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Saturday, June 08, 2013

Book Review: Irish Pub Cooking




Book Review: Irish Pub Cooking

How should I write a book review for this cookbook?  Should I comment on the writing style, or the editorial remarks which invariably accompany each recipe?  Of course not.  I - or rather, we - grabbed the book and headed into the kitchen to try out some of the recipes.  The food will tell if this book deserves a spot in our library of cookbooks.  

I bought Irish Pub Cooking a couple of years ago, thinking it would be neat to try some Irish cooking, and then promptly forgot about it.  This past January I saw it on the bookshelf and started looking for alternatives to corned beef and cabbage for dinner on St. Patrick's Day.    

The subtitle for Irish Pub Cooking urges the reader to "Pull up a stool, sup a pint, and tuck into some delicious pub food."  What follows is a collection of real food rather than the snacks offered at the typical American bar and grill franchise.  There are no hot wings, sliders or quesadillas featured in this book.

The book has four chapters: one on appetizers, then entrĂ©es, followed by a chapter covering vegetables and sides, and the last on desserts and drinks.  We did not try any appetizer recipes for a couple of reasons.  One is that a lot of them contain seafood, and shellfish allergies run in our family.  Another reason is that these recipes would not have been sufficient for feeding the whole family.  Still, a lot of these recipes look very good.  There are recipes for soups, sandwiches, and things called 'tartlets' which look like they should be filled with fruit rather than fish or meat.  At some point I shall revisit this book to try their split pea soup.  The last time I made split pea soup for the family, they swore I just threw a bunch of baby food into a pot and heated it up.  

The EntrĂ©es chapter is where I found my alternative to corned beef and cabbage.  Of course, they include a recipe for that traditional dish, and it looks quite good.  But I found something which looked even more intriguing: Beef in Stout with Herb Dumplings.  

Beef.  

Beer.

Dumplings.  

Somewhere Homer Simpson is drooling.

This recipe consists of beef dusted with flour and seasonings, and then stewed with stout and vegetables.  We bought some Guinness Stout for this.  The dumplings were made with something which I had never used before: suet.  Suet is fat from beef; in particular, the fat which is found near the kidneys.  It has a high melting point, which means that it will melt out of the dumplings after the flour has started to set up.  The result is that the dumplings will have little air pockets in them after the suet melts and runs out.  I called around to a few specialty stores trying to locate suet, and even searched the internet for alternatives.  I ended up  calling some friends who moved here from England to see if they could help me find some suet.  Finally, as a last try, I called the butcher counter at the local Albertsons.  

"How many pounds do you want?" he said.  Pounds.  

So we got suet.  In retrospect, we probably got beef fat from some other part of the cow, but it still worked as well.  One of the hardest things to do was shred it.

Did I mention that I was scheduled to be on call on St. Patrick's Day?  All of the work of preparing the meal fell on the shoulders of Carolyn.  God bless her.  Of course, the children helped a lot as well.  

Here is the picture of the 'Beef in Stout with Herb Dumplings' from the book:


Here is our picture.  We made a lot more to feed our family and guests.  Carolyn would use less parsley in the future; that is what gave the dumplings - and everything else - the greenish color:


This dish was very filling.

The next chapter covered vegetables and sides. We only tried a couple of the bread recipes rather than the vegetables.  We like to eat bread, especially homemade bread.

Here is a picture from the book of the Irish Soda Bread:


I like this recipe for its simplicity. We could mix the ingredients in a few minutes in a bowl, roll it out on a floured surface, and stick it in the oven right away.  This was a good one for our youngest children to make.

The other bread featured was Oatmeal and Potato Bread.  That was awesome. I made it with some baked potatoes which I mashed up with a fork. Carolyn made it another time where she used leftover mashed potatoes. Like everything touched by her, Carolyn's oatmeal and potato bread was a lot better than mine. 

Here is a picture of Oatmeal and Potato Bread from the book:


All of these bread recipes were served with genuine Irish butter. Yum. There is another recipe for something called 'Barm Brack,' which looked a lot like the Scone my mother - and her grandmother - would make.  This is one I would like to try sometime soon:


The final chapter had a recipe for apple cake and one for cheesecake.  Carolyn made the Apple Cake because she loves me and knows how much I like apple anything. Besides, she already makes an excellent cheesecake. I don't particularly care for cheesecake, but I do love hers....

Apple Cake.  Here is a picture of my almost-finished piece of cake. It tasted so good, I bent the fork!


Here is a picture of the intact cake along with the page from the cookbook.  For those of you who are wondering what is in the bowl next to the cake, I believe it is fajita chicken that I was warming up. It just shows that no matter what our heritage is, we cannot escape the influence of our new home, Northern Mexico Texas.



I thought this was a picture of the oatmeal potato bread,but now I think it is actually one of our many wheat bread recipes. Whatever. We like bread. 



The book includes recipes for Irish Coffee and 'Black Velvet,' something made with Stout and white wine.  Since I recently won a HUGE bottle of Crown Royal whiskey, I shall have to try making Irish coffee with it.

So this book review degenerated into more of a photo fest than an essay.  That is fine, considering that the subject is food.  There were a lot of things I like about this book.  One is that the recipes are simple enough for an amateur like me.  Two is that every recipe produced something good to eat.  Third, it was another opportunity for my children and I to get into the kitchen and make something.  There is nothing better than tasting bread baked in your own oven, or a meal put together by our children.  This book is just another way to help our children learn about one of the most important life skills, cooking. 

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