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Our Books of the Year 2015

All the best places to eat, shop and stay in Ireland. A local guide to local places.

Joanna Blythman: Swallow This (4th Estate)
Industrialised food production is a busted deal, sewn together with drugs and deceit (80% of antibiotics prescribed in the U.S. are fed to farm animals, and agricultural use of antibiotics in the U.S. grew by 23% between 2009 and 2014. Hey, bring on the TTIP so we can get our hands on all those drugs!). No one understands the broken system better than Joanna Blythman and, whilst all her books are required reading, Swallow This may be the best of them all. Blessed with a mordant wit and a crazy “crying-at-the-funeral” sense of humour, this is superlative writing.

Alex Stupak & Jordana Rothman: Tacos: Recipes and Provocations (Clarkson Potter)
This magnificent, angry work is both a recipe masterclass, and a political polemic, from the chef of New York’s acclaimed Empellón restaurants. “So here’s what I’m going to ask of you. If you’d happily shell out for slow-cooked lamb at some farm-to-table American restaurant, then give a barbacoa taco the same opportunity to impress…” Stupak's taco conceptions are glorious things, and his impassioned philosophy of cooking is profound.

Georgina O’Sullivan: Cooking at The Ballymore Inn (Ballymore)
Mrs O’Sullivan is one of Ireland’s greatest cooks, and her recipes reveal her particular, modest, bookish brilliance. She has been one of the major players in our food culture over 30 years, and one taste of her cooking will have you jumping in the car to head off to Ballymore Eustace.

Jill Norman: Herbs & Spices, The Cook’s Reference (Dorling Kindersley)
The new 2015 edition of Jill Norman’s book isn’t hugely different from the 2002 edition, yet the changes have somehow made this vital book even more vivid, attractive and definitive. This is truly one of the few books about which you can say: “Every kitchen needs a copy”

Eileen Dunne Crescenzi: Festa (Gill & Macmillan)
What is important about this book is the way in which it captures the jeux d’esprit of the founder of Dublin’s Dunne & Crescenzi restaurants. Inspired by an aunt “who was both brilliant and bold”, Ms Dunne headed off to Italy to go to art college, and the pell mell transformation of her life began. No other person manages to be both archetypal Dub, and archetypal Italian, and this synthesis explains the brilliance of the restaurants she runs with her husband, Stefano.

Trish Deseine: Home, Recipes from Ireland (Hachette)
Trish Deseine’s book is high, wide and handsome, packed with beautiful food and beautiful images, both of which manage to achieve one special feat: they are devoid of cliché. This is a book about modern Ireland, its food, its cooks, and its cares, and it is heartfelt and affecting.

Kevin & Seamus Sheridan, with Catherine Cleary: The Sheridans Guide to Cheese (Transworld)
There is nothing in the food world as fascinating as cheese, and the great achievement of the Sheridan brothers book is that it is alive to the very magic of milk, and cheese, and the processes that create a multitude of cheeses out of several simple varieties of milk. Cheesemaking has always been a profession that is on-the-edge, and the only profession more on-the-edge than cheesemaking is the business of maturing and selling cheeses. Sheridans have been working at the real cutting edge for 25 years, and their book reveals that their own outlier status is why they are so understanding of cheesemaking, and sympathic to cheesemakers. These guys are a national treasure

Sandra A. Gutierrez: Empanadas The Hand-held Pies of Latin America (Stewart, Tabori & Chang)
Two things mark this book out before you ever get to baking these scrumptious hand-held pies. First, the pastries: Gutierrez gives no less than ten dough recipes, including plantain dough, cornmeal and cassava dough, and the classic master dough. The second is the deep freezing advice. If you’re going to the trouble of making them, it’s really useful to know freezing techniques and make ahead for a party.

Jennifer McLagan: Bitter A Taste of the World’s Most Dangerous Flavor (10 Speed Press)
Bitter is a fascinating study of the foods we learn to love: coffee, beer, Campari, radicchio, turnips, dark chocolate… And alongside an absorbing selection of recipes, there are an informed series of chapters relating science, lore, medicinal, and history of this complex taste. This is a book you’ll go back to again and again.

Peter Meehan: Lucky Peach 101 East Asian Recipes (Potter)
So, how are you going to use those odd ingredients in your larder, the jar of doenjang, the Chinkiang vinegar, glutinous rice flour, the sweet potato noodles? Illustrated with an amusing selection of ironic vintage-style photos showing aproned ladies with purple rubber gloves, or omelette “housed” in ketchup, this book is very very clever, very very useful, and a whole lot of fun.

Jordan Bourke & Rejina Pyo: Our Korean Kitchen (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Ireland’s newest food ambassador abroad is Jordan Bourke, a guy who is getting better known all the time. And now that this book has been shortlisted for the prestigious André Simon Award, Jordan looks unstoppable: we await the YouTube videos. It's great to see, because Jordan and Rejina have put together a stylish text that opens up this super healthy cuisine to curious cooks.

Michael O’Meara: Sea Gastronomy (Artisan House)
Wow! is the usual reaction when opening this über-text on seafood, both a love-letter to and a fantastic record of the marine environment that informs this Galway restaurateur.There is so much learning here. Did you know that lobsters never stop growing, or that urchin is an old English name for hedgehog? Impressive.

Clodagh McKenna: Clodagh’s Kitchen Diaries
There is a suspicion with celebrity chefs, who produce multiple texts on an almost annual basis, that they actually don’t do very much writing, and bring out books far too often. This could not be said of Clodagh, who spent four years writing this month by month collection of favourite recipes. We’ve followed Clodagh from working a Bantry Market Stall to having her image projected in Times Square and, we’ve noted, the secret behind her success is talent and hard work.

Diana Henry: A Bird In The Hand (Mitchell Beazley)
Diana Henry restores one’s faith in a world of publishing that can seem uninformed and celebrity driven. How would writers like Marcella Hazan, Claudia Roden, Deborah Madison and their like ever have come to prominence in the modern-day tv – and now YouTube – led generation of cooks? So we must thank our lucky stars every time a book of Diana's is published.

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