A Review By Cheri Sicard
Festive Food of Ireland
by Darina Allen
Roberts Rinehart Publishers
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This book may be small in size but it packs a lot of special recipes and information into its pages. Author Darina Allen, owner of the world famous Ballymaloe Cookery School at Shanagarry, County Cork in Ireland, shares traditional dishes served at Emerald Isle festive occasions throughout the year. Also included are DarinaÂ’s notes on the typical traditions and histories of the holidays covered: St. BridgetÂ’s Day, St. PatrickÂ’s Day, Easter, May Day, The Stations, Hay Making, Lughnasa, Threshing, Michaelmas, HalloweÂ’en, St. MartinÂ’s Even, Christmas, St. StephenÂ’s Day and the Twelfth Day of Christmas.
In addition to the 33 Irish recipes, there are DarinaÂ’s notes on each one along with lots of beautiful full color photography and gorgeous Celtic graphics. While Americans will be familiar with some of the better known dishes such as Corned Beef and Cabbage, Colcannon, Scones and Potato Bread, there are many other more exotic offerings that can add unique culinary exclamation points to upcoming celebrations. In fact, some of the celebrations themselves are exotic by US standards, but any excuse for a party.
This book would make a wonderful gift, especially for anyone of Irish heritage. Of course, everyone is Irish on St. PatrickÂ’s Day!
Sample Recipes from Festive Foods of Ireland
Poached Salmon with Irish Butter Sauce
Salmon, the king of the Irish river, has been written about endlessly in Irish poems and legends. The season opens in Ireland on March 17, St. PatrickÂ’s Day. This is one of the most delicious ways to eat it.
2 lb. center cut fresh salmon
salt (use 1 tablespoon salt to every 2 pints water)
Irish Butter Sauce
2 egg yolks, free range if possible
2 teaspoons cold water
1 stick (1/2 C) butter, diced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
flat parsley, fennel leaves and lemon wedges for garnish
1. Choose a saucepan that will barely fit the piece of fish: an oval cast-iron saucepan is usually perfect. (If a small piece of fish is cooked in a large pan of water, much of the flavor will escape into the water, so it is important to use the smallest saucepan possible.
2. Half fill the saucepan with salted water and bring to a boil. Put in the piece of fish, bring back to a boil, cover and simmer very gently for 20 minutes.
3. Turn off the heat and allow the fish to sit in the water while you make the sauce (do not let sit for more than 20 minutes or so).
4. Put egg yolks in a heavy stainless steel saucepan on low heat or in a bowl over hot water (double boiler). Add the water and whisk thoroughly.
5. Add the butter, bit by bit, whisking all the time. As soon as one piece melts, add the next. The mixture will gradually thicken, but if it shows signs of becoming too thick or slightly scrambling, remove from heat immediately and add a little cold water. Do not leave the pan or stop whisking until the sauce is made. If the sauce is too slow to thicken it may be because you are excessively cautious and the heat is too low. Increase the heat slightly and continue to whisk until the sauce thickens to a coating consistency.
6. Add lemon juice to taste.
7. Just before serving, skin the salmon and lay it on a hot serving dish. Garnish with parsley, fennel leaves and lemon wedges and serve with the Irish butter sauce.
This is the traditional Irish fruit bread, also called Sweet Cake, Curnie Cake, Spotted Dick or Railway Cake depending on the area.
4 C plain white flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 C raisins, currants or sultanas
1 1/2 C milk or buttermilk
1 egg (optional, you will not need all the milk if you use the egg)
1. Sift the dry ingredients, add the fruit and mix well.
2. Make a well in the center and add the egg if you are using it, and most of the milk. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish but not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a floured board and knead lightly for a few seconds - just long to tidy it up.
3. Pat the dough into a round about 1 1/2 inches deep and cut a deep cross in it (to let the faeries out!). Let the cuts go over the sides of the bread.
4. Bake in a preheated 450 degree F oven for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 400 degrees F and bake for another 30 minutes or until cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom: it will sound hollow when cooked.
5. Serve freshly baked, cut into thick slices and spread with butter.
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About the Author
Cheri Sicard the editor of FabulousFoods.com, where you can find lots of other great recipes, cooking articles, holiday and netertaining ideas, celebrity chef interviews and free cooking newsletters.
Visit her at Fabulous Foods.com
Review copyright Fabulous Foods, recipes copyright Darina Allen