Our sales rep Sarah, took on the challenge of recreating a Donegal Table in her home in Dublin and this is how she got on!
I love to cook and believe there is nothing more enjoyable than sitting down to a home-cooked meal with family and friends so when The O’Brien Press set the challenge of recreating A Donegal Table in Dublin, I jumped at the chance! Like Chef Brian McDermott I grew up in a big family where the kitchen table was the focal point of the family. It still is and we regularly land in on my parents for a big feed! When we were kids my mam did most of the cooking and it is from her we learnt to bake – making our own pastry and filling it with delicious jam made by my nanny with whatever fruit was in season – blackberries picked from hedgerows, strawberries from the patch in the garden or rhubarb from the neighbours. When my mam went back to work, my dad took up cooking and I remember spending Thursday afternoons listening to Ronan Collins and helping get the spaghetti Bolognese ready – very exotic for an Irish family in the early nineties!
Whether you live in Dublin or Donegal there is no denying the unifying nature of food – it brings people together and, like Brian, I cherish those childhood memories and love creating new ones around my own kitchen table. With this in mind I roped in my sister, her husband their daughter Rose to recreate a Donegal table in Dublin. Continue reading “A Donegal Table in Dublin”
The wonderful Theresa Storey tells us her fruitful tale .
In every group of friends, there are specialists: there’s the one you call if your computer has the blue screen of death, the one you call when your kid just ate that weird berry, or the one you call when water pours from the ceiling or a tap just came off in your hand. I’m the food and gardening specialist for our gang. If you have wilting trees, an aphid infestation or a glut of berries you don’t know what to do with, I’m your girl. And I’m not just the adviser to my friends – people often come up to me at my stall in the Limerick Milk Market to ask how to use their wild fruit, for help in identifying plants, or to tell me their stories and recipes. I also get phone calls from strangers asking me how to fix non-setting apple jelly, or what to use their redcurrants for. I’m happy to talk and share what I know, and I’m happy to learn. Just last week, one of my customers told me that the ginger mint plants I sell are called ‘eel herb’ in Belgium, because they’re eaten with jellied eels. He didn’t know it was a ginger mint, and I didn’t know it was eel herb – good knowledge exchange.
That’s pretty much why I started my blog, www.thegreenapron.ie: to share some of what I know and to start a conversation.
The logical extension from the blog was to write a book. A seasonal fruit cookbook. I wanted to show how we use fruit through the year, so I put in lots of preserve recipes – that’s what we specialise in at The Green Apron – but also other recipes using both fresh and raw fruit to make both sweet and savoury dishes.
Writing a recipe book felt a lot like writing a thesis in college. Lots of research, lots of notes, and then cutting the information down and deciding what to include and what to discard. Lots of experimentation too – why does it work with that fruit but not this other one? What happens if you substitute this or change the temperature? Why didn’t it work that time? How can I make it better?
While many of the recipes in my book are ones we’ve been using in the family for years, there were some challenges in getting them into a useable format. I had to rewrite our single-line recipes into something anyone could use. ‘Bang it in a pot and cook for three hours’ isn’t enough instruction! I also added lots of whys and why nots, and lots of substitutions. What seems obvious to one person leaves someone else baffled, but thankfully after years of teaching workshops on cooking, growing and foraging, I have a good idea of what gaps people have in their knowledge, and what kind of questions they usually need answered. I also sent the recipes to my friend Barry – who doesn’t cook. I figured if he could follow them, anyone could.
Many of the recipes in Fruit on the Table are American, and translating their measures to metric and imperial was an exercise in exciting mathematics. American fluid ounces aren’t the same size as imperial, nor are their pints. American recipes are often in cups, and since that’s a volume measurement, I had to weigh cups of everything. That was another interesting exercise, since, for instance, a cup of sliced strawberries weighs more than a cup of whole strawberries. Anyway, after much weighing and second-guessing and research on the net, I converted the American measurements to metric and then converted metric to imperial. Another problem then reared its head: the metric measurement might equate to an unwieldy number of ounces (like 4.75oz rather than 5oz), so I had to round up or down and then remake the recipe a few times to be sure it worked perfectly. We ate a lot of cakes and pies that month.
Most of the photographs for the book were taken last summer, for two reasons: I wanted to wait until the summer fruit was in season, and I also wanted the best natural light (though it seemed to drizzle every day through the summer). On Sundays, the girls and I would cook a selection of the recipe dishes (thank goodness for my diligent daughters). Val O’Connor, our photographer, would come on Monday morning, and we’d style and photograph until late in the evening. For the rest of the week, I would experiment and write recipes, work in the garden and orchards, pick fruit, and make jam and chutney for the Saturday market. That was a pretty hectic few months.
