potatoes, shellfish or nettles. I have to make the Pea Soup here, which sounds exactly like one my grandmother served to us every Saturday in my childhood, and my father would have loved Giblet Soup with Dumplings. The Fish section includes ways to cook eels, limpets, cockles and mussels (I remember a very happy day collecting shellfish in the shallow waters of Loch Neagh in N. Ireland). I fancy the Ballycotton Fish Pie, and must try a version of Fish Cakes on my kids.

Reading about Roast Haunch of Venison made me salivate, and the Michaelmas Goose will be on my holiday table this year, with Kerry Pies and Ballymaloe Spiced Beef for our New Year buffet. But I'll skip the Crubeens (salted pigs' feet), Drisheen (made from lamb's innards), Tripe (cow's stomach) and Black & White Puddings (pigs' innards). There's lots here for potato lovers, from vatieties of Champ (one with seaweed) and Colcannon (potatoes and cabbage). And I'm delighted to have a recipe for Fadge (which we always called potato bread). Veggie recipes range from a Carrot & Parsnip Mash that I love to those using cauliflower, kale, asparagus or artichokes.

Desserts have always been my downfall, and I found filling old favorites here, from Apple Crumble to Traditional Irish Sherry Trifle and Ballymaloe Mince Pies with Irish Whiskey Cream for the holidays. Speaking of filling, how about pancakes and breads? The Buttermilk Pancake recipe here is almost the same as the one I make each Sunday, and those for White Soda Bread and Scones are similar to mine too. I have to try Kerry Treacle Bread. Then there are the cakes (Aunt Florence's Orange Cake looks delicious), sponges, meringues, shortbreads, and Butterfly Buns that my mother once served at a birthday party.

Though reading this cookbook was an exercise in nostalgia for me, I also plan to make good use of it. Darina Allen's Irish Traditional Cooking offers an appetizing combination - fascinating Irish food history and a broad selection of tasty recipes that have stood the test of time.

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