Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Writing my own there's a novelty!

So, according to a recent NY Times article, which has become quite controversial, writing your own cookbook these days can be a terrible chore and beyond the capabilities of many stars and celebrity chefs it seems. Quite honestly, I wasn't surprised, and why not?...because I've done it!...and the time and dedication it takes to write your own book, and in my case a biographical cookbook, is enormous! No wonder these celebrities don't write their own stuff. It takes inspiration, dedication, creativity and time...lots of time.

Of course Rachel Ray and Gwyneth Paltrow beg to differ, claiming they did indeed pen their own books, but I personally think that was PR damage control. After all, who wants to buy a book that is a phoney? But, I need to give them the benefit of the doubt I suppose, perhaps they are different - but this article did strike a chord with me because I am a cookbook author who did indeed write her own book. My talented hubby and I made every dish, wrote every word, photographed every scene, created every graphic and spent three years of our life in what was our passion...that's time celebrities can ill afford between movie sets, TV shoots, make overs, Rodeo Drive shopping and fabulous dinners on the town...

Here's a snippet of the article in case you missed it:

"Many real-world cooks have wondered at the output of authors like Martha Stewart, Paula Deen and Jamie Oliver, who maintain cookbook production schedules that boggle the mind. Rachael Ray alone has published thousands of recipes in her cookbooks and magazine since 2005. How, you might ask, do they do it?

The answer: they don’t. The days when a celebrated chef might wait until the end of a distinguished career and spend years polishing the prose of the single volume that would represent his life’s work are gone. Recipes are product, and today’s successful cookbook authors are demons at providing it — usually, with the assistance of an army of writer-cooks.

“The team behind the face is invaluable,” said Wes Martin, a chef who has developed recipes for Ms. Ray and others. “How many times can one person invent a new quick pasta dish?”

Mr. Martin, and dozens of others like him, have a particular combination of cooking skills, ventriloquism and modesty that makes it possible not only to write in the voices of chefs, but to actually channel them as cooks.

“It’s like an out-of-body experience,” Mr. Martin said. “I know who I am as a chef, and I know who Rachael is, and those are two totally separate parts of my brain.”

Employing writers and recipe developers has long been routine; chefs, after all, have their own specialized skills, and writers are not expected to be wizards in the kitchen.

Ghostwriting is common among business leaders, sports figures and celebrities. But the domesticity and intimacy of cooking make readers want to believe that the food they make has been personally created and tested — or at least tasted — by the face on the cover. And that isn’t always the case, especially for restaurant chefs. "

So, what do you think?

Next time you pick up Rachel's books, just think..ok, ok, I'll get off my soap box now, but I just needed to say this as I know what it takes to create a book from scratch. My book, The Shamrock and Peach, was a labor of love, and I hope that shone through.

Till next time!

Judie the Irish Foodie

Friday, March 16, 2012

So who was St. Patrick anyway? that a burrito he's holding?

(St. Patricks Cathedral, Armagh - Northern Ireland)

So here it is, the day has arrived when everyone is Irish, when everything appears green and when we all try on the Irish brogue (for a few words anyway) -even if the catch phrase involves  'me lucky chaaaarms'! Oh yes, and despite being mistaken for Australian yesterday (ha!) I have to say I do love this time of year, as I'm sure oul' Saint Patrick would if he were around to see it all....

But wait a minute....who exactly was Saint Patrick anyway? Do ya know? Do ya care? Did he drink green beer and fall into the fountains in Savannah? Did he really pick up a shamrock for the King of Tara whilst wearing his 'kiss me I'm Irish' hat....or was he even Irish I ask???

Well, fear not because I'm going to clue you in on a big secret....

You see, um....well, no.....he wasn't Irish. He, he was British!! Roman British in fact - toga and all, and he didn't even drink green beer. None of that, he was in fact an early Christian missionary who crossed the Irish sea with a mission to purge pagan Ireland and by so doing to bring about the coming of Christ, as Ireland in those days was considered as 'the far edge of the world'...(think of Christ's words about the gospel reaching the ends of the word, and you'll see what I mean.)

Yes, he lived in the 5th century and yes he came to Ireland to save souls, even though his was a Brit, so that's why most monuments to Patrick in Ireland are Christian in nature, such as the early cross pictured below in Downpatrick in County Down, near the grave site of St. Patrick.

You see, the story goes that Patrick as a young man, was captured by Irish pirates (red beard I'm guessing, not blackbeard!!) taken to Slemish mountain in Northern Ireland, but after a period of some years managed to escape and eventually get back home to what is now England. But what's really cool about this is that many years later, as a prominent bishop and more mature Christian he felt a calling to go back to Ireland to spread the gospel to the very people who enslaved him!

Yup, that means he was kind of a hero, and a clever one at that given he managed to persuade kings and peasants alike to turn to Christ from paganism. Quite a feat, and completely without the use of green beer, beads, silly hats, or corn beef for that matter!

OK, I know I'm being kind of light hearted about this...but truthfully, the real Saint Patrick was a very noble individual who was obviously courageous, inventive and driven to what he did, so overall he was a cool guy methinks!

