Over two years ago, I was part of an amazing project, A Modern Irish Cookbook by Goodall’s. The plan was simple, invite the food bloggers in Ireland submit one recipe and a photo for consideration and the top 50 recipes that embody modern Irish cooking are included in a 110-page cookbook published by Lettertec in County Cork. All Irish. All local.
I was brought on in the very beginning, helping to organise the entries with the goal that I would ultimately be handling the layout of the book itself. But along the way from evaluating recipes and photos to placing them into layout, there were so many little steps and I took on more than I expected. In the end it was THIS project that helped me realise I was ready to self-publish my own book because as stressful as it became (we produced the entire book in about six weeks), I never gave up or lowered my standards.
Fortunately, I was working with an expert editor to balance my own work within the layout. I’ll admit that Kristin Jensen is the unsung hero of this project for editing the contributed recipes for consistency without losing the author’s original voice. After all, a collected works cookbook needs to have some standard of wording and measurements, and it fell on Kristin to accomplish that. But she’s a pro! And I was so convinced of that after our six weeks working together that I hired her to edit the recipes in my Bake Knit Sew book.
One of the unexpected elements of the project for me was cooking, styling, and photographing about 10 recipes that were not mine for the book. For a few talented bloggers, the photo submitted didn’t work for the book, whether because of resolution or lighting. That’s where I stepped in and offered to reshoot it because we knew that asking the busy blogger to reshoot may delay the book. It was an honour to be creating these recipes from bloggers whose work I admire so much. At this time, I had been consulting as a food stylist for a local social media company and photographer, so doing the styling and photography by myself was the next step in challenging myself to up my game. Thankfully, all this took place in late August and early September so I relied entirely on natural light for all my photos. I shot with a Canon DSLR and used all manual settings. I eventually added the photos to my Flickr album to make it easier to embed into this post.
One of my favourite photos is of Jeni Pim‘s Plum Cake. The project manager for the book was on-hand that day to help bake the cake, thankfully. It allowed me time to iron the linens and calibrate the camera settings. The cake server was given to us by my husband’s aunt as a wedding gift. The blue plates are from Denby. The large blue plate on which the cake rests is from a second-hand shop. It has tiny stars stamped on the edge.
And another view of the cake. This is actually the view that made it into the final book since all photos needed to be vertical. But I took a few horizontal pictures for fun/practice/backups.
Spiced Beef in an Irish Stout Reduction with a Horseradish Croquette. This exquisite and mouth-water photo is the result of the culinary skills of Kate Lawlor of Fenn’s Quay Restaurant. And you’re in luck because this recipe is also published in Kate’s own Cork On A Fork Recipe Book (FREE PDF). Chefess Kate is all about local ingredients so it’s no surprise the reduction is made with Dungarvan’s Black Rock Irish Stout and the spiced beef is from Durcan’s in The English Market.
Kate’s Beetroot Fudge is her second recipe published in the book. It marries the light and naturally sweet beetroot flavours with the gooey decadence of homemade fudge. This recipe is also in her Cork On A Fork Recipe Book (FREE PDF) and in a blog post here. It is delightfully pink and melts in your mouth. The little fish dish is from Meadows & Byrne.
Two of my own recipes made it into the Goodall’s cookbook as well, including one Kate herself taught me to make… My Homemade Blackberry-Apple Jam (recipe). Needless to say, making this to photograph in early September meant having a bumper crop of fresh Irish blackberries to cook with! The brown bread pictured was baked by Kate herself (Fenn’s Quay is known for their fresh-baked Irish breads and award-winning scones).
My second recipe in the book is for Beetroot Canapés on Brown Bread Rounds. This recipe is one I came up with in 2011 when I was in the running for Cully & Sully’s Chef Factor competition (for the second time). Spoiler alert: I didn’t win. It is inspired by Greene’s beetroot soup but strained in a yogurt strainer in the refrigerator to create a cream cheese consistency suitable to pipe onto brown bread rounds (that I made in a cupcake tin and sliced horizontally). I tied ribbons of cooked beetroot with lengths of chives to add an interesting and flavourful topping to the rock star canapé in the centre. The others in the frame have chives bundles in a single scallion circle.
Margaret Smith’s Beef Blinis are the perfect quick and easy party food. Here, they are shown on little serving spoons. The blue and red striped tablecloth was selected to cool off the warm colors of the blini and beef, while still reflecting the ribbons of beef in the narrow red stripes.
Margaret Smith’s Classic Roast Chicken is her second recipe in the book. We had fun photographing this at her home. It takes the classic and adds a modern and aromatic twist by stuffing the bird with a cut lemon.
Veruska’s Scallops with Watercress and Goat’s Cheese Pesto is a stunner on the plate! The original recipe submitted by Veruska was for a Watercress Pasta Sauce, but the original photo wasn’t high enough resolution for a print cookbook, so I set about recreating the recipe and photographing it. Uninspired by the lonely pasta on a plate, I added scallops for texture and it ended up in the cookbook! I photographed the plate from a low angle to capture the depth of the sea scallops and detailed texture of the watercress sauce. You can see here what a difference layers make in styling a plate. Without the sprinkled cheese on the left and with the cheese on the right. By the way, the watercress sauce was top notch! I ate this entire plate right after I finished taking the photos.
Avril’s popular Cheddar, Stout & Black Pudding Bread is decadent and easy. She uses a specific coarse-ground wholemeal Irish flour (Macroom Flour) for her recipe, but in a pinch any coarse-ground wholemeal flour will do the trick. And the same goes for Rosscarbery Recipes Black Pudding substitutions since I’ve tried it with kosher sausages and it still works! And if you’ve not tried Avril’s Caherbeg Free-range pork products, you should. Especially if you’re into the locavore sensibilities. Actually, Kate over at Fenn’s Quay serves up Avril’s black pudding as part of her specials and the weekend brunch.
Of course, once the book was done, there was a big launch up in Dublin at the Merrion Hotel. Then a couple months later I went back to the States for Christmas and walked all around Washington, D.C. taking photos of the book with various monuments. I was just a little bit proud of this project. Through this, I also had a ten-month-old son beside me or in my lap so that was an added element. Really, it made me think that these obstacle course reality shows should challenge contenders to cook, style, and photograph food with a crawling infant to take care of!
Little did we know when we worked on this book that it would be nominated for
and WIN the Gourmand Cookbook Awards for Best Blogger Cookbook!