Chef Cathal Armstrong, born in Dublin and later immigrated to the US, has just released his first cookbook, focusing on Irish cuisine, entitled 'My Irish Table'.
Cathal Armstrong dug deep into his Gaelic roots for inspiration for his first cookbook, My Irish Table, which includes recipes and stories about his journey as a chef.
Cathal Armstrong dug deep into his Gaelic roots for inspiration for his first cookbook, My Irish Table, which includes recipes and stories about his journey as a chef. Critics have praised the Dublin-born chef for his creative and healthy dishes that highlight vegetables and meat raised in the mid-Atlantic region of the US.
With his Irish upbringing and classic European training, Armstrong, who immigrated to America when he was 20, takes a more global approach in the kitchen. At his fine-dining restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Virginia, his menu often displays an Asian flair. Armstrong, 44, spoke to Reuters about his career, the book that he co-wrote with food writer David Hagedorn, and the renaissance in Irish cooking.
Do you think Irish food is misunderstood?
The biggest misunderstanding about Irish food is that it is limited to two to three dishes that are boiled until they are beyond recognition to what the food originally was. There was a reason for that. Ireland was oppressed for hundreds of years by a neighbouring country. Because of its history, it had very limited access to raw materials widely available in the country.
It has a moderate, temperate climate. We grow green grass 365 days of the year. We graze cattle and sheep 365 days of the year. We could grow crops 365 days of the year. It is a tiny island surrounded on all sides by rich seas with the best oysters, the best lobsters you could find and Dublin Bay prawns, which is a langoustine that is the most luxurious food you could find anywhere. So she has all the raw materials available to make the most exquisite food.
Is there a revived interest in Irish cuisine?
In the early to mid-1990s, a resurgence happened when people stopped immigrating and returned from the continent and brought home their experiences. That’s when a modern Irish cuisine happened with some of the ingredients indigenous to the island.
How did you modernise familiar Irish dishes in the book?
I wanted to illustrate the difference between braising and boiling the hell out of something. Because the climate is mild there all the time, there are a lot of dishes that are traditionally braised. When those dishes are cooked properly and the meat is browned properly and delicately cooked with all these interesting flavours, these complex layers of flavours could meld together. You could get some extraordinary, comfortable, warm dishes that make you feel good.
I also wanted to show the extent of how rich the seafood is in Ireland and illustrate the fact that we have a broad range of vegetables. I talk at length about potatoes, which is obviously a big part of Irish culture. But there were so many other things my father grew in the garden. There is more to Irish vegetables than spuds.