Reflecting changes in today's Ireland

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Book's recipes aren't traditional fare, but what's cooking now

March 12, 2003|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

Wonder what the folks in Ireland will be eating this St. Patrick's Day?

It may not be corned beef and cabbage.

In the last decade, Ireland has undergone a culinary transformation not unlike that of the United States. The new emphasis is on fresh ingredients infused with spices and techniques from many other cultures, including Mediterranean and Asian.

Margaret M. Johnson records this transformation in The New Irish Table (Chronicle Books, 2003, $24.95), a collection of 70 recipes from chefs around the Emerald Isle.

Here are familiar Irish ingredients -- beef, lamb, salmon and, of course, potatoes -- but used in new ways. Smoked salmon joins fresh spinach leaves and blue cheese in a bed of phyllo dough for a savory appetizer. Bosc pears poached in mead create a sophisticated dessert. The lamb cutlets are seasoned with apricots and hot Thai curry paste.

A few of the dishes, like the colcannon (a mashed-potato, leek and cabbage dish) seem to stay true to their Irish roots, but most recipes bring new ideas to the table.

The book is illustrated with beautiful photographs, and the recipes are clearly written, with helpful explanations on unfamiliar ingredients. A resource guide in the back of the book gives suggestions on where to find foods like mead and pork belly.

This isn't traditional Irish fare, but food lovers may appreciate the change.

Lamb Cutlets With Honey, Apricot and Tarragon Sauce

Serves 4

2/3 cup dried apricots, finely chopped

2 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth

2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon

2 1/2 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 teaspoon hot Thai curry paste

2 tablespoons olive oil

12 lamb cutlets or loin chops (2 pounds total)

tarragon sprigs for garnish

Soak the apricots in the stock or broth with the minced tarragon for 3 to 4 hours.

Transfer the apricot mixture to a food processor. Add 1 teaspoon of the honey, the lemon juice, salt and pepper and process until smooth. Pour into a small saucepan and cook over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, or until heated through.

Light a fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill to medium-high. Combine the remaining honey, curry paste and olive oil in a small bowl. Brush the mixture over both sides of the lamb cutlets. Season with salt and pepper. Grill the lamb for 3 minutes on each side for rare and 5 minutes on each side for medium.

To serve, arrange 3 cutlets on each serving plate and spoon the sauce over.

Garnish with tarragon sprigs.

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