[Photograph: Steve Legato]

It used to be that the pantry was the heart of the kitchen. But it seems like the priority of having a well-stocked kitchen has fallen by the wayside. The Irish Pantry, by Noel McMeel, resurrects the attitude of preparation, and providing for the home.

McMeel is an Irish chef, born and bred. His family had a small dairy farm, and his mother instilled in him the practice of preservation. If something could be made to keep, then it was: pickles, potted meats, spice mixes, even cakes preserved in their own syrup. The Irish Pantry makes a point of sharing recipes for all these foods, and more. McMeel's philosophy of using the best, freshest ingredients of every season, and preserving that which we can't use, is well served.

This is traditional Irish cooking that doesn't feel pigeonholed or stereotypical. Those expecting corned beef and cabbage, or a dozen ways to prepare potatoes, will be pleasantly surprised. There's plenty of standard fare, like scones and hearty breads, but the more exotic selections, like red onion and Guinness marmalade, coexist peacefully beside them.

We've chosen sturdy recipes that can weather a stay in the pantry, while doubling as special treats. Toasted Coconut Granola is warm and crunchy, and does well in milk, over yogurt, or by the handful. Chocolate and Walnut Scones are a nut-studded indulgence, their wholesome, crumbly base pocketed with chunks of chocolate. Savory Irish Oat Cakes are comforting, hearty little things dusted with a dash of crunchy sugar, and Bailey's Fudge Squares embrace the almost stereotypical association of Ireland with cream liqueur, using it along with dark and white chocolate to make deeply rich pieces of fudge.

While it may no longer be necessary to fill your cabinets for fear of famine, being able to reach for something when you have a sweets craving feels downright luxurious. Bake along with us, and maybe you'll find some staples to add to your pantry.

Win A Copy!

Thanks to the generous folks over at Running Press, we are giving away five (5) copies of Irish Pantry this week. All you have to do is tell us what you always keep in your pantry.


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