In the west of Ireland, the word pumpkin is used to describe anything large and orange. Photograph: iStock

Whether tiny or a two-hand job, this seasonal vegetable can be enjoyed many ways

Take a few yellow and green courgettes and chop them into evenly-sized pieces...

JP McMahon: Spelt with roasted vegetables and herbs will produce a filling alternative to leaves

Fresh kohlrabi: in Germany they eat them like apples. Photograph: iStock

Thank the rain for the wonderful vegetables, and rediscover the benefits of brassicas

When I say tomatoes, I’m talking about heritage or heirloom tomatoes.  Photograph: iStock

Avoid the uniform red ovals on supermarket shelves; they don’t taste like tomatoes

As well as making jam, or apple and blackberry pie, blackberries also pair well with fish. Photograph: iStock

Mackerel, tuna, and trout all work with blackberries and I urge you to try them

Mussels are delicious and easy to cook. Photograph: iStock

A bowl of mussels is a cheap and nutritious dish, something that we should all eat regularly

Combined with butter and sea salt, potatoes  must be close to the most beautiful food I can imagine

We are turning away from the spud and don’t even grow enough in Ireland to feed ourselves

Glazed Chicken Drumsticks with a Sweet and Sour Sauce, Bread and Salad. Photograph: iStock

Most of us never purchase the legs of the chicken. Have you realised how much cheaper they are?

‘Peas and broad beans are great by themselves or served with some roasted leg of lamb.’ Photograph: iStock

JP McMahon: These great plate companions could not be simpler to prepare

Halve the cherries and macerate for two to three hours in some sweet sherry. Photograph: iStock

Pairing sweet and savoury is a classic combination and Cherries, raspberries, redcurrants and even plums are in season

Surf ’n’ turf became hugely popular in the 1990s. Photograph: iStock

Forget the aberration of beef and chewy prawns – try scallops and black pudding or monkfish and oxtail

As a summation of all things Irish and a tradition that is fast passing, we should all chew on a pig’s foot occasionally.

Food and literature: both feed mind and body and give us energy to get through the day

There is more to succulent strawberries than just whipped cream.

Combination of strawberries and cream said to have been created by Cardinal Wolsey for Henry VIII

Smoking the yoghurt might seem adventurous, but in truth it is simple. Photograph: Getty

We lack vision when it comes to using yoghurt in cooking: use it as a summer sauce or smoke it over hay

Wild garlic: get it now, before it’s gone. Photograph: iStock

There doesn’t seem to be a country in Europe that doesn’t have a wild garlic dish

Cucumbers came very late to Ireland. Photograph: iStock

There’s more to this fruit than slicing them for a salad

Seaweed: Bláth na Mara is a  family-run company that handpicks seaweed on the island of Inis Mór

Creating a feast of wild green edibles on the Aran Islands

‘But it has eyes,’ exclaims my daughter. Photograph: iStock

We should be eating shellfish more and meat a little less, and lobsters are easy to cook

Theodora Fitzgibbon in 1985. Fitzgibbon wrote a number of books about Irish food and food culture, including A Taste of Ireland in 1968. Photograph: Tom Lawlor/The Irish Times

The cookery writer helped to put Irish produce and food culture on the map

Grilled fish on a campfire .

But if you must have meat, an outdoor pizza oven is a great way to roast chicken, just rub the bird with oil, salt and chopped her(...)

Mushrooms bruschetta with cream cheese on the Tray.

Mushrooms constitute a good alternative healthy option for vegetable-forward dishes

Asparagus tip: this vegetable should cook in no time – just keep swirling the pot continuously

Here is a beautifully quick risotto that even the novice cook can pull off

Heap of fresh blue borage flowers

JP McMahon: Some chefs don’t like flowers, they find them too feminine

Beer-battered fish: the perfect dinner for a cold night in April. Photograph: iStock

JP McMahon: Turn free greens into oil or mayo and eat with fried fish

Oysters in their shell. We added a little buttermilk and chive oil – just for a little greenness –  on the ones we served on St Patrick’s Day

