Cookbook review: New spin on classic Irish fare
Kevin Dundon “Modern Irish Food”
Quick look: One of Ireland’s most beloved celebrity chefs offers modern twists on classic Irish comfort foods, like Pulled Corned Beef, Traditional Brown Soda Bread and Colcannon Mash and Champ, a creamy mixture of potatoes and onions.
What’s inside: Although at least 20 recipes call for Ireland’s famed root vegetable, Kevin Dundon goes beyond potatoes and stew, presenting more than 100 recipes designed for home cooks who want to prepare contemporary Irish cuisine. Some provide Irish influence to – or use culinary techniques and ingredients from other cultures to update – traditional dishes, such as Wexford Rack of Lamb with Asian Spices, Sticky Glaze Chicken Thighs with Asian Stuffing, Celeriac Waldorf Salad, Hasselback Potatoes and Spinach and Goats’ Cheese Filo Pastry Pie.
Recipes are approachable, easy to follow and well organized. They’re divided into nine chapters – from Soups, Bread, and Fish and Seafood to Something Sweet – all peppered with mouth-watering photographs. Recipes include Mum’s Roast Potatoes and Mum’s Meatloaf, Garden Pea and Mint Soup, Potato Bread, Puff Pastry Potato Pie, Pan-Seared Mallard with a Crunchy Walnut Stuffing and Red Wine and Plum Reduction, Beef and Guinness Pie, and Buttermilk and Heather-Infused Panna Cotta with Honey. The last chapter concentrates on recipes for homemade stocks, sauces, dressings, jams, jellies, relishes and chutneys.
Dundon wrote the book at Dunbrody Country House Hotel on the Hook Peninsula in County Wexford, where he is the chef and proprietor. He also designs menus and recipes for Raglan Road Irish Gastropub at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. A 10-part cooking show with the same name – “Kevin Dundon’s Modern Irish Food” – has been picked up by Create TV, part of PBS.
What’s not: You won’t find much of a story behind each dish or side; introductions to the recipes are short and to the point, sometimes only a sentence or two.
Following are the recipes for Traditional Brown Soda Bread, Pulled Corned Beef, Whole Glazed Ham and Trout Fillets with Streaky Bacon and Flaked Almonds.
Traditional Brown Soda Bread
Kevin Dundon sometimes adds pine nuts or sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, fennel or caraway seeds for a healthy, crunchy finish. Diced dried apricots or golden raisins are also tasty additions. For a sweeter, darker bread, he recommends adding 2 tablespoons of molasses to the mix.
2 3/4 cups whole-wheat flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda, sifted
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup rolled oats
2 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing
2 cups buttermilk (or use natural/plain yogurt or fresh milk mixed with the juice of 1 lemon)
Handful of seeds or extra porridge oats, for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf tin. Put flour, baking soda, salt and oats into a large mixing bowl and mix them well. In a separate bowl, beat eggs together with oil. Add this to the dry mixture. Next, mix in buttermilk. (The mixture should have a sloppy consistency.)
Pour batter into prepared loaf tin and smooth top with a wet spoon. Sprinkle some seeds or oats across the top, then bake for 1 hour. Remove bread from tin and return it to oven to bake for another 20 minutes. Remove bread from oven and allow it to cool on a wire rack before serving. This loaf will keep fresh for four to five days and is suitable for freezing.
Yield: 1 (9-inch) loaf
Pulled Corned Beef
The cooking process is long and slow, but that makes the meat tender and juicy, Kevin Dundon writes in the introduction to this recipe.
3 1/4 pounds corned beef silverside (bottom round), cut in half
1 cup beer
2 oranges, halved
1 garlic bulb, crushed
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of thyme
4 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
3 star anise
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 cups water
1 onion, cut into wedges
1 pound 2 ounces potatoes (or 4 potatoes), quartered
1 pound 2 ounces baby carrots (or 4 carrots cut into batons about 2 1/2 inches long)
7 ounces baby turnips (or 1/4 large turnip cut into small chunks)
1 small head of cabbage, about 10 1/2 ounces, cut into wedges
Place beef in large saucepan with beer, oranges, garlic, bay leaf, thyme sprigs, honey, vinegar, spices and peppercorns and cover with water. Put lid on pan and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, topping up the water during cooking if necessary, until a fork can be easily inserted into the center of the meat. Carefully remove beef and put it on a cutting board to rest for about for 10 minutes.
Add 2 cups of water to pan and bring to a boil over a medium heat. Put in the vegetables and bring back up to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Discard the orange pieces.
Use 2 forks to pull apart meat. Divide it between bowls and serve with the broth and vegetables.
Serves: 4 to 6
Whole Glazed Ham
Kevin Dundon recommends getting ham on the bone, which he writes “has a superior taste and texture because the natural muscle, fat and bones are undisturbed.”
1 whole fresh ham on the bone, about 15 1/2 pounds
About 4 tablespoons cloves
3 to 4 tablespoons marmalade, preferably homemade with a hint of Irish whiskey
4 tablespoons Irish whiskey
4 tablespoons brown sugar
Soak ham in a bowl of water for up to 1 hour to remove any excess salt. Place ham in large saucepan, cover with fresh water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 2 1/2 hours. Turn off heat and allow meat to cool in the cooking liquid. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Remove ham from cooking liquid, take off outer rind and score a lattice pattern into the fat. Stud each diamond of fat with a clove, then put ham into roasting pan.
Put marmalade and Irish whiskey into a saucepan set over a moderate heat and mix well until the marmalade has melted. Brush this mixture over the clove-studded ham, then sprinkle with sugar.
Loosely cover ham with foil and bake for about 1 hour until the fat has caramelized and is a golden brown color. Remove foil, increase heat to 350 degrees and cook for an additional 20 minutes. Remove ham from oven and rest it for 30 minutes before slicing.
Trout Fillets with Streaky Bacon and Flaked Almonds
“Trout are a fantastic source of minerals, including selenium and iron, and they are also rich in omega-3 fats,” Dundon writes in the intro to this recipe. “Wrapping the trout in some streaky bacon makes this dish so delicious.” Slivered almonds add texture and flavor, too.
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 trout fillets, about 8 ounces each, cleaned, gutted and skinned
12 slices of smoked fatty bacon
Salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons oil
1 1/4 sticks butter
4 tablespoons slivered almonds (optional)
2 tablespoons roughly chopped tarragon
Juice of 1 lemon
Lightly flour trout, wrap each fillet in three slices of fatty bacon, then season with salt and black pepper. Drizzle oil into a frying pan on a moderate to high heat. Place wrapped trout in pan and caramelize bacon for 2 minutes on each side. Reduce heat, add a stick of butter and leave trout to cook on a low heat with butter foaming for about 5 minutes on each side.
Transfer fish to a warmed plate, and pat dry to remove excess butter. Add remaining butter to pan and allow it to foam, then add almonds, if using, and fry lightly. Sprinkle with tarragon, then add lemon juice to deglaze pan, scraping up any bits from the base of the pan. Spoon the flavored almonds over trout and serve immediately.