Serve hearty soup and rustic bread for St. Patrick’s Day

Serve hearty soup and rustic bread for St. Patrick’s Day

No corned beef and cabbage for us this year. As we were contemplating a lighter meal to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, we turned to two new cookbooks by great Irish chefs. We've written before about Darina Allen, the cookbook author and co-founder of the Ballymaloe Cookery School, which is located on an organic farm in County Cork. Her new book, Simply Delicious: The Classic Collection (2019, Kyle Books, $29.99), gathers some of her favorite recipes from her television cooking show and cookbook series of the same name. The 100 recipes illustrate Allen's love of traditional Irish cooking as well as her enthusiasm for cuisines around the world. They represent her straightforward approach to creating good, flavorful food. We have to admit that we were initially...Read More
Tipperary’s first releases hint of great things to come

Tipperary’s first releases hint of great things to come

With clear spirits grabbing most of the attention these days, it's great to see that whiskey, too, is having its moment. Kentucky's big distilling companies are spawning specialty offspring almost daily, it seems. New Scotch whiskies are proliferating at such a rate that we wonder if the turf-cutters can keep up. And now we have an intriguing offering from an Irish boutique distillery that launched in March 2016. Tipperary Boutique Distillery (Newtownadam, Cahir, County Tipperary; is a joint project of three talents. Jennifer Nickerson, who grew up in the Scotch whisky industry, manages the company. Stuart Nickerson, a 35-year veteran of Irish and Scottish distilleries, advises on the technical issues. Liam Ahearn, Jennifer's fiance, grows the barley on his family's Ballindoney Farm outside Clonmel....Read More
Darina Allen takes food from seed to plate

Darina Allen takes food from seed to plate

Talk about good timing. When it gets cold and snowy here in New England, we pull out the seed catalogs and start planning our summer garden. Right on cue, GROW COOK NOURISH (Kyle Books, $45) by Darina Allen arrived in the mail. It's the 16th book for the Irish chef and co-founder of the Ballymaloe Cookery School (Shanagarry, County Cork, Ireland, +353 21 464 6785, In a bit of understatement, Allen terms the thick volume a “kitchen garden companion.” It's truly a guide to growing, preparing, and sometimes preserving vegetables, fruits, herbs, and edible flowers. She covers pretty much every fruit and vegetable we've ever heard of and many that we haven't. We were so impressed that we arranged to speak with her by...Read More

Jawbox Gin embodies the spirit of Belfast

Gerry White has spent his career in the bar trade and has been manager of the John Hewitt ( for the last 12 years. He has pulled many a pint of Guinness and poured countless shots of Black Bush. “But the only spirit I've ever enjoyed,” he says, “is gin.” He is, in fact, passionate about gin—and about his native city of Belfast. For several years he had been mulling over a project to create his own gin. He even had the taste profile he was seeking in his head. “Two and a half years ago, I told myself I'll kick myself if I didn't try,” he recalls, taking a seat at our table at the John Hewitt to relate the story. “Belfast is a...Read More

Steak and Guinness Pie a pub standard

Pretty much wherever you go in Northern Ireland, chances are good that the pub has steak and Guinness pie on the menu. In recent years, many places have taken to plopping a piece of separately cooked puff pastry on top of the beef stew. This version is deliciously retrograde. It uses a classic butter pastry crust. The dish is traditional but every cook adds a personal touch. This version is adapted from several sources. Don't be surprised by the inclusion of sharp cheddar cheese. It makes a real difference in the flavor and the crust. STEAK AND GUINNESS PIE Serves 4 Ingredients For Stew 4 tablespoons butter, divided large red onion, chopped 6 cloves garlic, minced 3 carrots, peeled and chopped 3 ribs celery, chopped...Read More

Pub crawl reveals Cathedral Quarter riches

After falling on hard times, Belfast's Cathedral Quarter has been enjoying boom years of late. The district is named for St. Anne's, a grand structure of the Church of Ireland though not technically a cathedral since it is not a bishop's seat. The church anchors the 18th century warehouse district north of the city center. The “cathedral” was erected 1899-1903 as an expression of Belfast's industrial wealth and power at the cusp of the 19th and 20th centuries. These days the Cathedral Quarter is an area more for fun than the backbreaking labor of teamsters and longshoremen. Its atmospheric warren of narrow streets, alleys, cul-de-sacs, and byways is studded with small shops and pubs. Ancient city walls are splashed with colorful murals (like the Dali-esque...Read More

Made in Belfast’s pork belly dish delivers pig ecstasy

We dream of returning to restaurants around the globe just for one dish. Made in Belfast is one of those restaurants, and the dish (above) is the “crispy outdoor bred pork belly.” It's on the menu in every season. Only the accompaniments change. In early November, the pork belly came on a bed of mashed potato and roasted squash with two kinds of croquettes. One contained black pudding (blood sausage) and apple. The other had roasted pulled pork. Pieces of broccoli and cauliflower nestled beside the meat, while a cabbage-carrot slaw in creamy sauce puddled on one edge. The garlicky pork jus pulled all the flavors together. This was a brilliant 21st century adaptation of traditional Irish fare. The veggies were fresh and bright. The...Read More

Jeffers Home Bakery bakes Irish staff of life

Whenever we travel in Ireland, Pat's mother always requests that we bring her home some soda bread farls. Now in her 90s, she still remembers her own mother, a native of County Armagh, cooking the four triangular pieces on a hot griddle. For us, it's a good request since it guarantees that we seek out a homey traditional bakery. In Belfast, that was Jeffers Home Bakery (4-6 College Street, 028 9032 7157,, right across the street from Sawers in the downtown shopping district. The operation started small in East Belfast when William Jeffers bought a van in 1937 and began delivering bread from Thompson's Bakery. By 1950 he had purchased the first bakery of his own and the little business began to grow. Andrew...Read More

Co Couture embodies the artistry of chocolate

Deirdre McCanny had never made a chocolate in her life when she decided to leave her job in international sales and marketing to start a chocolate shop in Belfast. From modest beginnings in her apartment, she moved into her cozy shop with a big workroom in back in December 2009. It's just a few steps down from the sidewalk on the corner of Donegall Square East, literally around the corner from Belfast City Hall. It has become, as Deirdre calls it, “a chocolate oasis in the city center.” The first time we visited, a regular customer had just stopped in for a cup of hot chocolate and a cherry-sencha truffle as a treat at the end of the work day. (The tart cherry and herbaceous...Read More