JP McMahon: I love the ways the tangy acidity complements the briny richness of the oyster

Being able to chat about how a particular vegetable grows, and how long it takes to grow, are questions that can only be answered at a farmers’ market. Photograph: iStock

We’ll never be free of the supermarket but we should bridge the gap between food and our community

In folklore watercress was said to alleviate depression and increase a person’s intelligence

In season now, watercress is great eaten raw in a salad or blanched briefly and blended in to a soup

Versatile: rhubarb is perfect in pies  and  also with seafood. Photograph: iStock

Vegetable is often used in pies but works surprisingly well when paired with seafood

One of our farmers plays Lyric FM to his vegetables to help them grow. Photograph: iStock

Studies have shown how certain music will make us eat or drink more, or help us digest

It seems the French are too blame for putting salt and pepper together. Photograph: Getty Images

It should be ground freshly – but should the steak be seasoned before or after frying?

Pan con Tomate, a cold tapas plate of toasted  bread, fresh grated tomato, garlic, olive oil and sea salt. Photograph: Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald.

Bread with tomato is a very simple combination but it proves itself as an exciting dish

Bread and butter pudding appears in many Irish cook books of the last hundred years

JP McMahon: I was six at the time and a far cry from the chef I am today

‘Acidity is acidity, whether it’s in a Big Mac or hand dived scallops with last year’s pickled elderflower’

I’m not a fan of fast food but that doesn’t mean I’m beyond learning from it

Don’t restrict yourself to meat or fish, try cooking a carrot or a leek over fire.

Cooking with fire is one of the greatest pleasures

It seems the Normans brought lentils to Ireland but they could have arrived earlier with the Vikings or early Christian settlers. Photograph: iStock

JP McMahon: Lentils get many mentions in literary history, from Aristophanes to James Joyce 

It’s never too young to learn about food. Food poverty and a lack of food education are the leading contributors in many health problems

If the answer is yes, then let’s value it enough as a subject to teach to our children

Jerusalem artichokes hail from South America and are part of the sunflower family. Photograph: Basak Gurbuz Derma/Getty Images

They’re not from Jerusalem and they’re not artichokes, but they are delicious

Fermentation is an age-old process of preservation and production. Photograph: Getty Images

There’s more to fermentation than preservation and flavour

For the main course, try a whole turbot. Photograph: iStock

It may not sound as appetising and gluttonous as devouring birds and beasts but a seafood Christmas is something we should all con(...)

Try celeriac, sliced up thinly and dressed with a mayonnaise, and smoked salmon. Photograph: Frank Miller

I’m trying to think of winter salads that will bring a bit of warmth or at least fill us up more

Tiramisu: a lavish combination of mascarpone, coffee, sweet wine and lady fingers

Food’s relationship with sex has a long history, from the erotic aspects of oysters to the supposed aphrodisiac qualities of choco(...)

Making soup with vegetables and leftover chicken is easy and delicious. Photograph: iStock

In past generations a chicken carcass was another meal, not just bones to be disposed of 

Venison stew: perfect winter  food. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

JP McMahon: Try this wonderful meat – it’s the time of year for it

“Several recent articles suggest goat is the new lamb, and its consumption is more sustainable than any other meat.” Photograph: Getty Images

Anything you do with lamb, you can do with goat: stew, fry, braise, roast and curry. So get out there and find yourself some

“Because apricots have a sweet-and-sour quality, they marry well with both savoury and sweet food stuffs.” Photograph: iStock 
Fruit for thought

Now that autumn is over, it’s time to use up what’s left of its bounty

We have the best farmhouse cheese in the world. Get out there and explore it.

How these cheese makers turned the tide on a commodity culture of cheese strings and spuriously named cheddar is beyond me

Incorporating fallen apples into an autumnal   pie or cake is the best way to make use of them, even if they have the odd bruise. Photograph: iStock

JP McMahon: As long as apples have not begun to rot, they can be used for baking

Bulbs to light up a dish: we Irish have traditionally used wild garlic  from the woods in our food.

