Warmest congratulations to Maura O'Connell Foley for winning the Listowel Food Fair Food Book of the Year Award 2020, for My Wild Atlantic Kitchen: Recipes & Recollections. Jeremy, owner of JM Editing & Literary Agency, was proud to be involved in the adjudicating process. My Wild Atlantic Kitchen is a wonderful and authentic collection of recipes and recollections, and here are some words form Jeremy:
'I love the way My Wild Atlantic Kitchen interweaved recipes with personal recollections and family history. It was interesting to learn that the author’s grandmother Nonie, who trained as a chef in Boston in the late 1880s, worked as a cook in a Kenmare grocery store where she cooked, among other local delicacies, hare soup and rabbit casserole! While this fare may not sound appetizing to the modern palate, the home-made ice-cream certainly does. In another passage, the author describes a trip to Fraser’s Tea and Cake Shop in Havinstock London, and how she sampled the "lemon flavoured ice cakes, decorated with little mimosa balls on a sprig with pretty leaves". The cakes, according to the author, kindled her life-long love of food. In addition to these personal recollections, I enjoyed the more general advice. She helpfully, and bravely, opines on the merits of various herbs; thyme is an "all-round herb that can be used with a variety of meats," while bay leafs are, in contrast, "strong herbs" that ‘should be used carefully". While I am not in any way qualified to judge, I thought the range of recipes on display impressive, blending rustic Irish flavours with French sophistication. I thought the author’s rich, seasonal ‘Duck Casserole with Red Wine and Prunes’ (found on pages 220 and 221) epitomised her philosophy of food: She recommends locally farmed duck, skeaghanore from Ballydehob to be precise, while the recipe itself bristles with francophile sophistication, including the recommendation to stew the bird in a full-bodied Rhone’ wine! I also thought the book was professionally and expertly produced. The moody photography, which includes images from the author’s restaurants as well as landscapes of the surrounding Kerry countryside, imbue the book with tone and atmosphere, a tone that chimes with the rustic and rich tone of the recipes. It was a pleasure to adjudicate, and when I put my apron on over Christmas I will try my very best not to completely destroy Ms O’Connell Foley’s many fantastic recipes.'