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Rolling right on into spring with another virtual Cookbook Club meet up. Thanks for coming. This month, I chose “The Farmette Cookbook” by Imen McDonnell. I have no idea how I stumbled upon this book, but my best guess is Amazon recommended it to me after my multiple Nigella searches. Oh, she has a thing for British cookbook authors? Here’s an Irish one. Luckily, my local library had it on the shelf, because I hate buying cookbooks that I know nothing about. But the scones on the cover! Drew me right in.
One look through this book, and the gorgeous photography will make you want to sell all of your belongings, jump on a plane, and move across the Atlantic to the northern islands. Oh wait, I already did that. But looking at this book made me strongly consider doing it again.
What I like most:
The pictures in this book are amazing. You really get a feel of what the McDonnell’s farm in Ireland looks like and how the food somehow fits right in. The recipes were unique (if I see one more recipe for a date ball or a Buddha bowl I might lose my mind) but not crazy enough that you can’t understand half of the ingredients. To be fair, however, I think my time in Scotland really helped me feel like stinging nettles and elderberries are no big deal, whereas someone that has lived in the middle of the United States for their entire life might disagree.
Not exactly. For me, this book really lands in the “special occasion” section rather than on the “everyday cooking” shelf. There are a lot of very rich recipes in this book, many of which call for a whole lot of butter, heavy cream, and sugar. She does live on a dairy farm, after all. I think butter, cream and sugar definitely have a place in the kitchen, but just not everyday.
There is an entire section in this book titled “Country Kids” with an adorable picture of Imen’s son sitting on a haystack wearing his rubber wellies. I do think that this kid has the perfect place to grow up, but the recipes for the kids section left me disappointed. My kids don’t eat Mile-High Banoffee Pie and Chocolate Biscuit Cake very often (actually never), and I think most would agree. This section did not feel like a kids section to me, but rather an extension of the dessert chapter. Although, I chose a bread recipe to test, and my kids will eat any type of bread, but overall I do not think the majority of the recipes in this book are written with kids palates in mind.
Borrow or buy:
This book is firmly in the borrow category for me. I really enjoyed looking through it and trying a few recipes but I know it is not a book I would return to over and over again.
Yes, Imen writes with honesty and paints a clear picture of what it was like to move from a busy American city to a small town Irish dairy farm. Her adventure almost feels like a novel and for a second you will want to walk in her footsteps, I promise. I also learned a ton about Irish food and customs which I found very interesting.
What I made:
- Best Brown Bread. This is Imen’s version of the famous Irish soda bread. Soda bread is fun because you can make it very quickly, without the waiting and kneading of a yeast loaf, but every time I make a savory soda bread I feel like there is something missing. In all of the baking books I have read, the something missing is that you need that extra time to get the flavors and textures to develop. Soda bread is soft and not chewy at all, think banana bread texture. However, if you are looking for a quick bread to whip up in the next hour to serve with your soup, this may be your recipe.
- Buttered Eggs. No, not scrambled eggs cooked in butter, but literally, buttered eggs. As in the shell. I have to say, it is rare that I am completely blindsided by a recipe in any cookbook. I have read hundreds of cookbooks and I think most everything has been done before in some manner, but I have never, never seen a recipe for buttered eggs or even heard of anyone doing it. And I lived next door to Ireland for two years! In doing a little research, I found that this was the way that farm wives used to preserve their eggs for long periods of time, by coating them with butter. Since eggshells are naturally porous, some of the butter flavor would seep through and eventually flavor the egg itself. In Ireland, they are called “Irish Gold”. Well, this I had to try. I recruited my 5 year old to help me rub 4 eggs with about a tablespoon of butter apiece, and I’m still amazed she didn’t crack even one. We kept them for a few days, and then I made scrambled eggs. I really want to tell you that these were the best eggs I have ever eaten, but for full disclosure, I have to report that I did not notice a drastic change in the flavor of the eggs. I think this may have something to do with the fact that Americans keep their eggs in the refrigerator. That butter was hard as a rock on the outside. So to be fair to her, maybe you need to be in Ireland for this one to work. Regardless, it was a fun afternoon project and I love that I learned something new about food and cooking. A win win.
In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, check this book out and let me know what you think!
*Note: I can’t reprint the actual recipes here without breaking some serious copyright laws, so these posts are not intended to give you actual recipes, just inspiration!