Growing up in County Armagh in Northern Ireland, which is Saint Patrick's country, I was always surrounded with reminders of Patrick from placenames to church names to street names and never thought much about him until later in life. In many ways I suppose you could say I took him for granted, oblivious to the great festivals thrown in his name around the world. As an example, the church below is Saint Patricks ancient cathedral in Armagh, which is sited on the spot of Patrick's first church and is a thousand years old! Not bad.

St. Patricks, Armagh Northern Ireland

Now, I know that the festivals and parades are more about being Irish than they are about St. Patrick himself, but I thought it would be fun to clue you in....So, there you have it!

Hope you enjoy the day, whatever you decide to do!

Wearing the green! Enjoy!

Judie the Irish Foodie

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Irish Whiskey BBQ Sauce...for ol' St. Pat

OK, so it's March again and in Georgia we are having a heat wave! Temps are expected to get into the low 80's for the rest of the week up to St. Patrick's day, and it looks like we'll be wearing green shorts and t-shirts this year to the parade, so, to complete the mood I thought it might be good to share with you my scrum-didly-umptious Irish whiskey sauce recipe. It'll make everything taste goooood, and even though it may be a tad early for the backyard grill, with the weather as it is my guess is that we may need it this weekend!

I mean, winter passed us by, right? The trees have been blooming for a month already, so maybe it's not too early to dust off the old grill and pay a visit to your local butcher for some tender provisions to grill...and I promise, if you use this sauce, they will go especially well with all that green beer! me.

In my last blog entry I did promise a cool Irish whiskey sauce recipe, and here it, get out that shamrock t-shirt, don that silly green hat, dye your hair green and fire up the grill. It's going to be a hot St. Paddy's day to remember!

Irish whiskey barbecue sauce ingredients:

• 2 Tbsp. butter
• ¼ large onion (chopped)
• 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
• 8 fl. oz. (1 cup ) Irish whiskey
• 8 fl. oz. (1 cup) ketchup
• 6 fl. oz. (¾ cup) apple cider vinegar
• 2 fl. oz. (¼ cup) water
• 6 Tbsp. cup brown sugar
• 3 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
• 1 tsp. kosher salt
• ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
• 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
• 2 tsp. coco powder
• ¾ tsp. cumin

  1. To make the barbecue sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan and cook the onion for a few minutes until they are soft but not browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Then combine all the remaining ingredients and simmer gently for 20–25 minutes or until the sauce has been slightly reduced.  Cool slightly before processing with an electric blender until smooth.
Now add liberally to the meat of your choice and enjoy...Irish whiskey style!

OK, enjoy the season!

Judie the Irish Foodie

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Irish Whiskey vs Scotch Whisky, do you know the difference?

So, recently, amongst all the pre-St. Patrick's frivolities I was providing food for, and presenting my book at a whisky tasting event in the Olde Blind Dog Irish pub in Milton GA, near Crabapple, and, being surrounded by all those fabulous Scotch varieties of the 'hard stuff' got me thinking...I wonder if folks out these know, or even realize the differences between Scottish whisky, which is shortened to 'Scotch', and Irish whiskey? hmmmm...

Did you even know there was a difference? or do you even care??...well, let me clue you in here, lest you wallow in whiskey indifference!

Now, we Irish like to say that we invented the stuff, the 'water of life' that is, whilst the Scots just perfected it...but as I'm Scots-Irish and am frequently balancing between the two let me just say that both have merits. Yes, Bushmills in County Antrim, Northern Ireland is the oldest distillery, going back to 1603 or something of that order but you have to hand it to the Scots, they just did things a little different such as adding smokey flavors to the malted barley and they stole the show.

So, what are the differences?

Well, firstly, Irish whiskey is triple distilled which means they run the stuff through those big ol' copper pots using heat and evaporation three times. Whilst Scotch is only distilled twice...(the Tennessean variety, such as Jack Daniels is only distilled once I think...ha!)....So, this means that Irish whiskey is a touch lighter, and can blow your head off more easily!!...just kidding!

OK, next, it's all down to how the barley is treated at the beginning. In the Irish process they use both raw and malted barley and don't generally use peat to dry out the grains whereas in Scotch whisky the distiller  soaks the barley to induce germination, then dries it out to stop germination using peat fires and the peat smoke is what gives the barley a very unique it, smoke, malt, mash....ooooh yes.

Then what? Well, then both types of whiskey (whisky...they're also spelt differently!) are matured for years and years and years and years in aged oak caskets. Typically ones that were previously used for port, or sherry. Yes, they pop the whiskey, which after distilling is perfectly clear and transparent, into these old caskets (they look like something out of a Pirate movie!) and stack 'em in sheds for eons....and after several years the whiskey takes on that familiar caramel color and flavor from the wood. See?

Now, I know all this runs counter to current culture, but some things in life are worth waiting for, right? Yes, I know, it seems odd to make something then stick it in a shed for ten years, but if you've ever been to Ireland or Scotland you'll know that time is viewed differently than it is here in the United States, so perhaps that might make more sense to you...

So, there you have it!
Irish and Scotch whiskey, the water of life and wonderful stuff to cook with, and to prove it next blog I'll post a recipe that uses whiskey to flavor the sauce. So, check in next time and go ahead and pour yourself a tipple of whiskey to warm the heart and comfort the soul on these cold wintry nights!
Judie the Irish Foodie.