real irish foodPeople in Ireland are sometimes mortified by what Americans think of as Irish food.  That’s because the real thing is much subtler and more delicious than any platter of overcooked corned beef and mushy cabbage could ever be. Real Irish food is brown soda bread so moist it barely needs the yolk-yellow butter; fragrant apple tarts with tender, golden crusts; rich stews redolent of meaty gravy and sweet carrots; crisp-edged potato cakes flipped hot from a skillet directly onto the plate. Forget meatloaf or mac and cheese – this stuff is the original comfort food.

Real Irish Food by David Bowers is the first comprehensive cookbook to bring classic Irish dishes to America with an eye for American kitchens and cooks, and with tips and tricks to help reproduce Irish results with American ingredients. Transform plain white fish by baking it with grated sharp cheese, mustard, and crumbs. Discover that celery takes on new life when sliced, simmered in chicken stock, and served in a lightly thickened sauce. Homemade Irish Sausages, Potted Shrimp and Potted Salmon, Finglas Irish Stew with Dumplings, Whiskey Chicken and Roast Goose with Applesauce Boxty, Cally, Champ, and Colcannon AppleSnow, Almond Buns, and Summer Pudding, Elderflower Lemonade, Black Velvet, and Ginger Beer Cherry Cake, Custard Tart, and Brandy Butter.

From hearty roasts to innovative vegetable dishes, from trays of fresh-baked scones to rich, eggy cakes, and from jams bursting with tart fruit to everything you can do with a potato, there’s no food so warm and welcoming, so homey and family-oriented, so truly mouthwatering as real Irish food. (description from publisher)

I recently listened to the audiobook version of Irish author Tana French’s debut mystery, In The Woods.  French thrusts the reader into a dual storyline – one past and one present – both inextricably linked by one man, Inspector Rob Ryan of the Dublin Murder Squad.  Twenty years before, Rob and his two young school chums made headlines when all three disappeared and Rob was later found alone exiting the woods without any recollection of what had happened to his friends –  the case has remained unsolved. 

In the current case, Rob and his partner Cassie Maddox are assigned to a case involving the murder of a young ballet dancer, Katy Develin – a crime that was committed in the exact same spot as Detective Ryan’s incident twenty years prior (he changed his name from Adam Ryan due to the publicity of his case).  Katy’s family begins to exhibit odd and baffling behavior and it peaks the interest of the detectives.  Ryan and Maddox realize that someone close to the victim may be involved – but which family member knows more about Katy’s murder than they are admitting?  

I am a big fan of mysteries and the ending of In The Woods was a shocker- I highly recommend it.

I have been wanting to read a book by Katie Fforde for a while now. Why?

A. Her book covers are so fresh & lovely
B. She is the cousin-in-law of one of my very favorite authors, Jasper Fforde.

Very good reasons, but not quite enough to jump to the top of my very long to-read list. Luckily, one of her books did the unthinkable and bypassed the list altogether! I found myself at work with no new US Weekly magazine to read for lunch and there was the pretty, hand-lettered cover of Love Letters staring up at me from an items-recently-returned book truck. After reading just a few pages I knew that I would spend my evening curled up on the front porch with this book.

Love Letters revolves around a bookish girl in her mid-twenties, Laura, who finds herself out of a job when her grandfatherly employer decides to retire and close their beloved bookshop. However, Laura has earned a bit of a reputation for her expert handling of authors at the shop’s popular book-signing events and she is quickly recruited to organize a country book festival. Of course nothing can be simple: the book festival’s sponsor will only supply the funds if Laura can guarantee the appearance of a certain reclusive, notoriously difficult, and incredibly handsome Irish author. So begins the delightful adventures of Laura as she travels across England and Ireland, staying in hip country estates and sleeping in wild authors’ beds. The whole story is very romantic, cozy and lovely–just like the book’s jacket design!

And speaking of the book design, I was super excited to find that the newest editions of Katie Fforde’s books provide information on the jacket’s designers, illustrator and calligrapher! (who are Head Design, Sophie Griotto and Jill Calder, respectively.) Kudos to you, St. Martin Press, for giving credit to the people responsible for me picking up Love Letters to begin with!

