Thursday, 21 February 2008

Irish inspiration

There's not much these days that really makes me sit up and take notice, and pause for thought. Could be because I'm not as young as I used to be, or because I'm a right cynical old moo - or both. Whatever, it's a rare event.

I couldn't help but be intrigued recently by Wendy's enthusiasm at a new book. The recipes she'd tried looked pretty good, too. Oh, and all the recipes were based entirely on vegetables. For someone who's been rather off meat since a nasty dose of the novovirus over Christmas, this looked and sounded particularly promising.

So, in a burst of unusual rashness and abandon, I clicked over to Amazon, ticked the box that says 'yes, take all my money. AGAIN', and waited.

A couple of days later, it arrived.

wild garlic, gooseberries... and me

I know. It looks much like any other book, albeit it has a rather fetching front cover illustration.

It's not. From cover to contents, from start to finish, it's simply quite beautiful. It's a hardback, properly bound, complete with ribbon bookmarker - delightful to hold and use. The font is highly readable, and the photos are utterly sumptuous.

The contents are bewitching. Denis Cotter, chef proprietor of Cafe Paradiso, writes like an angel about his food memories, his fascination for vegetables, the joys of foraging, and the marvels of seasonality. He is lyrical, informative, enthusiastic, and entrancing, all at the same time. What a blessed combination.

And then there are the recipes. Cotter spent time cooking at Cranks, the early bastion of vegetarian cooking. One of the reasons he left, he says, is that he became frustrated at the mundaneness of their dishes, and wanted to explore the very limits of what vegetables could offer. Boy, does he succeed.

Denis Cotter recipe 2

Yes, there are still ordinary vegetables in here amongst the recipes, but they are transformed into extraordinary, exquisite plates of food. But Cotter also makes room for more magical, less visited vegetables, such as samphire, sea kale, cime de rapa, Abyssinian cabbage, chanterelles, puffballs, salsify, and many others - again using his unique alchemy to produce food from the realms of dreams.

Denis Cotter recipe 1

Wendy was absolutely right. This is a very special book indeed. If you buy just one book this year, I urge you to make it this one. You won't regret it.

19 comments:

Jules said...

I've been eyeing up the book for a while and your review has inspired me to buy it. I wonder if I can sneak it on the booksheles without Hubby noticing I've bought yet another food book ;)

Wendy said...

Glad you love it as much as I do!

Antonia said...

I spotted this on Wendy's blog too and your post has really tempted me to buy it too, I must say. My cookbook collection is getting out of hand - I may have to resort to a 'one in, one out' system soon!!

Indigo said...

I've seen that book around but never opened it up to take a look - I'm glad it's a good one! Will have to see if there's anyone I can borrow it off, I think...

Kate / Kajal said...

this book looks nice .. looks like i'll have to get me a copy :)
thanks for sharing.

Toni said...

This book looks like a must-have! I adore cookbooks that give a fresh take on vegetables!

Cakelaw said...

That's a ringing endorsement - I will have to check this one out.

Cynthia said...

Okay, it now in the favourites :)

Manggy said...

I didn't even know sea spinach was used outside Asia :) I love books that take food to the next level!

Pixie said...

Sounds like a wonderful cookbook that I will just have to add to my wish list!

Rosie said...

I am so glad you blogged about this book. I have been wondering for a while about buying this book and now you've sold me the idea. On my list of buys for next month!!

Rosie x

Sylvie said...

You should get a percentage for increasing the sales figures of the book. Your review has me very tempted to nip over to Amazon myself! ;-)

cookworm said...

I keep seeing reviews of this book and yours has finally pushed me to buy it. Thanks! I've eaten at Cafe Paradiso and the food really is fantastic. Cork is a surprising little wonderland for vegetarians.

Maryann said...

This sounds like a beauty. I have a love for old books,especially with ribbon markers :)

michelle @ Us vs. Food said...

i will gladly give amazon all my money for my cookbook. okay, maybe not *all* my money. but i'm definitely looking to expand the veggie section of my cookbook library.

lorraine@italianfoodies said...

Denis Cotter is well loved here and is really popular! I've never eaten in his restaurant but it is on my "to do list"!! I've heard great things about it so I'm looking forward to it!!

Browners said...

I love your comments "So, in a burst of unusual rashness and abandon, I clicked over to Amazon, ticked the box that says 'yes, take all my money. AGAIN', and waited."

I land up doing that all the time! But then again I do love Amazon. Think I might well press that button myself.

Great blog.

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