Then came the editing. Thanks go to Liz Hudson, my editor, who tightened and streamlined everything and caught all the silly omissions and mistakes I made. (I sometimes forgot to add in tin-size or temperature or left out a step.) And who encouraged me when I was mithered from editing.
So now I have a shiny new book in which I share my recipes and my foraging and growing knowledge. I hope it expands the reader’s fruit-recipe repertoire and encourages them to grow their own – or at least to pick some wild fruit. I know writing it encouraged me to experiment with using fruit in ways I hadn’t thought of before, and I learned a great deal.
Now it’s time to write the vegetable version.
Theresa Storey, July 2016.
Fruit on the Table is available here and in all good bookshops!
Since we announced the re-publication of All in the Cooking, we’ve had so many emails and tweets from people who still have have dog-eared, faded, scribbled-on copies of the original versions in their possession. The reason they say they’ve hung on to this 1930s cookbook is simply because the recipes are classic, methodical and easy to use.
Here in O’Brien Press we decided to put this to the test with an All in the Cooking bake-off!
Three brave souls stepped forward …
First up was Laura from Sales, who used the original book in school. In a nostalgic move, Laura baked Raspberry Buns, the first recipe she ever made in Home Economics class. Not only were they very photogenic buns, but they were delicious, slightly crumbly and perfect with a cup of tea. Top marks!
Next came the Queen of Puddings, courtesy of one of our editors, Nicola.
Nicola said: ‘All in the Cooking had been out of print for years and people regularly posted on message boards looking for old copies or individual recipes. One of the recipes most often mentioned was Queen of Puddings. I decided to see what all the fuss was about! Apparently this is a dessert you make when you’ve run out of groceries. It’s made with basic ingredients: sugar, eggs, jam, milk, butter and bread. It’s got a custardy breadcrumb base, a jammy layer, and meringue on top. Those with a sweet tooth (it’s a sugar bomb!) who like squidgy desserts like bread & butter pudding or crème caramel should give it a go.’
Finally, Geraldine from Marketing and Publicity attempted to make an Athassel Cake: a three-layered cake with flavours of cocoa, vanilla and almond.
Geraldine said: ‘The Athassel Cake, with its pink food colouring and a trio of flavours, stood out for me. I’d never heard of it and not even a Google search could enlighten me so I thought it was the perfect choice. Unfortunately it went a bit crumbly – although the crumbs tasted pretty good!’
‘For my second attempt, I went for something easier: Chocolate Biscuit Cake. This didn’t even require actual cooking, just melting, stirring and chilling in the fridge. It was delicious.’
Verdict: Most recipes in All in the Cooking are familiar. The great thing about this book is that it gives modern cooks a chance to try their hand at baking things they’ll never find in a Nigella cookbook!
Handy tip: Laura, Nicola and Geraldine recommended doubling your recipe to make a ‘normal sized’ Athassel Cake, Queen of Puddings or batch of Raspberry Buns.
More and more when it comes to all the big occasions in a family, be it a christening, first Holy Communion, Confirmation, special birthday or anniversary, people are choosing to entertain at home. With this in mind I have devised some really simple, stress free recipes to help people when planning the culinary aspects of the occasion.
On April 26th in the Springhill Court Hotel Kilkenny I launched my third cookery book, Food for Friends which was published by The O’Brien Press. When I set about planning this book, I thought long and hard about a different style format and themes to focus on to separate it and set it apart from other books in this genre. My first book, and indeed my company is called Edward Entertainsso I wanted to keep this book very much focused on entertaining, but entertaining of a different kind. Sometimes when we think of entertaining we think of it in a much stylised way with polished silverware, cut glass crystal and starched linen. What I wanted to demonstrate in Food for Friends is that entertaining can be simple and still very stylish so I picked a series of different occasions where people would be entertaining family and friends and then planned some recipes around them.
I think that when people are having friends and family around they want to do the same as I do when I am entertaining and that is cook simple and tasty food which will impress the diners!
We had a wonderful night at the launch of Food for Friendswith well over 500 people in attendance and I’m delighted to say that so far the book is doing very well and has already enjoyed a number of weeks in the top 10 Irish bestsellers list!
So these are my recommendations for your upcoming family gatherings – keep things simple, be prepared and relax and entertain with a little help from Food For Friends.