The Irish Cookbook: 3 recipes that celebrate the underrated beauty of Irish cuisine

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From traditional hearty dishes to lesser-known delicacies, Jp McMahon’s The Irish Cookbook celebrates the underrated joy of cuisine from the Emerald Isle. 

While Ireland is famous for its music, its literature and its pubs, it’s fair to say it’s not renowned as a foodie hotspot. Now, though, efforts are being made to change that. Last year, London got two excellent new modern Irish restaurants in the form of Daffodil Mulligan on Old Street and Darby’s in Battersea. And now, chef Jp McMahon is publishing The Irish Cookbook (Phaidon).

The book contains 480 hearty home-cooking recipes using ingredients reared, grown and foraged across Ireland – from its lush green pastures to the shores of the west coast. 

Read on for three delicious Irish recipes, courtesy of McMahon: wild mushroom and walnut tart; saltwater cod with saffron and tomatoes; and a beautiful scalloped buttermilk and elderflower tart. 

Wild Mushroom and Walnut Tart

The Irish Cookbook: Wild Mushroom and Walnut Tart

This tart can be made with different wild mushrooms. However, I find the smaller varieties work better.

Serves 8

Preparation: 30 minutes, plus 1 hour chilling time 

Cooking: 50 minutes 

For the pastry 

  • 225 g/8 oz (1¾ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting 
  • 125 g/4½ oz (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) butter, cubed, plus extra for greasing 
  • 25 g/1 oz (¼ cup) walnuts, toasted and blended into a fine powder 
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt 
  • 1 egg yolk

For the filling 

  • 1 tablespoon rapeseed (canola) oil 
  • 1 onion, finely diced 
  • 2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped 
  • 400 g/14 oz yellow chanterelles, big ones halved 
  • 300 ml/10 fl oz (1¼ cups) double (heavy) cream 
  • 4 eggs, whisked 
  • 1 teaspoon thyme, finely chopped sea salt
The Irish Cookbook by Jp McMahon celebrates the beauty of Ireland – and its cooking

Method

To make the pastry, rub the flour and butter together in a mixing bowl until they form a crumb. Add the walnut powder, salt and egg yolk and enough chilled water to make a stiff dough. When the dough comes together, wrap in cling film (plastic wrap) and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 170°C/340°F/ Gas Mark 3½. Grease a 30-cm/ 12-inch-diameter fluted tart pan and line with the pastry.

Dust a work surface with some flour and roll out the pastry in a circle large enough to line the pan. Line the pan with the pastry, then line the pastry with baking (parchment) paper and fill with baking beans (pie weights) or dried beans.

Blind bake in the preheated oven for 10–15 minutes, then remove the paper and weights.

For the filling, heat the oil in a medium pan over a medium heat, add the onion and garlic and fry for about 5 minutes until soft. Add the mushrooms and season with sea salt, then cook for about 5–10 minutes until soft.

Add the mushroom filling to the tart case (shell). Whisk the cream, eggs and thyme together and pour over the mushrooms.

Return to the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until set.

Cod with Saffron and Tomatoes

The Irish Cookbook: Cod with Saffron and Tomatoes

Saffron has been used in Irish cooking for the last few hundred years. Though this recipe derives from a Mediterranean style of cooking, similar recipes appear in many Irish cookbooks of the mid to late twentieth century. For me, it demonstrates the influence of European modes of cooking after World War II. Ireland became a member of the Council of Europe in 1949 and joined the United Nations in 1955. The country began to look outwards again after decades of economic stagnation. Because the fish cooks quickly, always put it in near the end to ensure the flavour and texture of the fish is still there.

Serves 4

Preparation: 15 minutes

Cooking: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon rapeseed (canola) oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 150 g/5 oz (about 3 small) potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 175 ml/6 fl oz (¾ cup) sherry
  • A good pinch of saffron
  • 350 ml/12 fl oz (1½ cups) fish stock (broth)
  • 1 × 400-g (14-oz) can of chopped tomatoes, blended
  • 600 g/1 lb 5 oz cod fillet, skinned and boned, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons parsley
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat, add the onion and garlic, cover and cook for about 5 minutes until soft and nicely coloured. Season with a little salt.

Add the potatoes and bay leaf and cook for a few minutes. Then add the sherry, saffron and fish stock (broth). Cook for about 15 minutes until the potatoes are nearly tender.

Add the tomatoes, reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. In the last minute, add the fish and cook for 1 minute. Add the chopped parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Buttermilk and Elderflower Tart

The Irish Cookbook: Buttermilk and Elderflower Tart

Serves 10

Preparation: 45 minutes, plus chilling time

Cooking: 45 minutes

For the pastry

  • 300 g/11 oz (2⁄¹ ³ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting
  • 50 g/2 oz (⁄¹ ³ cup) icing (confectioners’) sugar
  • 175 g/6 oz (1½ sticks) cold butter, cubed, plus extra for greasing
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 2 egg yolks

For the filling

  • 200 ml/7 fl oz (scant 1 cup) buttermilk
  • 200 ml/7 fl oz (scant 1 cup) double (heavy) cream
  • 25 g/1 oz (¼ cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 75 g/3½ oz (½ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 100 g/3½ oz (7 tablespoons) butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons Elderflower Cordial (see page 390, or use shop-bought)
  • Fresh elderflowers, to garnish
The Irish Cookbook by Jp McMahon

Method

For the pastry, put the flour, sugar, butter and salt into a large mixing bowl. Rub together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks and a little ice-cold water to bring the dough together. Do not overwork. Wrap in cling film (plastic wrap) and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Grease a 30-cm/12-inch-diameter loose-bottom fluted tart pan. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface. Line the prepared pan with the pastry and refrigerate for a further 1 hour. It’s important that the pastry is cold when baking.

Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/ Gas Mark 3.

Line the pastry case (shell) with a round of baking (parchment) paper and fill with baking beans (pie weights) bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove the weights and paper and return the pastry to the oven for a further 5 minutes.

Increase the oven temperature to 170°C/340°F/Gas Mark 3½.

To make the filling, blend all the ingredients together in a food processor and strain through a strainer. Remove any foam that remains on top. Place the tart shell on the baking sheet and pour the custard mixture into the tart shell and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. There should still be a little wobble in the tart. Remove from the oven and cool for 1 hour, then garnish with some fresh elderflowers.

The Irish Cookbook by Jp McMahon (£35, Phaidon) is out 28 February

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Photography and styling: Anita Murphy and Zania Koppe

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Christobel Hastings

Christobel Hastings is a London-based journalist covering pop culture, feminism, LGBTQ and lore.