The New Irish Table cookbook

irishtable

Simply stunning photos and recipes that make me excited to cook again! Visiting Ireland is now high on my list too. Each section begins with a brief introduction about the region and then dives into menus from a chef or two in that region.

Fall is coming, which means it is perfect timing for soups like Potato, Prawn & Lime or Carrot, Potato & Cumin. There are plenty of warming dishes.

I can tell that things like Cucumber Pickle and Goat Cheese Mousse will become pantry staples. I knew it was easy to do a quick semi-pickle, but adding whiskey … pure genius.

I love that the desserts range from a simple poached pears with cream up to a delightful mini trifle and things with meringue.

poached

I’d recommend this for foodies or for anyone who loves Ireland.

The London Cookbook (Ten Speed Press)

londoncook

Being a lover of all things British, I had high hopes for this cookbook that were most definitely answered. It starts with a background of London’s food scene before launching into the brilliant recipes.

The recipes combine elegant little snippets of context – tiny Snapchat like details about the chefs or restaurants that immediately conjure familiarity – with simple, clear instructions.

Traditional dishes like potted shrimp (loved by James Bond and his creator Ian Fleming) have been made stronger with modern touches. Other dishes are purely modern, such as flavourful morel mushrooms hiding under a “veil of lardo (pork fat)” with garlic shoots and tiny potatoes in Madeira. This is less complicated than I expected, but not as simple as some others.

What about the chorizo hotdog paired with onion marmalade and paprika aoili? Or charred leeks with chevre, browned butter and smoked almonds? Definitely yes yes yes.

Soups go from delicate to hearty, while summer pasta, pork shoulder and duck ragu all sound so delicious that I can’t wait for my next meal.

And an entire section devoted to vegetarian dishes that make you sit up and take notice. Roasted squash, spiced carrots or Indian-inspired potato chaat. The potato chaat in particular stands out, full of delicious spices and textures and flavours that are difficult to resist.

Seafood, fowl and red meat all get their own sections, with equally delicious recipes from a variety of cultural influences, such as short ribs with chickpeas, chard and middle eastern yogurt.

Now for the sweet lovers. How patiently you’ve been waiting for desserts. The London Cookbook does not disappoint. Which one to make first? What about a rich, dense cake dotted with juicy peaches? Maybe a warm walnut cherry cake or a creamy custard rich with the taste of dark sugar? Actually, I might have to take a moment to make the double-decker tart, a gooey, crunchy, sugary confection resembling a grown up candy bar.

Such a delightful book and PERFECT for British lovers, I received an ebook but I had to pre-order as soon as I saw it!

Food52 A New Way to Dinner cookbook

food521I have a passing familiarity with Food52 and regularly drool over their Instagram account. It is no surprise that their cookbook is exquisitely curated and planned out. Recipes look mouth-watering and jump off the page while their descriptions read like an exciting new restaurant.

How about a flavor explosion like avocado toast with pesto, bacon and poached eggs? Mmmm! Or snap peas, pea vines and preserved Meyer lemon cream with lamb belly? Yes, please.

But this cookbook is trying to go beyond just the curated selection and help you change your cooking lifestyle. It makes sense, since at some point the fancy recipes begin to inspire fear and intimidation instead of rapture. How does one make preserved Meyer lemon cream while also juggling a job, family and other demands?

You start by perusing a seasonal week, say Merrill’s Summer, with a list of 5 dinners and 2 brownbag lunches to make with leftovers. The next page is a game plan that tells you what to make ahead over the weekend, and a weekly grocery list including amounts to buy.

It is definitely focused on helping you be successful with a set of recipes and then allowing you to deviate from them later, once you’ve figured out this week-in-advance thing. I used to look askance at menus, until our cookbook club cooked the suggested menu in another book – it was an eye-opening experience! The dishes came together like a particularly awesome restaurant.

food52

The summer menus got me really excited, pairing radishes with lime sriracha butter or arugula with parsley, lemon and olive oil. Never mind the delectable meatballs in pasta or the strawberry ice cream floats…

The fall menus with their mixture of warming soups, roast chicken, beef short ribs and brown-butter gnocchi were equally inspiring. And don’t even get me started on winter!

