I realize that it's unusual for me to post my Old Cookbook Review on Monday, but I had a lousy computer day on Friday. So I'm glad this is Monday and I'm on a different computer. Get your cup of tea or coffee ready 'cause this book is a goody! and just in time for St. Patrick's Day baking.
When our friends, Julie and George, traveled to Ireland a few years ago, Julie made it her mission to hunt for an authentic Irish cookbook (written by a native) for me, and this book has been special to me, ever since. In her usual "Julie style", she wrote the story of where she found it, in the inside cover...yes, she knows me well. I appreciate all the back stories!
This wonderful baking book was bought in a gift shop/cafe' at Eilwee Caves. She notes that she searched for a hardback cookbook, but they were all written by folks who were not from Ireland. I'm happy that she settled for this paperback cookbook written by Georgina Campbell. The Best of Irish Breads and Baking: Traditional, Contemporary & Festive is full of great baking recipes for every occasion. Georgina Campbell is a well-known food writer and specialist on Irish foods. The beautiful food photography is done by Rai Uhlemann.
The only negative comment that I have on this cookbook is that it provides European, metric and US measurements for each item, which can get tedious when you're reading the recipe as you cook. For those of you reading my blog from spots around the world (at last count on my analytics, I had readers in over 15 other countries and remote areas) the additional measurements are most-likely a benefit. For this reason, I'll include them in our sample recipe today.
As I've said, what a baking book this is! Some of the many super recipes are for scones, tea breads, biscuits (cookies), pies, cakes, crumbles and even dumplings. But the absolute star of the book is breads. There's a recipe for culturing your own buttermilk, because it is crucial to the traditional soda breads in the book. You use skimmed milk, boiling water, yeast and sugar for this process. How interesting...imagine not having to run to the store just to get buttermilk for a recipe (I've done this...ditto for powdered sugar!)
As with any cookbook, the fact that the author provides us with stories about the history of each recipe makes it a must-read for me. Georgina gives details about the historic castles and the folks who are managing them today, with credit to the cooks/chefs who make the foods for these establishments. Many of the family-owned castles became too expensive to maintain as individual homes, and so are now used (at least partially) to educate and delight travelers with tours and delicious Irish cuisine.
Ms. Campbell is also good to provide the reader with information about the traditional festivals and holidays of Ireland, and which foods are served for each. This was my favorite part of the book. I learned that Shrove Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday) originated as a practical way to use up non-Lenten foods before Lent began. Because pancakes were served, another tradition was to have the eldest unmarried daughter toss the first pancake. The traditional tale went like this: If she made a neat toss, she would have her pick of the young men, but if the toss was crooked, she would not marry in the coming year! (Hold that spatula steady, girl! :)
This is such a wee blessin' of a cookbook that you'll be wantin' it for your shelf :) I'll give you as much information as I can to help you hunt for a copy. It was first published by Wolfhound Press in Dublin in 1996. Mine is a reprint by EPICURE Press from 2004, also in Dublin. The book's ISBN is 1-903164-15-X. The address given for EPICURE Press is: P.O. Box 6173, Dublin 13. You may still be able to order a copy. Other titles by Ms. Campbell include: Irish Country House Cooking (on my wish list!); The Blue Book Recipe Collection and Meals for All Seasons; The Best of Contemporary Irish Cooking. Good luck!
Sample recipe is from page 38:
(From Co. Antrim where Elizabeth Hegarty treats guests to an afternoon tea in the drawing room of Greenhill House on the family farm. She uses the yogurt carton to measure with, making this a fast bread to fix!)
1 carton Hazelnut yogurt (you might have to settle for another flavor-I've never seen this flavor)
1 carton vegetable oil
2 cartons granulated sugar
3 cartons self-rising flour
Preheat a moderate oven, 350 degrees F/180 degrees C/gas 4. Grease and line two 1 lb./450 g loaf tins. Pour the yogurt, oil and sugar into a bowl and beat for a short time to blend. Add the flour and eggs and beat for a minute or until thoroughly mixed. Pour into the prepared tins and bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown and springy to the touch. Turn out and cool on a wire rack. Serve sliced and buttered for tea.