Cork chefs feature in new charity cookbook

A new cookbook in aid of Peter McVerry Trust celebrates a comforting taste of home, writes KATE RYAN of
Cork chefs feature in new charity cookbook

At the launch of The Gathered Table: A Taste Of Home, a cookbook by 55 Irish contributors in aid of Peter McVerry Trust, were Pauline Cox and Mark Anderson of Gather & Gather Ireland with Kristin Jensen, Nine Bean Rows and Pat Doyle, CEO, Peter McVerry Trust. Picture: Bryan Brophy

THERE are many things that make a house a home, but nothing evokes a stronger sense of home than a favourite dish: the aroma as it cooks, the unwritten rituals for serving and eating it, the memories a favourite dish can so powerfully conjure.

Each of us who have a place to call home in Ireland today are among the lucky ones. The housing and homelessness crisis that has plagued Ireland for almost two decades, together with war and economic hardship in countries that are our near neighbours, have collided, creating a perfect storm of too many without a place they can call home.

It can be overwhelming. But those working to resolve this crisis provide a beacon of hope, and a new cookbook, The Gathered Table: A Taste Of Home, aims to raise awareness and funds to support this work.

The Peter McVerry Trust is a national charity working across Ireland, committed to reducing homelessness and the harm caused by substance misuse and social disadvantage. Their work includes building houses, providing stable long-term homes where people can rebuild their lives and regain a sense of self.

The Gathered Table A Taste of Home in aid of Peter McVerry Trust
The Gathered Table A Taste of Home in aid of Peter McVerry Trust

Gather & Gather are a catering company founded in Ireland. They provide high quality, sustainable catering services. Its culinary director is one of Ireland’s great food champions, Mark Anderson, and it was his idea for a cookbook to celebrate home comfort and food in aid of Peter McVerry Trust.

Gather & Gather Ireland managing director, Pauline Cox, said: “We had been involved with Peter McVerry Trust for several years and was looking for a project that would make an impact in supporting their work.

“While a cookbook’s role in raising awareness may not be apparent at first glance, it becomes more evident when you consider the relationship between our food and our security and comfort. The Gathered Table: A Taste of Home does all these things, in aid of a very good cause.”

Pat Doyle, CEO of Peter McVerry Trust, said; “Home means something special to many of us. For the people we work with, home means safety, security, and independence.”

The book is published by trailblazing Irish publishing house Nine Bean Rows, and as its founder, Kristin Jensen, succinctly says: “There are few things that connect everyone, everywhere. Food is one of them. Home is another. This is powerfully illustrated in The Gathered Table: A Taste of Home, which we are proud to be publishing for a good cause.”

The cookbook contains 55 recipes with beautifully photographed dishes of pure homely comfort. Each recipe is donated by Ireland’s leading food writers, chefs and food champions interspersed with moving real-life stories of those who Peter McVerry Trust have helped out of homelessness.

In 2022, the trust supported more than 12,000 people in towns and cities across the country and gave over 900 people the key to their own home. In 2023, this work is sadly needed more than ever, and this book is one way in which to support their ongoing work.

Ten of the recipe contributors are based in our home county of Cork. I asked them why they wanted to be involved, and why their recipe invokes a sense of home for them.

Denis Cotter of Paradiso, Washington Street, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
Denis Cotter of Paradiso, Washington Street, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Denis Cotter, Paradiso: Wild Garlic Mashotto with Sprouting Broccoli and Beluga Lentils.

“Mark Anderson asked if I would contribute a recipe. It was for such a good cause, and such a brilliant idea to produce a book of recipes that evoke a sense of home to raise funds for an organisation that provides that sense of home for people who don’t have one,” said Denis.

“My recipe is a very simple one, just a big bowl of mash presented as though it’s risotto with some spicy lentils and greens on top.

“It’s a version of the comfort food I cook for myself when I’m feeling a little fragile, and I think a big part of why comfort foods work for us is that they make us feel safe in our homes.”

Sally McKenna, McKenna’s Guides: Dillisk, Leek and Cheddar Tart

“We are great admirers of Gather & Gather and Kristin Jensen, and support everything the McVerry Trust tries to achieve. Homelessness is an abomination in a wealthy, developed country, and could and should be solved in Ireland as soon as possible,” said Sally.

“Making pies and tarts signals that you are home, and that you have time to be creative. We spend a lot of time travelling and being away from home, so having time to plan and cook is even more precious. Plus, tarts are cooked to be shared together. That’s why the table comes first!”

Sally Barnes.
Sally Barnes.

Sally Barnes, Woodcock Smokery: Cullen Skink

The Gathered Table is such a beautiful book, and I was keen to help support the Peter McVerry Trust. Nobody wants to be without the comfort of knowing where to lay the head at night; I cannot imagine not having a sound roof, regular food, clean water, warm, dry bed - things that may seem simple requirements.

“My recipe is, for me, a taste of my ‘home’ country [Scotland], even after more than 40 years of life spent in Ireland. When one is a ‘stranger’ in another country, recipes from home cement the ties to homelands, and keep parts of our culture alive if we have lost everything else,” said Sally.

“Cullen Skink is pure comfort food. A hard day in the cold, damp workshop with wet hands and icy feet is not much fun, but the thought that after work I can create a very nourishing fast supper hits all the right buttons for me – 20 minutes and it’s ready. Fast-slow food!”

