In the Introduction to the book she admits that in the beginning, part of her believed that at some point she and Richard would return to the States to build their lives there, but she soon realised that an Irish farmer would never leave their land and live-stock. Once her son Geoffrey was born she knew that Ireland was now her home.
|Stamping out scones|
In many ways Imen McDonnell sees Ireland through the eyes of an outsider who has embraced her new life with enthusiasm and as such, the book has an honesty and authenticity about it. Beautifully photographed and styled throughout it reads like the culinary embodiment of a John Hinde postcard but this is not to suggest that Ireland or its food is presented in a twee or clichéd way. Instead you can really sense the love McDonnell feels for her new home and the food that is produced here.
|Scones warm from the oven|
I also liked the trio of chapters on Country Suppers, Sunday Lunch and New Traditions which really showcased how family and friends were at the heart of all the food that McDonnell produces.
Using only a few ingredients; flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and double cream, this was quite different from the recipe that I normally use. The method was also unusual in that the dry ingredients were merely weighed out and then the cream was stirred in. I have to admit that after mixing up the dough, which seemed quite dry, I wasn't expecting great results so was thrilled with the wonderfully light and fluffy scones that emerged from the oven. Split whilst still warm and lathered in butter, raspberry jam and (ahem) a large blob of whipped cream, they were delicious. I loved them. The scones were mixed and out of the oven, ready to eat in under 25 minutes. I was impressed.
Presented in an accessible format giving both metric and American cup measurements, the recipes are easy to follow and in the main no specialist or unusual equipment is required. I found this no-nonsense approach very appealing. McDonnell has a reassuring style, similar to Delia Smith or Darina Allen that would imbue even the most inexperienced cook with confidence resulting in a cookbook that will be used rather than sitting on a bookshelf gathering.
|Roasted Pear Cheesecake|
I was intrigued by the recipe for Bangers & Mash was next up as the gravy was made using Irish stout, which sounded like an interesting addition so I decided to give it a go! Unsurprisingly, given how the earlier recipes had turned out, this was another great success. The stout worked incredibly well against the sweetness of the onions in the gravy and contrasted nicely with the fresh spring onions in the mashed potatoes. I have cooked this recipe a number of times since and each time it has been a huge hit and a perfect example of how humble ingredients can be elevated to something truly delicious with a little care and attention.
|Bangers and Mash|
In the introduction to the book McDonnell states that she “…wasn’t exactly the kind of girl who dreamed of country living” but with the release of this book she proves the extent to which she has embraced her new life. The book is an absolute joy to read, the recipes are delicious and I know that it is a book that I will use time and time again.
The Farmette Cookbook: Recipes and Adventures from my Life on an Irish Farm by Imen McDonnell
Publisher: Roost Books
This article first appeared in TheTaste.ie