Best European Cookbooks

We’ve already handed out awards for French and Italian books. This month, we recognize five winning books from the rest of Europe.

The Country Cooking of Ireland
Photo: Randy Mayor

The Country Cooking of Ireland

The Country Cooking of Ireland  By Colman Andrews, Chronicle Books, 2009. Hardcover. $50; 384 pages

Colman Andrews may not have rocked the food world with this tome as he did in 1988 with Catalan Cuisine, which made the case for a thrilling tradition that was flying almost entirely under the radar of American cooks. But The Country Cooking of Ireland proves that a delicious culinary landscape lies beyond soda bread and Irish stew. This is also one of those lovely, heavy, heartfelt cookbooks that is a good read and a worthy gift.

Most of us need to be reminded again and again that simplicity is important; the majority of recipes here do that. Turnip and Rosemary Soup with Honey contains only three ingredients beyond those mentioned in the name. The combination of butter, earthy turnips, and herbs, with sweet finishing honey, was fantastic (and I cut down on the amount of heavy cream, swapping in some whole milk—still delicious). Good old Colcannon—basically mashed potatoes with kale and scallions—defines comfort and is a perfect side to a leftovers-based dish like Ham in Whiskey Sauce. Offal recipes like Collared Head or Crubeens (Pig’s Feet) feel like they’re taking you back to the source: Nothing hipster is afoot here. Chefs are profiled here and there; the quality of Ireland’s land and produce is celebrated in prose and picture; and there’s a smattering of history. But none of it overthickens the stew. And there are modern touches, like a truly startling-sounding dish from “pioneering modern Irish chef Gerry Glavin”: Roast Pike with Lamb Sauce, Lovage, and Bacon.

As you will have detected and expected, meat, butter, and cream pitch in frequently, and not lightly, but the very simplicity of the recipes suggests that tinkering and reducing are not difficult or risky. This is a book not of culinary chemistry but country wisdom.

GIVE THIS TO: Anyone who gets teary on St. Patrick’s day, or who loves country cooking. —Scott Mowbray

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