My favourite Irish cookbook: ‘Use it to cook for people you love, or hope to persuade to love you’

Willy Clingan, managing editor

 

It’s a first cookery book by a much less familiar name than Darina Allen or Donal Skehan, but it’s the new Irish cook book to buy for yourself, or to give as a Christmas present, when it reaches the shops on November 7th.

From Lynda’s Table, the recipes, cookery lessons, food philosophies and life story of Lynda Booth, who runs the Dublin Cookery School in Blackrock, invites you to sign up to working a little harder at your cooking in order to eat much, much better. There’s no glib stuff about cooking made simpler, easier and faster (although many of the recipes are straightforward). And there’s a fair bit of washing up along the way with some of the recipes, as I discovered with the pots and pans involved in the aubergine and lentil moussaka.

But more than any other cookery book this autumn, this is the one to lift your ambitions and help you to realise them.

First, it draws you in. “I like a cookery book with plenty of reading as well as plenty of recipes,” she writes. And then it instructs – it’s written to make you feel she is behind you, pointing and encouraging the way she does in the cookery school. “My hunch is that people who buy cookery books are also looking to keep learning, to continue extending themselves,” she says.

Chefs turned cookery writers like Simon Hopkinson bring their own magic, but Darina Allen has proved that cookery teachers bring clarity and good things to eat.

Lynda Booth is a Ballymaloe graduate who spent many years working in restaurants around the world before opening her cookery school several years ago. From the outset, she had the perfectionist drive – a kind of masochism – which affects the best professional cooks.

She was having trouble getting on top of Italian cooking, so the solution was to persuade Franco Taruschio at the Walnut Tree in Abergavenny – then regarded as the best Italian restaurant in the UK – to let her come by for a few weeks. She took the boat to Holyhead and “stood at Franco’s side for a month. He did not teach me directly. It was more that I watched him talking as he cooked. I tasted when he tasted . . . ”

She found herself living in Oxford when her husband Richard was working there. Raymond Blanc’s Michelin-starred Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons was the obvious place for her to work, but she knew she hadn’t done enough to get taken on in the kitchen. “I decided not even to darken the door.” Instead, she paced up and down the gravel pathway until Monsieur Blanc appeared. “I pounced on him’” and 15 minutes later she had talked her way in.

It’s a joyful, life-affirming book that teaches techniques as well as coming up with new recipes. It has food for all times of day and all seasons. Buy it for inspiration, open it for the pleasure of reading about food and use it when you’re in the mood and have a bit of time to cook for people you love, or hope to persuade to love you.

For the other days when time and energy are short, but you still want something good, there is also the perfect book this season – Nigel Slater’s Eat, which has 600 recipes for when you just want to eat and life is too short for seeking perfection.

But it’ll be Lynda’s book that’ll woo the people you’re cooking for and raise you to greater things.

From Lynda’s Table is €24.99,

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