Book Club
One good thing about the Irish winter is that it gives you the perfect excuse to hunker down with your head in a book. Pick from our fine selection and send us your thoughts!

Me Time

Over the course of the Second World War, thousands of Allied soldiers were taken prisoner by the Japanese Imperial Army, kept in prisoner of war camps under often horrific conditions, with daily beatings, meagre rations and back-breaking work the norm. Mixed up in the middle of that horror was a young RAF medical officer from Cork, Dr Aidan MacCarthy. Author Bob Jackson first learned of Aidan MacCarthy in 1999, when a customer in The Rendevouz bar in Cork city told him the story of a Corkman who had survived the brutal Japanese POW camps. Also featured in a 2015 documentary of the same name which was produced by Jackson, MacCarthy’s harrowing story unfolds between the pages of A Doctor’s Sword, which expands on MacCarthy’s own memoir to include a more in depth view of the fascinating story, taking the reader on a journey from an idyllic life in Castletownbere in Co Cork to the large scale evacuation from Dunkirk at the beginning of the war, the horrors of a Japanese prison camp in Nagasaki, and the day the atomic bomb dropped on the coastal city. Speaking to RTE radio in 1995, MacCarthy was characteristically understated when he asked about why he survived. “A combination of my Irish Catholic heritage, my family background and lots and lots of luck,” he replied.

Compiled and edited by broadcaster and historian John Bowman, Ireland: The Autobiography is a rich collection of eyewitness accounts and recollections from the last century of Irish life. Running in chronological order, each account – all of which have been mined from archives, diaries and memoirs – offers an engrossing glimpse at a given moment in Irish history. Such is the diversity of the material that it covers everything from an Eamon de Valera address to Winston Churchill in 1945 on the issue of Ireland’s neutrality to poet Patrick Kavanagh being cross-examined in court where he was taking libel action against Leader magazine over a profile it published of him. It also includes topics such as the Troubles in the North, the decline of the Irish language, clerical celibacy, the housing market crash and even the meaning of Ryanair. Many will know Bowman from his Sunday morning radio programme on RTÉ Radio 1 when he takes a look back through the RTÉ Radio archives and presents some of his favourite recordings. The Dubliner clearly has a talent for mining files from the past and it’s there to see in this wide-ranging portrait of a country which has over the past century undergone significant political, social and cultural change.

A story spanning three decades and yet one as old as time. An Irish homecoming with all it entails, emigrants and arguments, the under-appreciated and the over blown. Rosaleen, the mammy, in a fit of pique signs off her Christmas cards with “I’m selling the house”.  This emotional magnet pulls her children home for one last Christmas in the family home. Drama, prejudice, ignorance and self delusion are served up in a very raw state. However, there is also forgiveness, a recognition that we are not as we were in the 80s and a sort of moving on, after all, life in Ireland has its own pattern. Written as cleanly and sharply as a surgeons blade, with not a word wasted, this book is impossible to put down.

With his tongue firmly in cheek, in his latest book Corless takes us on an entertaining trip down memory lane to the age of Radio Caroline, holidays in Butlin’s Mosney and Dáithí Lacha. Corless brings us on an entertaining tour of 1960s Irish society through the eyes of a child. Set against a backdrop of the space-race and the miniskirt, this is a delightful celebration of the days we thought would never end – and some we’re glad are gone forever.

Cook the books

From the markets stalls of South East Asia to the kitchens of the Middle East, Garrett Fitzgerald has brought his love of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine to the streets of Dublin and now to the pages of his first cookbook, The Brother Hubbard Cookbook. Fitzgerald invites you to join him and share his culinary journey through casual, accessible and deceptively (but not exclusively) vegetarian dishes, infused with spices, seeds, herbs, oils and whole lot of taste. The book is broadly divided into appetising meals, nourishing treats and indulgent drinks, accompanied by four yellow ribbons to mark your culinary discoveries as you browse. There is also supporting techniques, tips and tricks to help dress up even the simplest of dishes. While the cookbook is filled with delicious recipes for you to discover, it is also imbued with Fitzgerald’s ideology of being part of the cooking process, enjoying the art of combining ingredients, and adding your own touches to make a dish your own. It is a cookbook created to be be used, whether is adding your own notes in the margins, a splattering of sauce to the pages or using a stray herb as a bookmark.

