05 Mar Jon Cartu Claims: JP serves up rich mix of history, imagination and recipes –…
Lifestyle – Chef and restaurant owner JP McMahon has combined his kitchen creativity and passion for history in his latest project The Irish Cook Book. As he launches it on both sides of the Atlantic, he tells JUDY MURPHY how it came about, his initial reluctance to write it and the debt he owes to the mostly female cookery writers who preceded him.
JP McMahon comes through the door of Galway city’s Tartare Café and Wine Bar, apologising for being late. He’s just driven West in hideous weather, following the launch of this new cook book in Dublin the previous night. En route to Galway, he was doing radio interviews to publicise The Irish Cook Book, a magnificent offering from Phaidon Publishers, who are based in New York and London.
He’s busy – but then the self-taught Michelin-star chef, Irish Times food writer and promoter of Irish food always is.
Over an espresso, JP who owns Spanish tapas bar Cava Bodega and the Michelin-star Aniar Restaurant as well as Tartare, explains how this book, which was three years in the making, came about.
The graduate of English and Art History from UCC had always wanted to produce a book with internationally renowned Phaidon, which publishes beautifully designed and illustrated books on art, architecture, science, travel fashion and cookery.
“I’d always loved their art books,” he says.
JP thought he might follow the example of Swedish chef Magnus Nilsson of the two-star Michelin Fäviken restaurant who has published three books with Phaidon, including one based on recipes from Fäviken, He submitted a proposal to Phaidon of recipes from Aniar.
“I never intended doing a 500-recipe book”, he says with a laugh of the end result.
“Phaidon came back and suggested an Irish food cookbook as part of their ‘bible’ series,” he explains. These include tomes on Chinese, Spanish, Mexican and Japanese food as well as its Sliver Spoon Italian series, all beautifully produced.
Their latest is JP’s book which gives a new insight into Irish food history and includes an eclectic range of recipes. Soda-bread; smoked eel porridge; venison and barley stew; even the humble crisp sandwich – they’re all here.
However, JP was initially unsure about the Phaidon proposal.
“I didn’t know if Ireland needed another cookbook because there are so many of them.”
He cites cooks and writers as Maura Laverty, Monica Sheridan. Theodora FitzGibbon and Myrtle Allen, all of whom championed Irish food and wrote about it extensively, as being among his heroes. And, initially, he felt their work had fulfilled that brief.
But having been to the forefront of Irish cuisine for the past decade, mostly through Aniar, he also recognised that a lot had happened in that time and that a new book might give a fresh context to our food history. So, The Irish Cook Book was born.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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