Expand your knowledge of Irish food this St. Patrick’s Day with the new cookbook My Irish Table (Ten Speed Press, March), by chef Cathal Armstrong and food writer David Hagedorn. Armstrong, who grew up in Dublin and now works in Washington D.C., was named as one of Food & Wine Magazines “10 Best New Chefs 2006,” and is the owner and chef of Restaurant Eve; Eamonn’s: A Dublin Chipper; and Society Fair. He is also a board member of Fresh Farm Markets, the founder of Chefs as Parents, and was honored by the White House as a “Champion of Change.”
Armstrong’s father—who planted and harvested the family garden, cooked their elaborate meals, and afforded Armstrong the opportunity to travel extensively around Europe where he expanded his appreciation for local foods—inspired his palette and approach to cooking. My Irish Table combines some Armstrong family recipes and traditional Irish food with a selection of Irish-inspired dishes from Restaurant Eve.
Anyone who still thinks that Irish food is nothing more than a pile of potatoes hasn’t been paying attention to what’s been happening in the country over the past twenty years. After the Irish government relaxed regulations in the early 1990s, attracting new people and investments, a modern Irish cuisine based on indigenous ingredients emerged, shepherded by a collection of pioneering chefs. In the cookbook’s introduction, Armstrong reminds readers how abundant those local resources are, including grass-fed beef and lamb; produce grown year-round; world-renowned butter; artisanal cheeses; fish such as plaice; mussels; oysters; and Dublin Bay prawns. The cookbook covers everything from breakfast through dessert—plus chapters on bread, foods for special occasions, and recipes for brine, stocks, sauces, and relishes—and will change the way you think about Irish food.
Speaking of special occasions: if you’re tired of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with green beer and a bag of pretzels, you’ll find Armstrong’s recipes helpful. As he explains in the book, St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland is a much more solemn holiday—celebrated with a large meal often featuring Roast Leg of Lamb, Roast Prime Rib of Beef, or perhaps Baked Whole Salmon—than it is here in America. If you are looking to re-connect with Irish roots, or just need an excuse to make a delicious meal, check out the book for recipes for all three of these dishes.
Once St. Patrick’s Day has passed, the book has enough recipes to keep you busy for the rest of the year, including dishes that will satisfy your memories of the Irish countryside. Ever wanted to make your own Blood Pudding, Dublin Coddle, or Steak and Kidney Pie? Chef Armstrong has got you covered. Among these more traditional recipes, though, you’ll find instructions for cooking dishes like Quiche Lorraine (a specialty of Armstrong’s mother), Pan-Roasted Loin of Monkfish, and Roast Turkey with Stuffing and Gravy that you may not immediately associate with Irish cuisine. The eclectic range of recipes, all highlighting Chef Armstrong’s focus on quality ingredients prepared simply, make this a cookbook you’ll want to keep handy long after the taps of green beer have run dry.
Cover images from www.myirishtable.com