You might not recognise the name Paula McIntyre but she is, in fact, one of Northern Ireland’s top chefs. Paula trained at the Johnson and Wales Culinary Arts School in the USA before opening the award-winning Undrie restaurant in Manchester. She now gives private and corporate cooking lessons at Ghan House, Carlingford in Northern Ireland. But perhaps her finest hour was beating Paul Rankin on Ready, Steady Cook.
A Kitchen Year is Paula’s first book although she is an accomplished food writer and broadcaster. It’s a light and airy volume with marvellous photography by Hugh McElveen. The focus is on fresh and local ingredients and the changes that each new season brings. It’s a popular theme these days but that’s the way it should be if you have any regard for yourself or the environment.
The book is divided, as you would expect, by month and the recipes are well chosen. Paula has a good selection of dishes for both meat eaters and vegetarians. There are traditional favourites but the overall impression is of contemporary, healthy and delicious. The food isn’t over-chefy but is smart, and practical for the home cook.
January starts with an international flavour of Chorizo and Potato Empanadas served with Roast Garlic, Red Onion and Chilli Mojo. It might sound complicated but the Mojo is made in advance so you can have a stylish starter or snack in no time.
Sarbled Fadge sounds like something from Edward Lear who penned such gems as The Dong with a Luminous Nose and The Akond of Swat. It is, in fact, traditional potato bread which has the unique addition of a little polenta or maize meal. It might not seem very Irish but maize meal was sent from America at the time of the famine.
We should all eat more fish, and Moroccan-Spiced Mackerel is tempting. The seasoning is cardamom, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds and smoked paprika. Gone are the days of cheap fish but at least the humble mackerel is a reasonable price and it’s one of those oily fish that is so good for your health.
A Kitchen Year offers some truly different and delightful dishes. Festive Spiced Ham Terrine with Pomegranate Molasses Dressing might be a bit of a mouthful but you could use leftover ham to cut down on the preparation – another great make-ahead starter for Christmas. And talking of Christmas, how about White Chocolate, Orange and Cranberry Fudge? It looks festive and tastes luxurious with a hint of Grand Marnier. Paula says this fudge will last for up to two weeks. I don’t think so!
A Kitchen Year is a book full of innovation and I personally love Paula’s choice of recipes. The food reflects modern tastes and it’s bound to become a popular seasonal cookbook. Paula McIntyre should be proud. I look forward to more books but this one will be hard to beat.
A Kitchen Year
Author: Paula McIntyre
Published by: Gill and Macmillan
Price: £ 14.99, €18.99
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018