Falling in love with the land and people of Ireland is common after a first visit, but Viki Pidgeon fell harder than most.
Pidgeon and her husband, Barney, who live in Shelby County, traveled to Ireland in 1998 to visit the home of Barney's grandfather. Now she dreams of having a small apartment in Ireland and spending part of each year there.
After returning home from the first visit, Pidgeon wrote a cookbook, Deliciously Irish. Now her second book, Ireland's Comfort Food & Touring Attractions, has won a bronze IPPY award from Independent Publisher.
”As soon as I received my shipment of books, I sent one off to be entered in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, and lo and behold, on Mother's Day weekend, I learned I was one of the winners in the cookbook category,“ she said.
Comfort Food is a collection of recipes from chefs and proprietors of restaurants, hotels, country houses, tourist attractions and castles throughout Ireland.
In 2006, Pidgeon spent a month studying the art of Irish cooking at Belle Isle School of Cookery in County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland. Some of the dishes are included in the book, which is available at www.irelandscomfortfood.com for $21.95.
”Comfort foods may vary from country to country, but they all seem to have one thing in common: They make you feel good,“ she said.
What appeals most to Pidgeon about Ireland is ”that everyday life turns at a slower pace. It just doesn't seem to be as hectic as it is here in America,“ she said. ”The people of Ireland are a welcoming people, so friendly and kind, down-to-earth and genuine.“
This recipe is from the Belleek Pottery Visitor Centre in Belleek, County, Fermanagh. Belleek, Ireland's oldest pottery, marked its 150th anniversary in 2007.
Goulash Belleek style
1 to 2 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 pound beef (best cut), cubed
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons tomato purée
14-ounce can chopped tomatoes
1½ cups beef stock
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
1 red pepper, seeds removed and sliced
1 green pepper, seeds removed and sliced
10 ounces cream
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Cooked potatoes or rice
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Put oil in a medium-size heavy pan, and fry onion. Coat cubed meat with flour and add to onions, allowing meat to brown. Add tomato purée, chopped tomatoes, beef stock and bay leaf. Mix together and pour into a casserole dish. Place in preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. Add caraway seeds and peppers, and bake for another 30 minutes. Remove casserole from oven and allow it to cool about 5 minutes. Add cream, and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with potatoes or rice.
This recipe is from Park Hotel Kenmare, a five-star hotel in Kenmare, County Kerry.
Chilled apple and tomato soup
12 ripe plum tomatoes, cut into small pieces
6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into small dice
2¼ cups apple juice
2¼ cups tomato juice
2¼ cups simple syrup
12 basil leaves
Extra basil leaves for garnish
Place tomatoes and apples into large bowl. Reserve some chopped tomatoes and chopped apples for garnish. Pour juices and stock syrup into the bowl, and add basil. Blend with a hand blender until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve. Refrigerate until needed. Garnish each bowl or cup of soup with finely chopped tomatoes and apples and a basil leaf.