Both Myrtle Allen and I have always been interested in traditional Irish recipes and we have often found at Ballymaloe that recipes handed down from generation to generation produce the most delicious results.
Over the years, we gradually built up a small collection. About 15 years ago, however, I saw that there was an urgent need to research more vigorously.
With the passing of one more generation, I realised, a whole culinary tradition, with all its fascinating regional variations, was in imminent danger of being lost.
That was the starting point for this book. Writing it has been a labour of salvage, as well as one of love. Early on in my research, I wrote to regional newspapers inviting readers to send me old family recipes, and the response was overwhelming.
I received wonderful replies which encouraged me to contact people all over the country and set off on a journey of discovery.
Everywhere, I met people who were delighted to pass on recipes for dishes that had been an essential part of their lives, along with their recollections.
In recent years there has been a renaissance on the Irish food scene. Irish chefs have become more adventurous and many have a greater appreciation of quality Irish produce, giving them the confidence to serve Irish food proudly.
At last there appears to be a growing appreciation of the value of fresh, naturally produced food in season. This is particularly evident in the crowds that flock to the farmers' markets springing up all over the country.
I hope my own enthusiasm will encourage more young Irish chefs to include such things as champ, colcannon, Irish stew and bacon and cabbage on their menus, and to cook them with pride.
I believe we can learn a great deal from a tradition based around fresh local ingredients, simply and succulently cooked. That is what this book is all about.
'Irish Traditional Cooking', published by Gill & Macmillan, is in shops now, priced at €28
Food & Drink
My Irish clan hail from the village of Sneem, a jewel on the Ring of Kerry. On a rocky promontory stands Parknasilla Hotel, historical haven for luminaries such as George Bernard Shaw, Charlie Chaplin, Charles de Gaulle and Princess Grace of Monaco.