Catherine Fulvio is well known for her Italian cookbooks and TV shows but this new title is firmly rooted in her Wicklow homestead, Ballyknocken House. It’s a terrific compendium covering everything from breakfast dishes to the perfect Christmas dinner. Written in a friendly, approachable style you can sense the authors voice throughout. The recipes strike the right balance between being accessible and offering the more experienced cook the opportunity to elevate their cooking and try more ambitious dishes — without ever becoming overly fussy.  This is very much a farm-to-fork book, showcasing the best of seasonal ingredients in elegant home-cooking. From wholesome farmhouse soups, pastries, pies, vegetable dishes and casseroles to jams, preserves and deserts this is an extensive collection of recipes and know-how. It would be difficult to find a recipe here that you wouldn’t want to try and the casually styled images make it all the more appealing. Beautifully photographed and designed, A Taste of Home, balances tantalising insights from the author with evocative images, redolent of her carefree childhood, and offers a glimpse into the history of Ballyknocken house.  A Taste of Home feels like a journey through food with a very amiable companion. This is the perfect cookbook. You can try Catherine’s Winter Rabbit Casserole and Mustard and Spinach Mash recipes in our 12 Chefs of Christmas special on page 40.

Chef Gearóid Lynch suffered from the common symptoms of coeliac disease since childhood, but the eventual diagnosis as an adult led to frustration when he discovered just how prevalent gluten is in our diet. Rather than giving up and settling for a life of bland food, he began formulating his own versions of favourite meals, which he has now gathered in this sumptuous hardback. Covering every mealtime from breakfast to desserts, this is more than just a niche cookbook. A lengthy introduction goes through the practicalities of going gluten-free, and advises cooks on the best ingredients to have in the store cupboard. A comprehensive glossary of naturally gluten-free foods, safe grains and useful beans and pulses is also included. The recipes themselves are the right mix between hearty Irish favourites and showstopping dishes worthy of any dinner party. Standout recipes include Camembert Quiche, a warming Beef Hotpot with Horseradish Mash, and a stunning Cherry Clafoutis. There’s even a homemade Tomato Ketchup for those missing their table sauces. There is particular emphasis on gluten-free versions of breads, desserts, stocks and sauces, the dishes that traditionally are troublesome for gluten-free eaters. Beautifully illustrated throughout, these recipes will ensure that food lovers miss out on nothing when they cut out gluten.

From the most basic recipe to complete family meals this is the perfect gift for a young family or fledgling flying the nest.

Vegetarian recipes, endlessly varied, packed full of flavour and amazingly easy to prepare!

Derval O’Rourke believes that the secret to being your healthiest happiest self is to eat well and keep moving.

Author Insight
Josephine Ryan speaking with Orla Ryan

Josephine Ryan confesses that her extensive and varied career transitioning from antiques dealer, to designer, stylist and latterly author was largely due to her parents influence. Her English-born mother and and Irish father, ignited her appreciation for all things historical. “My parents both went to auctions and collected antiques. My mother was brought up on Jersey during the Nazi occupation so I was also very interested in history. And for some reason I always loved old houses, even when I was a child,” she explained. During her time in the design world Josephine was involved in an exhibition at Somerset House, for which Prince Charles was a patron. “I was one of nine designers asked to create a room themed around wool.” Josephine styled a vintage lounge space, composed of raw wood, woollen pieces and an abundance of neutral tones. During a conversation with HRH Prince Charles, he informed Josephine that her creation was his favourite. “That was a huge highlight,” she recalls. When Josephine was asked by James Fennell to get involved in the Hidden Ireland project she didn’t hesitate, as she explains, “It wasn’t the kind of invitation you turn down because it’s such a high profile publication.”  The book allowed her to explore her interest in historical architecture and revisit Ireland, which had been her home throughout her teenage years. “I always wanted to go back to Ireland and having done Essentially Irish and now this I have more work links with Ireland which I didn’t have. That for me was a huge attraction to doing the book,” she said. Josephine has a number of Irish-based projects lined up in the near future that are sure to keep her connected to Ireland, her second home, for quite some time.

Do you yearn for a simpler life, a time without the constant ping of snapchat, messenger and facebook, a time when you were not expected to be contactable 24/7? Do you remember going away for a few days and leaving the kids with your mum, checking in once (maybe twice) but trusting that they will find the clean underwear/read the pizza instructions without having to call you every five minutes? Well, I give you the gift of time travel. Peruse the pages of Hidden Ireland, a magnificent collection of private homes in Ireland offering seasonal accommodation, and compile your escape list. Beautifully shot by James Fennell and evocatively written by Josephine Ryan, the book is as inviting as a stay in one of these wonderful houses. Having stayed recently in the Rosnaree House in Slane (page 144), I can only say they must have had a tough job distilling down the shots used. Thanks to James and Josephine, I now have an extended bucket list, Frewin House (pictured above) is top of the wish list for 2017.