I’m a tad nervous if also pleased that Amanda and Merrill were honest enough to say this process is going to take longer the first few times I try.

But that I’m really thinking through this whole week thing and trying to figure out where it will fit in my summer is a good sign…

Pasta vs. mashed potatoes

Sometimes life does not make it easy for trivial details like blogging, dinner or doing your laundry. You really have to choose your priorities.

So tonight we were scraping the barrel for dinner – a tub of frozen homemade Bolognese sauce made during my more leisurely time and some gluten-free pasta that turned out too terrifying to eat after cooking. Mashed potatoes to the rescue!

While frozen mashed potatoes would work, we had leftovers from yesterday’s shepherd’s pie. Just fry them up in duck fat, heat up the pasta sauce, and viola! A seemingly intentional dinner that’s pretty hearty. Mashed squash or other vegetables work equally well.

Roast pork and leek sliders with garlic parsley butter beans

Leftover roast pork is delicious in many dishes, like my lunch of make-your-own-tacos, and of course, mini sliders. Serve with a side dish of beans sauteed with parsley and garlic for a robust meal in winter, or with a side salad in the summer.

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 leeks, washed and with the roots trimmed about 1/2 inch
  • Roast pork or another cooked meat, chopped into smallish pieces
  • Bread rolls
  • 8 oz. pre-cooked beans (we used a tin of butter beans after our lima beans failed to soften in time)
  • Chopped garlic or garlic powder
  • 2-3 sprigs of parsley, leaves chopped roughly
  • Butter, duck fat or oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350-400 degrees and put the bread rolls in (they’ll only need 5-10 minutes)
  2. Cut the leeks into small pieces
  3. Heat 1 1/1 tablespoons of butter/fat/oil in a pan over medium heat
  4. Saute the leeks for 4-5 minutes, moving constantly to prevent burning
  5. Meanwhile, heat more butter in a small pan and warm the garlic (2-3 minutes if using raw, 1 minute if using powdered/dried)
  6. Put the beans into the pan and heat
  7. Add the pork or cooked meat to the first pan with leeks, lower the heat
  8. After a few minutes when the beans are hot, add the parsley, remove and serve
  9. The leek and meat mix should be done, cut the rolls and serve

Homemade pizza party

Pizza parties are usually for kids, involving enough grease to power a fleet of bio-diesel trucks. How about a grown-up version you make at home?

We made two pizzas. The first was a taste explosion with goat cheese, garlic-herb olives, spinach, pine nuts and squash. The second was an elegant and simple affair with Beecher’s sharp cheddar.

Ingredients:

  • Frozen or fresh pizza dough (we’ve made our own too, but tonight was low key)
  • Tomato sauce or pesto sauce
  • Oil, olive or some such
  • Few tablespoons of corn flour
  • Choice of toppings (squash and other large toppings should be pre-cooked)

Directions:

  1. Follow the directions and defrost the dough, usually putting in the fridge for a few hours or overnight
  2. Roll the dough out on a flat surface, we used cookie trays
  3. Pick up the dough and move it in circles with your fingers, and alternate holding it by edges – you really have to do this awhile if you want thin crust
  4. Spread a table spoon of oil over the pizza and it, then take a tablespoon of pesto or tomato sauce and spread until you have enough – don’t do too much or it’ll be soggy
  5. Spread your toppings over the pizza, starting with cheese
  6. If you have fresh toppings like spinach, these should be put on after it is done, but frozen should go before
  7. Cook for 15-20 minutes, watching the crust as an indicator

 

 

 

Roast cracklin’ pork, sweet potatoes and corn

Tonight we had roast pork – a real leg from a butcher who gets them from a nearby farm. The taste is so clearly superior that I find it hard to eat pork at restaurants. Juicy, clean and delicious. And of course, crunchy rind!

Paired with corn and sweet potatoes, this was a fairly sweet and tender-tasting meal.

To cook a pork leg is pretty simple, you need to criss-cross cut the leg so that the fat can drain and then salt evenly. Place in the pan leg or rind side up.

We pre-heat the oven to 450 or 500 degrees for the first 30 minutes, then drop the temperature to 200 for the remaining time. It should be 25-30 minutes per pound.