Once considered the poor man’s choice, it is now a transformative staple for most of us

Monkfish: ugly but delicious. Photograph: Getty Images

Curried monkfish took nation by storm in the 1990s, leading to a brief abandonment of cod

September is traditionally a time for fishing mackerel in Ireland.

The right slaughtering can really help with freshness

For blackberry jam, I always go with one part sugar to one part fruit, so a kilo of each. Photograph: iStock

We should teach our children what a blackberry looks like, tastes like, and how to cook it 

Seaweed: a nutritious and delicious food. Photograph: iStock

JP McMahon: This ancient food is rich in all the stuff that could help ward off disease

The two oyster festivals taking place in Galway this month  – Clarinbridge and Galway city – celebrate the arrival of our native son

Many Irish people don’t like oysters – native or Pacific – and that is a tragedy

Fish doesn’t need to be cooked by a magician to make it delectable. Photograph: Getty Images

JP McMahon: In Ireland we’re obsessed with beef, but fish is the future

Raw cep tops are beautiful, especially sliced super thin. Photograph: iStock

Fresh porcini are harder to come across than dried ones, but it’s worth seeking them out

 Jamie Oliver: There is no absolute law of food. It knows no boundaries. We cannot stop food travelling.

Food has always followed people, and this is perhaps its beauty

Versatile: ginger. Photograph: iStock

Ginger is now less used here for baking and more for cooking curries, ramen and bone broths

Spices have been part of Irish cooking since the Middle Ages. Photograph: iStock

Spices have been a part of Irish cooking since the Vikings, and their influence lives on today

Wild salmon cured in fennel and beer.  Photograph Anita Murphy

Like our forebears we can still enjoy wild salmon, brown trout and (now sadly neglected) eel dishes

Barbecued oysters have a unique flavour. Photograph: iStock

It can’t always be steak and sausages – barbecued mussels, clams, oysters, prawns and lobster taste amazing

In Scotland they have the intelligence to allow hand-diving for scallops. Photograph: Getty

Instead, in Ireland, we can only dredge, which does serious damage to the seabed

Preserve us! Now is the time for green gooseberries, red strawberries, orange raspberries, blue blackcurrants, red cherries.

It’s a feast or famine with berries, currants and cherries but making them last longer is easy

Enjoy the courgette season with a little stir-frying, flame-grilling, slicing and dicing

For many of us in Ireland, frozen peas are all we’ve ever seen – this is our tragedy.

Peas work wonderfully with white fish but a classic alternative is ham hock

Mussels are a beautiful fast food, and I would happily eat them every day. Photograph: Artur Begel/iStock/Getty

We could still learn a lot from Anthony Bourdain’s moules marinière

Oyster ice cream. Photograph: Alfredo Russo

Oysters and seaweed should be our national food – saline ice cream is strange but superb

“Bacon and cabbage should always be sexy, they should always be there to remind us of our heritage, of our future.” Photograph: Getty Images

I love ham hock and cabbage. But not the kind your grandmother cooked. Not the noxious type

Beef tartare. Photograph: Getty

Would you order raw beef for breakfast?

A salad is no place for bananas. Photograph: iStock

Give me a chicken salad any day – but not the sad Caesar kind with mircowaved chicken you find everywhere

Nothing says summer quite like a dish of baby vegetables in a fresh dressing

Asparagus has been cooked since Egyptian times. Greeks and Romans ate it fresh when in season, and dried the vegetable for use in winter. Photograph: Getty Images

May is the month for this edible grass, a totem of brighter and hotter days

Wild flowers have begun to emerge. Try incorporating them into your meals. Photograph: iStock

But I love them in everything from salads to ice cream, and for making vinegar

Hold the potato: lots of places serve chips with schnitzel, but it only needs salad and pickles. Photograph: iStock

Everyone from Jamie Oliver to René Redzepi and Thorsten Schmidt is serving a version of this Austrian classic

The structure of morels reminds me of a Gothic church. Photograph: Getty Images

Morels, with their unique honeycomb-like appearance, are one of nature’s true beauties

Cava Bodega in Galway celebrates 10 years in business. The chef shares his top tapas

