It had been my intention to review this cookbook on St. Patrick’s Day, but my timings were a bit off. So here we are a few days later, but my positive experience with this book works year-round.
I really like The Irish Pub Cookbook because beyond its quality recipes it is a book you can read. Placed throughout are informational sections about a variety of pubs all over Ireland as well as the recipes. It’s a celebration of over 70 pub classics as well as pubs themselves with photos, history, and lore. Author Margaret Johnson is on a mission to inform Americans that contemporary Irish cooking means not just a rustic, hearty Irish classics such as stew with brown soda bread, but also “fancier” fare sophisticated as dishes found in restaurants around the world. There are certainly recipes included that cover some well-trod territory (is it really an Irish cookbook without Shepherd’s Pie?), but the “Blackboard Specials” sections lean towards the gourmet. Some were developed by the Irish Food Board to promote traditional Irish products to modern chefs and consumers.
This is a book written for the American audience – occasionally there are ingredients listed which are common in the states (half and half) that are not common across the pond. I haven’t done most of the recipes, but the ones I’ve done have come out well, but most importantly the ones I’ve read that are things I cook otherwise have improved my abilities. My soda bread hasn’t been as good as its been the past year ever before. But that does bring me to the only drawback that I can spot (I’m sure others might find different ones) is that there are quite a few recipes which are variations on each other. But that really isn’t the worst thing, and when I went hunting for soda bread to check proportions (which is what I do with recipes of things I already know how to make, seeing if I can refine my method) there were two, back-to-back, which I found helpful not harmful.