Rachel's Irish Family Food: 120 classic recipes from my home to yours by Rachel Allen
Collins ISBN 978-0007462582
February 19, 2013, 256 pages
I am of two minds about corned beef.
We had it when I was a kid, and not just at St. Patrick's Day but it's mistaken identity as a common Irish dish just sets me on edge. Like green beer and drunken leprechauns and calling the saint St. Patty.
What we should be having is pork, bacon..which as Rachel Allen defines it in this lovely cookbook is back bacon or cured and smoked pork loin.
Good luck finding that in your typical American supermarket.
I need a butcher...a really good butcher!
So I went with a pork butt, a smoked pork shoulder butt, something we also had frequently on the dinner table when I was a kid.
So, where did this connection of Irish Americans and corned beef come from?
Well, believe it or not, scholarly articles have been written about it, like this one,
Irish Corned Beef: A Culinary History by Máirtín Mac Con Iomaire
"It is considered by most Americans to be the ultimate Irish dish, so much so that Allen (2010) notes ‘I can’t believe how many times I’ve had to emphasize that we don’t just live on corned beef, potatoes and cabbage in Ireland.’ However, corned beef and cabbage is seldom eaten in modern day Ireland. It is widely reported that Irish immigrants replaced their beloved bacon and cabbage with corned beef and cabbage when they arrived in America, drawing on the corned beef supplied by their neighbouring Jewish butchers...
From ancient times in Ireland, cattle were highly prized as a sign of wealth....
This paper identifies that corned beef has always been an aristocratic food in Ireland and particularly a festive dish eaten at Christmas, Easter and St. Patrick’s Day. It suggests that the most probable reason for the popularity of corned beef among the Irish Americans was not the lack of availability of bacon, as sometimes argued, but that corned beef was widely available at a reasonable price. Irish immigrants aspired to better themselves in America and part of this betterment was the consumption of foodstuff they might not have been able to afford at home."
So, enough with the research, and back to the cookbook, Rachel's Irish Family Food by Rachel Allen.
I am not familiar with Rachel Allen, but I am quite familiar with her mother-in-law, the well known chef and cookbook writer Darina Allen, who started a famous cooking school at Ballymaloe House in Shanagarry, County Cork, Ireland...and her mother-in-law, Myrtle Allen, she who started the now famous hotel and restaurant in Ballymaloe. It is quite an accomplished cooking family. So when I saw a review of Rachel's latest book..she has written 8 or 9 cookbooks..I thought it would make a nice gift to myself.
And I was right!
It is a very attractive book, full of many beautiful pictures of the completed recipes, some lovely ones of the Irish countryside and a few of Rachel and her handsome family. There is a nice variety of dishes, soups, everyday dishes, ones for special occasions, vegetables and side dishes, breads, desserts, cakes and cookies, many with a unique Irish feel. There are 120 recipes in total, many marked as being vegetarian, but a nice selection of meat and seafood dishes as well.
I must say, the number of recipes I am looking forward to making after paging through this book is long. Kale and Bean Stew..Sticky Cumin and Apricot Roast Carrots and Parsnips...Pork and Mushroom Pie...Dark Sticky Gingerbread..to name just a few.
Every recipes includes a little introduction by Rachel, telling the place of this dish in Irish culture, such as Ballymaloe's recipe for spiced beef, or in her own family history, like her father's favorite Ginger Cookies.
I have a number of Irish cookbooks and yet found many new ideas in this one. Still, for those not familiar with Irish cooking, beyond that corned beef and cabbage, this would make a wonderful introduction.
I will leave you with a recipe...or two..
a sauce to serve with your bacon, or ham, or corned beef
and a different way to cook your cabbage, both from Rachel's Irish Family Food.
For the basic white sauce...
1 ¼ cups whole milk
few slices carrots
few slices of onion
1 sprig parsley
1 sprig thyme
2 Tbs. Flour
2 Tbs. Butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Pour the milk in a small saucepan and add the carrot, onion, parsley, thyme, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, decrease the heat and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow to infuse for about 10 minutes.
While the milk infuses, make the roux. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low to medium heat ad add the flour. Allow to cook for 2 minutes, stirring regularly. Set aside. Strain the milk through a sieve placed over a small saucepan and bring the milk to a boil. Whisk in the roux, a little at a time, until well blended and allow to simmer gently 4 to 5 minutes or until thicken to the desired consistency.
For the Parsley Sauce...add
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
7 Tbs. Finely chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
|Sliced pork butt, steamed red potatoes and carrots and buttered cabbage with parsley sauce|
1 pound Savoy or other dark cabbage
2 Tbs. Butter
2 Tbs. Water
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
This is the way we prepare cabbage here at Ballymaloe Cookery School. The cabbage isn't boiled, but cooked in butter with only a splash of water. This way the water doesn't leach out any flavor or nutrition.
Remove the tough outer leaves from the cabbage. Cut the head of cabbage into four from top to bottom. Cut out the core, then slice the cabbage crossways into fine shreds, about ¼ inch thick. Combine the water and butter in a wide saucepan over medium heat and allow the butter to melt. Toss in the cabbage and season with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and cook 2 to 3 minutes, until just softened; do not allow the cabbage to burn.
Taste for seasoning and serve.
This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.