This is a truly wonderful book written by a lady who has lived life to the full and who clearly loves sharing his experiences with others. I hope one day we will be able to visit Ballymaloe Cookery School, talk to her, visit the gardens, see the animals (if that is possible, that is, but as there is a restaurant it probably is!). I haven't made many recipes yet but I have read the whole book and it teaches you such a lot about cooking and about life in general.... I find the whole design of the book is quite old-fashioned, maybe what the author wanted but it could have been a bit more up to date. It gives the idea of an old edition. Also the cover is too heavy and the pages too thick meaning that it is very difficult to handle.
There are a few things that are maybe not correct, for example, the use of borage in the kitchen because according to Wikipedia borage is toxic for the liver creating liver tumors. I don't know whether this is true or not but I won't be using neither the leaves nor the flowers. I will it as a tea to treat my plants and as decoration for my vegetable plot. I also think that sometimes, maybe because Darina Allen has so much experience that things become almost automatic that the recipes miss certain details like the recipe for Nettle Beer. How many days does one leave it to ferment before bottling, where, in a cool place, in a warm place? That said this book got me into nettles and I have never looked back! We have been enjoying many bottles of nettle beer (I found some more explanations online) and eaten a lot of Nettle soup. Putting a leave of rose geranium in a jar of jelly didn't work for me as the rose geranium wilted in the hot jelly. Cooking mussels for 2 to 3 minutes is something I don't agree with because I hate the almost raw, slimy mussels but that is my personal taste! Migas are a Spanish and Portuguese way of using bread crumbs, not only Spanish.... The idea that salt cod is mostly eaten only on toast means that Darina could maybe dig a bit more into Portuguese cuisine. In Portugal we have such a diversity of wonderful cod recipes that we say that you could eat cod in a different way every day of the year and all are worth trying out! Being from another country it is not clear to me where you buy dairy salt but I suppose one could use normal, pure salt? The idea of bringing home a bucket of sea water fills me with fear as the seas are nowadays very much polluted. Another questions I have related to the Champ. In the recipe the author says that one should leave the potatoes to simmer for 3 to 4 minutes and then leave to infuse but won't they be almost completely raw? The courgette blossoms, does one stuff them and then put in the oven as I saw done here in France or does one stuff them and serve like that? I tried to fill the jam jars while they were still hot but invariably they leak when I turn them upside down, so I don't do it anymore and I have never had any spoilt jam. Darina doesn't believe in using jam sugar but for me it is great because you only use half of the quantity of sugar you would normally use and it only cooks for 4 minutes leaving the flavor and colors intact. The only exception I make is for marmalade. When she talks about green gooseberries does she mean unripe or a green variety? I have gooseberries in my garden but they start out green and then turn red. One thing surprised me.... As a lady who is very much into a natural way of life Darina talks about lowering the cholesterol, something we now know that it is a fad and which can be quite dangerous other than in exceptional cases. The women who live the longest are women with higher cholesterol and lowering it in older people produces illnesses like Alzheimer's as cholesterol is very needed for the brain to function properly. Anyway, if you don't eat cholesterol the liver makes it for you.
While it may seem like I have a lot of concerns this is a truly valuable book and a very big one. Lots of pages, lots to think about and maybe Darina will address some of my concerns? I have a seasoned cook but this book was a really important addition to my library. She even teaches you how to raise chickens..... but more important than the recipes is a lifetime of experience! The stories from her childhood are rather sweet and although I am not much younger I was brought up in a flat, in a town, so my life couldn't have been more different! A book to buy and use often!
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