 Ahmet Dede. Picture: Andy Gibson.
 Ahmet Dede. Picture: Andy Gibson.

Ahmet Dede, Dede at The Customs House: Spiced Lamb Shoulder with Bulghur Wheat

The Gathered Table supports a great cause, helping for something good, and I always support this kind of organisation, and a little platform for me to share one of my recipes for many people to try out,” said Ahmet.

“I love this dish because of the spices, aromats and family-style cooking, plus bulghur wheat is one of my favourite foods. It’s a dish that is about the way I grew up, sharing big joints of meat, chicken or a vegetable dish always in the centre of the table. I want people to experience that in Ireland and to enjoy that side of my culture and cooking.”

Darina Allen, Ballymaloe Cookery School: Roman Chicken and Chips with Rosemary and Thyme

“I hugely admire the work done by Peter McVerry Trust, and one often feels so helpless with the scale of the problem as what on earth to do to help in any way,” said Darina.

“I was lucky to have a mother who loved to cook. She cooked every single day, there were nine of us and there was always a smell of cooking running in from school. She’d make lots of meals in a great big roasting tin: some kind of meat, often a lesser cut of something, and always with lots of potatoes to make a whole meal. This recipe is a riff on how my mother used to cook, inspired by a bakery/café in Rome called Bonci. It’s a great big dish of stuff and such comfort food, just what you’d love to tuck into to warm the cockles of your heart.”

Ruth Healy, Urru Culinary Store: Smoked Salmon, Chorizo and Potato Gratin

“The need and value of the Peter McVerry cause is only too obvious. The concept of marrying a recipe book with reflections on the importance of food and home was immediately powerful to me. It sparks a longer pause in thinking about the real loss of a home and the real value of having one,” said Ruth.

“Potatoes and dairy are literally satiating and nourishing ingredients, and that is what home does, too. On a practical level, in a big family, dressing up basic ingredients into a single dish is a cost-effective way of cooking - and nothing activates the taste buds like the aroma of garlic and chorizo from the oven.”

Chef Aishling Moore.
Chef Aishling Moore.

Aishling Moore, Goldie Fish & Ale: Smoked Haddock Risotto

“I was delighted to be asked to contribute a recipe to this book. It’s a fantastic idea that took such little time from many contributors to produce a truly beautiful book for such a worthy cause,” said Aishling.

“The smoked haddock risotto is my go-to quick meal when I’m craving a deeply comforting seafood dinner when I have little time to prepare. Smoked fish is one of my absolute favourites. The combination of fish and rice is one which I find so nourishing, a big pot in the centre of the table, bread for mopping up the dish and a crisp green salad.”

Caitlin Ruth, Chef: Kale, Tomato and Parmesan Soup

“I jumped at the chance to contribute a recipe to The Gathered Table. The Peter McVerry Trust help the most vulnerable people in our society, making real changes in their lives, providing secure accommodation and support, person by person,” said Caitlin.

“My soup recipe, which I make at work and home, is a nourishing and comforting meal using autumnal ingredients we often have too much of - kale, courgettes, and tomatoes.

“When I make a pot of this, we eat it for days instead of supper; just knowing it’s there in the fridge ready to heat up makes me happy.”

JR Ryall.
JR Ryall.

JR Ryall, Ballymaloe House: Baked Rice Pudding

“The Peter McVerry Trust does incredible work throughout Ireland. When Kristin Jensen got in touch to tell me about her idea for The Gathered Table, it felt like a wonderful project to be part of,” said JR. “My mother often made rice pudding at home for my sister and I when we were growing up. I always loved it. It’s easy and inexpensive to prepare and I find myself often popping one into the oven as a treat, even when I’m home alone! It is one of the most soothing and comforting desserts I know.”

Smoked salmon, chorizo and potato gratin by Ruth Healy, which features in the new cookbook. Picture: Katie Quinn.
Smoked salmon, chorizo and potato gratin by Ruth Healy, which features in the new cookbook. Picture: Katie Quinn.

Try Ruth Healy’s comforting taste of home with her recipe for Smoked Salmon, Chorizo and Potato Gratin:

Ingredients (serves 4)

· a knob of butter

· 1 garlic clove, cut in half across the short side

· 8 medium or large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

· 100g smoked salmon, torn into manageable strips

· 100g chorizo, sliced.

· a pinch of grated nutmeg

· salt and ground white pepper

· 500ml milk

· 200ml cream

· 200g Cheddar or Gruyère cheese, grated.


1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (180C fan). Butter the base and sides of a 35cm x 20cm dish, then rub it with the cut side of the halved garlic clove.

2. Soak the potato slices in cold water until ready to use, drain and pat dry in a clean tea towel. Start with an overlapping layer of potatoes in the bottom of the dish, then add a layer of the smoked salmon, more potatoes, a layer of chorizo and finish with a layer of potatoes. Sprinkle a little nutmeg, salt and white pepper on each layer as you go.

3. Stir the milk and cream together and pour it over the potatoes. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, until the potatoes are soft and creamy.

4. Serve with buttered peas and green leafy vegetables or a salad.

The Gathered Table: A Taste Of Home is €30 with all proceeds going to Peter McVerry Trust. It can be purchased from bookshops and independently retailers across the city and county, or online direct from the publisher at

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