Darina Allen. PHOTOS BY MARGARET M. JOHNSON
Ireland Hopping / By Margaret M. Johnson
Three of Ireland’s leading chefs crossed the pond last week to cook up a memorable St. Patrick’s Day lunch and to raise the profile of an Irish culinary scene that enjoys continued success. Hosted by Tourism Ireland, the luncheon featured Darina Allen of Ballymaloe Cookery School in County Cork, Noel McMeel of Lough Erne Resort in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, and broadcaster/cookbook author Clodagh McKenna.
The three delivered a culinary masterclass to journalists and members of the travel trade at “Cooking by the Book,” a Manhattan cooking and event space, followed by lunch.
Allen, a pioneer of the slow food movement and well-known TV personality, is the author of 10 cookbooks, including a new collection of her best recipes, “Simply Delicious: The Classic Collection, 100 Timeless, Tried and Tested Recipes” (Kyle Books, March 2019). The new collection, with stunning photos by Peter Cassidy, includes Rutabaga and Bacon Soup, which Allen served as the first course at the luncheon.
No stranger to the U.S., McMeel studied at Johnson and Wales and Boston University. Before returning to Ireland, he continued training with Jean-Louis Palladin and Alice Waters, eventually taking on the role of executive head chef at Lough Erne. He’s earned critical acclaim for his use of carefully sourced ingredients and his modern Irish cooking style. The author of Irish Pantry: Traditional Breads, Preserves, and Goodies to Feed the Ones You Love (Running Press, 2013), McMeel demonstrated his classic style with the main course dish of Filet of Salmon, Colcannon Boxty Cake, Asparagus and Basil Cream Sauce.
McKenna, restaurateur, cookbook author, and broadcaster, offered an Irish take on an Italian classic with her Guinness Caramel Tiramisu dessert. She also launched her latest cookbook Clodagh’s Suppers: Suppers to Celebrate the Seasons ((Kyle Books, March 2019) at the luncheon.
Both Niall Gibbons, Chief Executive at Tourism Ireland, and Alison Metcalfe, Executive Vice President U.S. and Canada, expressed their enthusiasm for the food scene in Ireland and for the chefs who shared it: “We’re delighted to be joined by three such eminent ambassadors for Irish food who carry with them a message about the special and unique treats that await on an Irish foodie vacation,” Metcalfe said. “We look forward to further growth with our great culinary travel partners.”
RUTABAGA AND BACON SOUP WITH PARSLEY OIL
SERVES 6 to 8
Allen says, “I love rutabaga, an inexpensive, super-versatile vegetable with lots of flavor and one that’s often forgotten. This soup is an example of how it can sing.” In place of the parsley oil, Allen suggests “a bit of diced cured Spanish chorizo or crumbled and mixed with chopped parsley” to sprinkle on top.
For the parsley oil
1 cup chopped flatleaf parsley
3 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
For the soup
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
5 ounces rindless bacon, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 ounces onions, peeled and chopped
4 ounces potatoes, peeled and diced
12 ounces rutabagas, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 3/4 cups chicken stock
Light cream or milk, to taste
Sautéed diced bacon, for garnish
Croutons, for garnish
Ground black pepper, for garnish
- Make oil. In a blender, combine parsley and oil; process until smooth. Set aside.
- Make soup. In a large saucepan, heat oil. Add bacon and cook for about 5 minutes, or until crisp and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon; set aside.
- In the same saucepan, toss onion, potatoes and rutabaga in oil; season with salt and pepper. Cover with wax paper lid to keep in steam, and sweat over gentle heat for about 10 minutes, or until vegetables are soft but not browned. Add stock; bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until vegetables are fully cooked; remove from heat.
- Working in batches, transfer soup to food processor or blender and process until smooth; return to saucepan and stir in cream or milk, if desired. Adjust seasoning.
- To serve, spoon soup into bowls, drizzle with parsley oil, and top with diced bacon, croutons and a grind of black pepper.