Favorite Flavors of Ireland invites readers, cooks, and armchair travelers alike on a nostalgic tour of one of Europe's most beloved destinations. From her first visit in 1984, Margaret Johnson has forged an indelible bond with Ireland and Irish food, and she shares this unique relationship with you in her eleventh cookbook. You'll find recipes that have become her favorites along with a few recent discoveries that are sure to please. The book brings home all the classics Shepherd's Pie, Bacon and Cabbage, Seafood Chowder, Bread and Butter Pudding and provides an insightful look into the seasonal ingredients that shape the country's cooking. With over 100 recipes and evocative photos that transport you to the Irish countryside, this colorful collection will awaken your senses to the delicious food of this warm and welcoming land and keep those Irish eyes smilin' all through the year.
In the past 30 years, Margaret Johnson has taken nearly 70 trips just to Ireland. She's also authored 9 other cookbooks prior to this one. In her introductory essay, Johnson says the inspiration for Favorite Flavors of Ireland was to put together recipes that would answer the questions about her Ireland trips that she's been repeatedly asked for so many years such as What's your favorite dish? or What do you like best about Ireland?While many of the recipes have been previously been featured in other publications, there are also new additions from some of her more recent trips as well as some suggestions from Irish friends.
The recipes also feature measurements in both standard and metric. Johnson divides the recipes up by seasons (what's most popular in Spring, Summer, etc..). I thought it was cool that with each section's opening, she also gives details into the customs and traditions of the corresponding Celtic festival for that time of year. For instance, the descriptions of what all goes into the Beltaine celebrations (in the US we know it as May Day but Beltaine runs from April 30-May 1st), Beltaine being, as Johnson explains, "the celebration of growth, fertility, and the early promise of plenty." One common practice is jumping over a fire as a symbol of chasing away the evil spirits of winter ("tine" being Gaelic for "fire").
Heads up, the recipes themselves are definitely NOT vegan friendly. There are recipes that could work for vegetarians, as far as the soups, salads, breads and the desserts, and I imagine some of the meat-based recipes could be adapted to be suitable to vegetarian diets. But yeah, the majority of the recipes are pretty heavily meat based. For meat eaters though, there's a nice mix --- she covers everything from chicken to lamb to seafood. It was interesting to learn that Irish bacon has 65% less fat than American varieties! I don't eat a ton of pork products in general but it was cool to learn that just the same. No surprise that there is also a recipe for classic Fish & Chips but I liked that she also included a recipe for making a side of mushy peas. Also -- those rhubarb recipes! I myself am not all that familiar with cooking or baking with rhubarb (though I've eaten it before in pies, jellies, etc.) but those recipes definitely had me curious to get experiment. The majority of the recipes in this collection seem pretty straight-forward, calling for mostly everyday kind of ingredients. I love those kind of down-to-earth cookbooks!
And, of course, I like the little nerdy / bookish bits. Each section starts with a quote from classic literature and, as you might imagine, there's also many references to James Joyce and his works throughout the book. It was also neat to learn that brownies (fresh baked brownies -- my food kryptonite! One of them, anyway :-P) were first introduced in Chicago, in the Women's Pavillion at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition.
Maybe also worth noting is the fact that several of these recipes call for small amounts of alcohol. Not surprising, considering this is a collection of Irish recipes, but thought I'd mention it for those who prefer to abstain from alcohol as a whole. It's possible that the alcohol could be left out without affecting the recipes too much, but I can't say for sure as I haven't experimented with that myself. Just something to be aware of, though.
Good food, easy to follow recipes, lovely photographs. Great addition to your culinary bookshelf, I'd say!
FTC Disclaimer: Ambassador International kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.