Food For Thought

Christmas Cookbooks

Aoife Carrigy suggests a selection of home-grown Irish cookbooks from members of the Irish Food Writers’ Guild as the perfect Christmas gift for the foodie in your life…

If you’re still looking for inspiration for deliciously thoughtful Christmas presents, many of our Irish Food Writers’ Guild members have homegrown cookbooks on the shelves this festive season. There is something for every kind of food lover, from the travelling gourmand who likes to know just where to find the very best local produce to the busy parent who needs to get a tasty dinner on the table, and fast. And there is something for every kind of food love – the love of timeless Irish dishes such as a steaming bowl of mussels or the love of time-honoured traditional flavours such as freshly churned butter or home-smoked fish.

Ireland for Food Lovers, by Georgina Campbell

Georgina Campbell is well known as the name behind one of Ireland’s longest running restaurant and hotel guide series and corresponding website, In her latest book however she makes a nod to the quiet revolution that has been taking place in Irish food tourism in recent years, and takes the story beyond the pleasures of eating out to include the joys of eating in when you know where to get great ingredients. This user-friendly guide to finding and buying the best Irish foods offers the inside track for a culinary romp througout the island of Ireland: whose produce to buy and where to buy it, how to cook it or where to have it cooked for you, or even who to teach you how to cook it.

Available in three formats, this goldmine of information on some of Ireland’s most exciting food stories can be accessed just the way you like it. Enjoy it as a coffee table book to relish the gorgeous photography; buy it as an ebook to take on your travels; or download it as an app to have it to hand wherever you are.

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Irish Mussel Cuisine, Máirín Uí Chomáin

If you love your seafood, and you know just how good Irish seafood can be, then you probably already know Máirín Uí Chomáin’s award-winning cookbook, Irish Oyster Cuisine. This slim but deeply inspiring volume picked up the Gourmand World Cookbook Award 2004 as well as being honoured with the title of Foodbook of the Year 2005 from FOOD&WINE Magazine. Mairin has now followed it with her celebration of another mollusc, the somewhat more humble but no less versatile mussel.

A Gaeltacht native, Máirín is a resident judge at the annual Connemara Mussel Festival which inspired this publication. The recipes within range from traditional to contemporary and were contributed by Máirín herself, her friends and colleagues, and renowned and emerging chefs from across Ireland.

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Forgotten Skills of Cooking, by Darina Allen

Darian Allen believes that the “time-honoured ways are the best”, and this cookbook sets out to prove this so, with over 700 recipes making up quite the convincing book of evidence. There’s nothing lightweight about this ambitious project, but rather the hefty hardback is suitably weighty, being packed full of age-old food skills that were in grave danger of being truly lost. Darina has given them a new lease of life on these pages, as she also does at The Ballymaloe Cookery School which she runs in East Cork. If you’d like to know how your grandparents might have smoked their own mackerel, cured their own bacon and or churned their own butter – or, more to the point, if you’d like to know how you might do the same – this is the book for you.

Divided into chapters such as Dairy, Fish, Bread and Preserving, or Vegetables and Herbs, the book is full of practical advice from how to grow your own food to what wild food to harvest and when. A thoroughly contemporary guide to traditional cookery skills.

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Easy Meals, by Rachel Allen

And finally, another Allen, also hailing from the Ballymaloe-based clan. If Darina Allen’s lastest cookbook concerns itself with what our wisdom-rich grandparents knew, Rachel Allen’s latest book looks at what modern time-poor parents need to know in order to get a delicious and doable dinner on the table. Boasting 180 family friendly recipes, there’s many months worth of dinner solutions within these pages. Rachel has kept things simple, with no more than five ingredients per dish and lots of one-pot wonders to cut down on both the prep time and the washing up.

Whether you’re short on time, low in confidence or just facing an empty fridge and all-but-bare cupboard, this cookbook sets out to be just the friend you need and an essential kitchen companion.

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