Westhampton Beach cookbook author Margaret M. Johnson has done it again with Celebrating Grand Places & Glorious Food, Flavors of Ireland (Ambassador Books), her seventh Irish cookery book to date.
The pleasures of Ireland should NOT be reserved for St. Patrick’s Day! In fact, with Johnson’s mix of traditional and modern Irish cuisine you can happily “go Irish” every day of the year. Sure there’s a lotta’ lamb, but how about some Duck Breast with Caramelized Shallots and Port Wine Sauce or Pan Seared Sole with Capers, Tomatoes and Lemon Butter?
The recipes are well organized by meal or course, such as “Starters, Soups, Salads” and “Breakfast Brunch, Breads.”
On the day that I received this book at the Dan’s Papers offices I turned immediately to the “Grand Finales” section—wow! Then I made her traditional Spotted Dog as soon as I got home. Thank you, Margaret Johnson, for bringing the unique flavor of raisins and caraway seeds back to me! Like a scone but better. Of, course everything’s better with Irish butter…
A natural storyteller, Johnson clearly revels in all things Irish and all things delish. I appreciate her many references to Irish history. These recipes have me excited about exploring my Irish heritage and the gorgeous photos in the book have me pining for a trip to the Emerald Isle. By incorporating recipes from top chefs across that country, she’s effectively provided a map for crossing Ireland on your stomach. Even more helpful—one can actually book a tour to travel with the author across Ireland! There’s even a map with the country’s food products superimposed over the areas where they originate. So helpful after six or seven Magner’s.
Why Johnson’s recipes frequently advise adding “four tablespoons” of a given ingredient such as raisins, nuts, flour—rather than the equivalent quarter cup—I don’t know, but I do remember Mario Batali once telling Martha Stewart to put “12 tablespoons” of olive oil into a pan—so she’s in good company.
Here are just a few of the colorful terms about to enter your vocabulary if this is your first Irish cookbook: Boxty, Brack, Gubbeen, Fishy Fishy Pie.
I’m looking forward to making the Red Onion Marmalade and Johnson’s Granola, though I’ll substitute New York maple syrup for Irish honey because that’s “my thing.”
I find Johnson’s recipes easy to follow and readily adaptable—you will too.
Another cookbook that recently crossed my desk is Classic Artisan Baking by Julian Day (Ryland Peters & Small). This is Day’s first cookbook; he is the proprietor of Meg Rivers Cakes in England. I’m a big fan of Steve Painter’s food photography so I was immediately sucked in—and the vintage kitchenalia pictured is primo! But beyond the look of this tome, it provides basic, thorough instruction for producing some classics. Who wouldn’t love a “family cake?” To quote Day, “Baking is fun and the best results come from keeping things simple—don’t take short cuts for the sake of convenience and take your time when baking; it’s a wonderful way to chill out. Always use the best ingredients you can find—because that way even the humblest cake can be elevated to something rather special.” Bravo! Sounds like a great way to spend a weekend—or a lifetime—in the Hamptons.