Deliciously Irish

by Nuala Cullen

Pavillion, 2015



It was a brave decision to put a picture of Irish stew on the cover of this large, square, slightly coffee-tableish cookbook; it’s a dish that is as unnatractive in appearance as it is delicious in taste. Well, it could have been worse. I suppose they didn’t even consider coddle (possibly because the book omits the recipe for this Dublin stalwart of the working class kitchen).

I don’t know who Nuala Cullen is but according to the press release she is a freelance food writer (aren’t we all?) and has a special interest in food in an historical context.

Despite fine photography and quite contemporary layout, there’s a rather dated feel to this volume. Flicking through, a recipe for Scotch eggs (with mustard mayonnaise) makes one feel a little lost in the 1970s. Baked eggs with spinach? Likewise, and not exactly a staple of the Irish kitchen. Chestnut and lentil soup? Not exactly Maura Laverty.

By the time we get to stuffed pork chops with potato-apple fritters, I’m thinking that my mother would have quite liked this kind of thing in about 1969. But she would have baulked (as I do) at the notion of cinnamon in an otherwise quite decent recipe for queen of puddings (always pronounced queen o’ pudding).

It’s an odd book, and Irish only up to a point. It tells you how to cook corned beef and cabbage and how to spice your own beef; and then there’s a recipe for crab soup with saffron, and one for a salad of lamb’s lettuce and (unblanched!) dandelion leaves.

It’s not a bad book but one that seems to lack focus and direction. And, as I say, there’s a sense of the past about it, and not in a particularly good way.