Hospitality legend Maura O’Connell Foley’s inspiring entrepreneurial life is recounted as appetisingly as the accessible and delicious Irish recipes contained within her new cookbook, My Wild Atlantic Kitchen – Recipes & Recollections.
Maura O’Connell Foley’s cookbook My Wild Atlantic Kitchen – Recipes & Recollections is clad in a handsome, deep seagreen cover. Wild Atlantic surf froths in the top right corner. A dashing title and the author’s name are embossed in silver.
A dusky bronze woven book mark slips out from in between its 408 pages. In short, the cookbook, further illustrated by atmospheric Irish landscape and food photography, is bloody gorgeous ...
As well as classic Irish recipes, it also contains inspiring musings of a life in food, written engagingly by O’Connell Foley. Those musings also serve as a celebration of the great Irish larder, with many of the best Irish food producers present and accounted for. Meanwhile, the wild and farmed ingredients for which we are so famed are also exalted.
Formative days: as a child watching her mother, Agnes (“she cooked exquisitely and had an excellent palate”) baking in the family home in Kenmare are fondly remembered
The book begins – after a charming foreword from chef Derry Clarke – with a brief introduction, followed by a potted history of the entrepreneurial chef’s career journey in food and hospitality.
Mostly self-taught, O’Connell Foley attended a short course at Le Cordon Bleu in London in the 1960s and undertook stages with some of the decade’s greatest chefs, including Sonia Stevenson, the first woman to earn a Michelin star in the UK.
Formative days, as a child watching her mother Agnes (“she cooked exquisitely and had an excellent palate”) baking in the Kenmare family home, are fondly remembered, as well as later visits to the – part-owned by Michael Caine – glamorous Langan’s Brasserie in London, a staple of gastro showbiz gossip throughout the 1970s and '80s.
As restaurateur, O’Connell Foley also recalls her experiences as a businesswoman – from her original café, Riverside, which she ran with her mother, to opening the still hugely popular The Purple Heather in 1963.
There have been other businesses and restaurants featuring her great Irish recipes along the way, including the widely-lauded Shelburn Lodge, a fine Georgian guesthouse, opened in 1990, which she still runs to this day, alongside a talented team that includes her genial husband, Tom Foley.
Further on, the book is conveniently divided into various sections featuring Irish recipes for: Breakfast, Starters, Fish, Meat, Vegetables, Desserts & Baking, Dinner Parties and so, deliciously, on.
There is also a very useful Cooking Notes chapter, which is solid, practical reading for any keen kitchen confidante – novice and expert alike – listing the pantry staples and must-have accessories essential to running an efficient and versatile Irish kitchen. As with the recipes, all of the information is presented in an accessible manner, with style and close attention to detail.
A great instinctive cook, throughout her recipes, O’Connell Foley exhibits a firm understanding of the concept of imbuing a dish with stylish simplicity.
Meanwhile, when it comes to showcasing fantastic Irish ingredients, she also displays a solid grasp of how to enhance flavour without too much flounce or distraction.
For anyone worth their Wild Atlantic sea salt, particularly in this age of celebrating the best of hyper-local, classic Irish cooking, this is a must-have addition to the cookbook shelf, not to mention an inspiring look at one of Ireland’s great food and hospitality heroes.
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