When the first people migrated to Ireland around 10,000 years ago, they ate out of necessity. Yet, these first peoples ate food that we still encounter today: oysters, seaweed, nuts, berries, and fish; and brought with them knowledge and foods from other lands. Since then, Ireland continued to cement its gastronomic character as nations collided and combined—the Celts, Vikings, Normans, Anglo-Saxons, and later the English all brought with them their own culinary traditions.
In The Irish Cookbook, acclaimed chef Jp McMahon masterfully brings these varied influences together, demonstrating the high quality of the ingredients that have been the backbone of Ireland’s cuisine, celebrating the unique culinary culture of the island, and honouring the historical roots of its hearty flavours.
Several years in the making, The Irish Cookbook contains more than 500 home- cooking recipes. McMahon undertook the mammoth task of bringing together hundreds of authentic Irish recipes into one impressive volume: he sought out and adapted old recipes, drew on the wealth of archival material available in the National Library of Ireland, and trawled through the books of Ireland’s best food writers, pulling together classic dishes, seeking out lost recipes, and learning about the uses of ancient ingredients.
The featured dishes have been organized into 15 chapters by ingredient: eggs and dairy; vegetables; shellfish; freshwater and saltwater fish; poultry; wild game; boar and pork; lamb, mutton, and goat; beef; breads, scones, and crackers; cakes, pastries, biscuits, and desserts; pickling and preservation; stocks, sauces, and condiments; and drinks, shrubs, and syrups. The Irish Cookbook spotlights both authentic traditional recipes such as Colcannon, Bacon and Cabbage, Coddle, Dingle Pies, Soda Bread, Gur Cake, and Barm Brack as well as fresh new takes on classic dishes or native ingredients, such as Oysters with Wild Garlic Butter; Baby Carrots with Buttermilk and Tarragon Oil; Crab Claws with Seaweed and Samphire; and Chicken with Morels and Cider.
The Irish Cookbook also includes an index of the wild Irish herbs, plants, seaweeds, and fungi that McMahon values for their culinary uses. These ingredients have been a common thread in Irish cuisine through the ages, and though some may only be found in a particular part of Ireland, reading about them will add depth to any understanding of the history and development of Irish food, and should inspire readers to look differently at their own food culture and cooking.
With beautifully evocative images of over 120 recipes and landscapes, and exquisitely designed with a rich mossy colour palette, The Irish Cookbook vividly evokes the warmth, hospitality, and culinary spirit of the Emerald Isle.
Chicken Stew with Dumplings
Though dumplings have fallen out of favour in contemporary Irish food, many recipes for stews with dumplings appear in twentieth-century cookbooks.
Preparation: 20 minutes Cooking: 30 minutes Serves 4
1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces
15 g/1⁄2 oz (2 tablespoons) plain (all-purpose) flour
2 tablespoons rapeseed (canola) oil
15 g/1⁄2 oz (1 tablespoon) butter
1 onion, chopped
4 sage leaves
a sprig each of rosemary and thyme
2 carrots, chopped
250 ml/8 fl oz (1 cup) cider (hard cider) 1 litre/34 fl oz (41⁄4 cups) chicken stock (broth)
1 teaspoon of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper chopped flat-leaf parsley, to garnish
For the dumplings
350 g/12 oz (23⁄4 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
50 g/2 oz (4 tablespoons) cold butter, grated 1 teaspoon baking powder
350 ml/12 fl oz (11⁄2 cups) milk
Season the chicken pieces with all the salt and some pepper and coat in the flour.
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large heavy-bottomed pan or casserole dish (Dutch oven) and fry the chicken pieces, in batches, for about 5 minutes until golden brown all over. Set the chicken aside and wipe out the pan.
Melt the butter in the pan and add the onion, sage, rosemary and thyme. Fry for 3–4 minutes until the onion is soft then add the carrot. Deglaze the pan with the cider and bring to the boil.
Return the chicken and juices to the pan and cover with the stock (broth). Simmer over medium-low heat for about 25–30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through with no signs of pink and the juices run clear.
Meanwhile, to make the dumplings, combine the flour and butter in a bowl with the baking powder and salt. Add the milk to make a loose dough. Add tablespoonfuls of the dumpling mixture to the pan with the chicken for the last 5–10 minutes of the cooking time, flipping the dumplings halfway through so they cook on both sides. Add the parsley and serve.
Recipe reprinted with permission from Phaidon.