Good Mood Food, a cookbook by Donal SkehanHave you been languishing waiting for Ireland to produce a chef as healthy and good-looking as Jaime Oliver? FINALLY that wait is over! Let me introduce you to the young, Irish chef/blogger Donal Skehan, aka “Ireland’s answer to Jaime Oliver” (as stated on the cookbook’s cover), who appears to be an expert at creating simple and cozy recipes that make me want to curl up in a country cottage and watch him cook for me. Just kidding! Actually, Good Mood Food is one of the few cookbooks that actually made me want to cook. I do not usually enjoy cooking, and probably only checked out this cookbook because I liked the rhyming words in the title, but within a few days of having the book on my kitchen table I discovered I had made Perfect Parmesan Parsnips! What happened?! I just don’t do things like that! Soon afterwards I found a Bacon Avocado and Sundried Tomato Sandwich in my hands. The recipes are so easy and the photographs so lovely that I couldn’t resist. Yup, this Donal Skehan guy is good. Check out his blog at: www.donalskehan.com.

Cecelia Ahern is the young author of several bestsellers, including PS I Love You which was made into a movie starring Hilary Swank.  Ahern  combines elements of a tear-jerker with humor in the story about a young woman  struggling to get on with her life after the death of her husband. Her eccentric family and  the  letters from her husband Gerry  guide her through the process.

The celebrity of the author nearly outweighs the book. A telegenic 21-year old when she wrote the bestseller, Ahern was also the producer and co-creator of the tv series Samantha Who? And before that, a member of an Irish band. Three more of her books are being made into movies and she is now all of 28.

She is also the daughter of the former prime minister of Ireland, Bertie Ahern. Can’t get much more Irish than that.

Many years ago, one summer evening I was switching channels, trying to find something other than reruns. On IPTV, I came across a charming show about a village in Ireland. It had quirky characters, an English Catholic priest who didn’t want to be there and an feisty Irish lady Barkeep. Thus began my love affair with Ballykissangel. It was a wonderful BBC soap opera, which was broadcast 1996 – 2001. There is humor and sadness. Peter Clifford, ( Stephen Tompkinson) a young Catholic priest from Manchester, is transferred to the village of Ballykissangel, Ireland, and is taken by the dry-humored publican Assumpta Fitzgerald (Dervla Kirwan) who has almost the exact opposite of his good nature and dislikes the organized church. As soap operas, go this one was very good. The third season was the best as Peter and Assumpta declare their love and are going to leave Ballykissangel.

Both Stephen Tompkinson and Dervla Kriwan left the show at the end of the third season. The 4th, 5th and 6th seasons were good, but didn’t compare to the first 3 seasons. During the last 3 seasons a young actor, Col Farrell, joined the show. He is now know as Colin Farrell, star of many major motion pictures. Stephen Tompkinson now stars in a IPTV show called Wild at Heart, which we also own.

Marian Keyes, a native of Ireland, gives American readers a native’s  view of the differences in culture between Londoners and Dubliners.

Sushi for Beginners has some of the elements of a stereotypical chick lit book (a frank, outspoken heroine, a cadre of funny pals, a glamourous profession). But she goes beyond the usual undemanding plots with an extra twist of being set in Dublin, which, apparently, is quite the backwater for the hyper-ambitious boss of our heroine.

Ashling works for Lisa, a ruthless fashionista, who is responsible for a new Irish fashion magazine, Colleen, and makes her subordinates pay dearly for the stress she is under. Jack Devine arrives just in time from the United States; to leaven Lisa’s power and to provide the spark of potential romance. The daily grind of the magazine world is depicted as mostly very hard work, with the occasional perks fought over by Ashling, Lisa and their co-workers.

Keyes is one of the first of the genre and is one of the grittier and more uncensored. She isn’t afraid to address topics like the alcoholism and serious depression of her  characters.

What better time than St. Patrick’s Day than to honor the Irish?  Just so you have something green to read,  we’ve put together a display of some popular Irish authors at the Fairmount Branch.

When Frank McCourt came on the scene with Angela’s Ashes, it seemed everyone was speaking with an Gaelic lilt.    If you’ve already read that, then try his Tis or Teacher Man.

If you’d like a fun little romp, try The Pig Did It by Joseph Caldwell.  I blogged about it last year, so I won’t repeat myself.

Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle, and for good reason.  If you’re thinking about traveling, this beautifully green country has got to be on your list.  Check out our travel section and then reserve your chance to kiss the blarney stone.

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