Brian McDermott, Donegal Table

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To understand the status that chef Brian McDermott enjoys up in the far North West of Ireland, you only need to know one number: 457.
That’s the number of tickets that were issued for the official launch of Brian’s new book, Brian McDermott’s Donegal Table (O’Brien Press). Mind you, we suspect there were probably 500 people in the ballroom of the Redcastle Hotel, to celebrate a book that celebrates Mr McDermott’s native county.
It’s a lovely work: very personal, very engaged, witty and fun, and packed with the sort of food that you cook night after night, day after day. I didn’t think I had much if anything to learn about making potato gratin – pommes dauphinoise – but I was wrong, and Mr McDermott’s creamy, crunchy, garlicky version is the new headline starch star in this house. But where the book really wins out is in the way in which it reanimates the dishes of the past, of McDermott’s childhood, and the vivid ways in which he brings them to life on the page. Donegal Table is a celebration of a life where food is the fulcrum, and the centre, of the culture. It’s an enriching achievement.