Coddle by Jp McMahon

Phaidon Irish Food Bible

CODDLE

Preparation: 20 minutes
Cooking: 1 hour
Serves: 8

Coddle, or Dublin coddle to be more precise, is a dish made up of leftover sausages and bacon. Traditionally, the sausages and bacon were cut up and combined with onions and potatoes and left to stew in a light broth. Though often unappetizing to look at, the dish was made famous by several Irish writers, from Jonathan Swift to James Joyce and Sean O’Casey. Modern versions include barley and carrots. It is essentially a dish that grew out of poverty and famine and then migrated into the working-­class areas of Dublin at the beginning of the twentieth century to become a dish of central importance to the people who lived there. Often it contained a drop of Guinness (or it was eaten with plenty of pints and soda bread). It is said that the housewives would prepare the coddle during the day and it would sit on the stove until the men returned home from the pub. The word itself is derived from the verb ‘to coddle’ or ‘to cook’ (from French caulder). With its associations of poverty, it is surprising to find ‘authentic’ recipes, especially given the status of the dish as being made with whatever leftovers were to hand (as in pig’s trotters/feet, pork ribs, etc.). Some associate it with the Catholic Church’s insistence of abstaining from meat on a Friday. Coddle was a way of using up the bacon and sausages on a Thursday. In this recipe, I fry the ingredients before covering them with the stock, but traditionally they were just layered and simmered until cooked.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons rapeseed (canola) oil, plus extra if needed
  • 500 g sausages, cut into pieces if preferred
  • 500 g streaky (regular) bacon, cut into pieces
  • 500 g onions, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 1 kg (9 medium) potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 4 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • freshly ground black pepper

 
METHOD:

Warm the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the sausages and bacon and fry for about 10 minutes until they have a nice colour. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.

Add the sliced onions to the pan and a little more oil if necessary. Reduce the heat and fry for about 10 minutes so that the onions caramelize slowly.

When the onions have a nice colour, return the sausages and bacon to the pan and add the thyme and bay leaves. Cover with the chicken stock (broth) and return to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the potatoes. Cook for about 30 minutes.

Add the chopped parsley and plenty of black pepper and serve.

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Buy this book
The Irish Cookbook (Food Cook)
Phaidon, £35

The Irish Cookbook by Jp McMahon

The Irish Cookbook

What’s the USP? The Irish Cookbook arrives with impeccable timing, following the country’s Michelin success last October. It now boasts three, two-star restaurants and 18 one-star establishments across the Republic and Northern Ireland. It’s an indication of how far the country’s food scene has evolved; a decade ago there were just seven starred restaurants in total.

Who’s the author? Jp McMahon is a Michelin-starred chef and culinary director of the EATGalway restaurant group that includes the one star Aniar. He is also the founder of the annual Food on the Edge culinary congress.

Is it good bedtime reading? There’s more than just recipes in this 400-plus page book with a scope that goes far beyond modern restaurant food, delving back to pre-Neolithic times in a scholarly introduction titled ‘A Little History of Food in Ireland’ that forms part of the book’s attempt to answer the question ‘What is Irish food?’.

Killer recipes? Organised into 15 chapters, McMahon comprehensively covers Ireland’s rich and diverse natural larder from the superlative shellfish (oyster pie; sea urchins with buttermilk and tarragon) to the plentiful wild game (grouse and poteen; venison and barley stew), freshwater fish (pike with gooseberries and sherry; perch baked in milk) and much else besides.

McMahon is keen to point out that it is more than the dishes that ‘emerged in the space created after the (potato) famine’ such as boxty potato pancake and traditional Irish stew, although both are included among the book’s 500 recipes, the former in its most austerely authentic form made with just lamb neck, onions, potatoes, thyme and parsley. The 80s are represented by crab with curry mayonnaise and pineapple while the contemporary Irish repertoire includes smoked eel porridge.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? A good fishmonger will be required for the likes of sea urchins, razor clams, wild salmon and smoked eel, and you’ll probably need to get your rod out and go and catch pike, perch and carp yourself.  You might need an online supplier for seaweed and be up for a spot of foraging for things like nettles, wild garlic.  There are however many recipes that won’t cause you any shopping bother at all.

What’s the faff factor? This is mostly home cooking rather than complex cheffy stuff and many of the recipes are short and to the point.

How often will I cook from the book? There’s a really good variety of dishes and lots that would work when you’re time poor mid-week.

What will I love? McMahon has included an index of Ireland’s wild plants, seaweed and fungi eaten by the country’s first settlers and which he sees as the future of Irish food. Nettles are rolled around cream cheese, made into a puree and soup and transformed into wine, while steamed asparagus is wrapped in sea lettuce and deep-fried rabbit legs are served with wild garlic mayonnaise.

Should I buy it? McMahon makes the sensible caveat that ‘no book is definitive’ and it is questionable how uniquely Irish some of the recipes such as steak and kidney pie and lamb hotpot actually are, but The Irish Cookbook is nevertheless an impressive achievement and one that will shed new light on a hitherto undervalued cuisine.

Cuisine: Irish 
Suitable for:
Confident home cooks/Professional chefs/
Cookbook Review Rating: 
Four stars

Buy this book
The Irish Cookbook (Food Cook)
Phaidon, £35