Be really suspicious of a good looking spud…
I knew, once Paul Rankin had uttered those words, that here was someone I could talk to in spud terms.
Scottish-born and Northern Irish-bred, Paul Rankin made a name for himself in the troubled Belfast of the ’80s and ’90s, scoring Northern Ireland’s first Michelin star in 1991 with Roscoff, the restaurant he ran with his then wife, Jeanne.
Cookery books, TV appearances – most recently in the series Paul and Nick’s Big Food Trip, with friend and fellow chef, Nick Nairn – and other restaurant interests followed over the years and, since 2002 Paul has, in partnership with Irwin’s Bakery, lent his name to the Rankin Selection, a range of Irish breads and other products which retail in Ireland and the U.K. (including potato farls, of which more anon). Last March, however, saw the end of an era, when Paul closed the doors of his only remaining restaurant, Cayenne, citing problems caused by the flags protests in Belfast.
Chef Paul Rankin
(image courtesy of Aiken PR)
Unsurprisingly, Paul has a lot to say about restaurants and Belfast and Irish food, and it was my pleasure, a number of weeks back, to chat with him about all of those things, and about Christmas too, and – inevitably – potatoes. He is, as I discovered, a man who is very particular about same.
What, do you suppose, is the collective noun most appropriately applied to a set of newly acquired cookbooks?
An anticipation perhaps, or an expectation – it is those things to begin with. As their numbers rise – and certainly once it approaches double digits – it becomes more of a saturation – perhaps even an impossibility – as you realise that their sheer numbers may defeat you.
I have been watching the pile of newly published and Irish-authored cookbooks grow steadily on my kitchen table, especially over the last month or two – Gill & Macmillan having been kind enough to send review copies of several recently published titles, added to a slew of acquisitions at book launches and elsewhere, many written by friends and fellow bloggers and writers – not to mention others that I have flicked through and (somehow) resisted acquiring. Here follows a run down for anyone in the mood to expand their own collection (though perhaps not all at once).
The description, in the Irish Beef Book, of the eye of the round, tells us that it is the shape of this cut that gives it its alternative designation – namely ‘salmon’ of beef. There is also a note about the champion Irish racehorse “said to have been named after the inevitable, unchanging main course choices offered to guests at functions held in Dublin’s Burlington Hotel.” It is perhaps no small irony, in the light of the horse meat scandal earlier this year, that ‘Beef or Salmon‘ was the name of that noted steed.
Ballycotton's finest: you know you're in East Cork when...
I seek ’em here, I seek ’em there, I seek them potatoes everywhere (a fact which, to be fair, will come as no surprise to even the most cursory reader of this blog).
And so it was in East Cork a few weeks back, when a trip to the Midleton Farmers’ Market by your intrepid spud reporter yielded a bag of Willie Scannell’s best. These are potatoes of quite some repute, grown on salty clifftop fields near the picturesque fishing village of Ballycotton and supplied, among others, to the renowned Ballymaloe House nearby, so I could hardly have let a trip to the area pass without scoring a bag or two. They crowned a visit to East Cork which had originated with an invitation to Barnabrow House. A few miles out the road from Midleton, and just shy of Ballymaloe, it had been my East Cork home for a night.
Around Barnabrow Country House