It's unarguable -- the quality of Irish cooking has been on a steady upward course for the past 30 years.
Thirty-odd years ago, there were only three Michelin stars in the entire island. In Co Cork, Ballymaloe House and Arbutus Lodge had one each. In Wicklow, my restaurant Armstrong's Barn had one. That was it. Today, there's a total of seven stars -- six are in Dublin and only one outside.
But apart from the growth in stars, there's been a huge improvement in all levels of restaurants. Today, a bad meal is not so easily found. You may get shoddy service, and the occasional mistake happens, but, for the most part, food has become better.
Plus, all manner of foodstuffs previously unknown in the Irish market are now taken for granted.
But there's one type of cooking that has resolutely remained as it always was. That's the cooking you find in restaurants that call themselves Italian. With the very odd exception, what these restaurants serve is part-Italian, part-Irish and part-invented. They serve dishes that no Italian would recognise as part of their culinary heritage. You'll know that it's long been a crusade of mine to get authenticity into Italian restaurants.
I have little urge to open another restaurant, but I've decided there's another way to get good Italian food on to plates in Ireland. I've written a book that includes all my favourite dishes, which can be made with ingredients readily found in Ireland. If I can't get the restaurants to be authentic, perhaps I can persuade the home cooks to give it a try.
Cooking authentic Italian food isn't difficult, but it is at times a little labour-intensive. Personally, I've always believed that the effort is worth it, as good food figures high on my list of pleasures.
What follows is a taste of what's in the book. You can also find out how to make sausages, cheese, pasta, gnocchi, Parma hams and liqueurs, which will really make your Italian cooking authentic.