Woodruff tea is an ancient Irish herbal infusion for many maladies

Regarded as a weed by some, this plant makes a lovely tea or pairs well with asparagus


‘Foraging now is extremely hip and sexy – as opposed to being a necessity’

The cross on the bun signified the Crucifixion while the spices in the bun pointed to the embalming of Christ

Fish pies don’t seem to as fashionable as they once were and are almost consigned to that status of a ready meal now. Photograph: iStock

This fish dish is as easy as pie

Dried food, such as rice, pasta and pulses are vital for keeping us fed. Photograph: Getty Images

Nearly all food bought during the storm was processed with ready meals and bread most popular

There’s loads of beautiful fish and shellfish in season, particularly cockles and clams, that work well with curly kale

We forget that each time we eat, we owe our lives to the many who grow food

‘March is a wonderful time to go seaweed picking’

Go to the shore and forage for this natural wonder – then get cooking

Wild leeks

JP McMahon: It’s been a long winter of root vegetables

Tomato sauce, another food that suffers because we all buy those expensive ready-made sauces full of hidden salt and sugar

Children love cooking and the tactile mess that evolves from combining ingredients

Bo Bech’s avocado, caviar and almond oil, from his restaurant Geist in Copenhagen. Photograph: Instagram/bobech

Take inspiration from the simple genius of Danish chef Bo Bech

Crispy potato with beer beurre blanc and sea lettuce.

If we are condemned to be a country of potatoes and beer then we need to make sure we produce the best potatoes and best beer in t(...)

We have made some inroads into this anti-fish way of thinking, and it seems now we appreciate fish a little more. It features more on menus and shopping lists. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

February is a wonderful time for eating fish, but be aware of where it comes from

Do vegetarian truly understand the effect of eating quinoa and avocado on the cost of human lives in countries such as Mexico and Bolivia?

JP McMahon: I quit vegetarianism after seven years. It’s a diet with ethical issues of its own

Chef Paul Bocuse showing off his tattoo. Photograph: Paul Bocuse/Facebook

Bocuse, one of the masters of French gastronomy, has died at the age of 91. Thornton reminisces about working with him and McMahon(...)

Illustration: Getty Images

Venture out of your comfort zone, get some good Irish seafood and cook it over an open flame

A  head of cauliflower rubbed in a red spicy sauce  in a cast-iron pan ready to be roasted

A vegetable-forward dish that I like to cook at this time of the year is roasted cauliflower with hazelnuts and lardo

Just make a standard ice-cream recipe - and then start experimenting

JP McMahon: Savoury will take over from sweet when it comes to desserts

Honey-glazed roasted carrots. Blanching carrots and parsnips and then placing them in an oven tray ready for roasting puts you in a good place.

If you can’t have a glass of wine while preparing Christmas dinner you are doing something wrong

I recommend making your mash the morning of Christmas or even the night before
Tuber belles

I prefer to make mash at Christmas. If you prefer duck fat roast potatoes, then do them. But you don’t need both

'Tiramisu is something I make with the kids and they enjoy the act of assembling it while eating as much of the cream as they can.' Photograph: Getty Images/Moment

While we do have Christmas cake in our house, I have never understood its appeal

Before soda bread we had a great variety of bread, all based on the sourdough method. Photograph: Getty Images

The invention of sourdough in Ireland is credited to a woman who went for a wander with her lover

We should be worried about industrial farming across the pond

There are so many ways to show your appreciation of beef, in particular the slow and long ways that induce those mouth watering um(...)

Along with making your own ice-cream and your own butter, making pasta is something we all should be able to do

Anybody can make delicious fresh pasta from scratch. Here’s how

Stacks of cut peat in Roundstone Bog in Connemara. Photograph: Getty Images

JP McMahon:Turf-smoked salmon, turf-smoked beef, turf-smoked butter; these are things that for me are distinctly Irish

Antonio Carluccio pictured outside his restaurant Carluccio’s on Dawson Street, Dublin. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Michelin-starred chef JP McMahon on the influence of the late Italian chef, Antonio Carluccio

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