Below are my favorite Irish recipes (so far) and some fun facts for a light dive into Irish culture.
What do you know about Irish history and culture? Have you been there? Any good pub and grub recommendations?
Irish Colcannon fits the back pocket recipe requirements, simple, easy and easy to remember ingredients. Most people have butter and salt & pepper already, so if you can remember potatoes, cabbage and sour cream, you are golden. I like to use Mexican Creama instead of sour cream. It tastes richer and is already salted. Try this if you haven’t already, I dare you.
Dublin Coddle is the perfect Irish comfort food. While stewing, it fills the house with such cozy aromas. This and hunk of bread is perfect any day but especially on cold days or if you are feeling a bit under the weather.
Originally Coddle was a stew that used up leftover meat on Thursdays and simmered slowly for hours. Fridays in Ireland were generally meatless days since the catholics weren’t allowed to eat meat. Using up leftover meat was very important in days before refrigeration. Each family had their own recipe and that might even change weekly depending on what food was leftover that needed to be used up.
Bacon and sausage were common meats in the stew but lamb would be added as needed. Potatoes, onions and fresh herbs where commonly used also. Thyme and parsley were widely available in Ireland so those were utilized regularly.
It is believed that many Irish housewives left the stew to simmer slowly before going to bed so that their husbands would have something to eat when they got home from the pub.
Irish Champ is a simple Irish food made of potatoes, milk, green onions, butter and cheese. This is similar to Colcannon which uses cabbage instead of scallions.
If you can make mashed potatoes from scratch, you can make Champ. One of the things I love about recipes like this is that you can scale up or down without really using a recipe. Just cook as many potatoes as you have mouths to feed, add some dairy and onions and everybody is happy.
Another thing I really like about this recipe, it’s made of potatoes! Some people are crazy over noodles or pasta, for me it’s potatoes and cheese. This dish has both.
Boxty is a traditional Irish potato pancake that uses both cooked mashed potatoes and grated raw potatoes. It typically consists of flour, eggs and baking soda. The baking soda gives it that pancake-like rise while the raw grated potatoes imparts a nice ‘bite’ similar to a latke.
When I was little, there were only a few things my dad knew how to cook. Beef stew was one of them. Oh how it would fill the house with such comforting smells, like a giant cozy hug for the soul. This Irish stew reminds me of my dads beef stew.
This authentic stew is quite healthy in a cooked-from-scratch kind of way. There are only a few ingredients in this easy recipe and it stews for up to 2 hours, making a stew with very tender meat and thick gravy. This recipe can easily be cooked in a crockpot or slow cooker.
A simple, no knead no fuss kind of bread that uses bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) instead of yeast. You can create different variations by just adding some herbs and cheese.
Irish Soda Bread may actually have originated in North America. Native Americans were already making bread using potash as a leavener in their bread. Potash is potassium carbonate, a precursor to the use of sodium bicarbonate.
The first published recipe for soda bread hit print in 1796 in the cookbook American Cookery. This was a means of making quick and cheap bread for everybody. Soda bread didn’t show up in Europe until the mid-1800’s, spreading pretty quickly as the 4 ingredients were readily available to most cultures.
Soft wheat is commonly used in Ireland. You can make this with cake or pastry flour. I made this with a mix of cake and all purpose flour also known as plain flour. The texture is a dense, flavorful bread. Slicing and toasting this really brings out the character in this rustic bread. It’s amazing smothered with butter, in case you needed to know that.
Irish cuisine took a beating through its history. The English Conquest stripped Ireland of its cuisine by diverting their agricultural goods to England to feed its conquering armies. At times, the only food the Irish could afford to eat were potatoes, the reason why todays menu of Irish cuisine almost always includes potatoes. It is also one of three reasons why a third of the Irish population perished during the Great Hunger, or as we know it on this side of the pond, the Irish Potato Famine.
The other two reasons as I understand it include a monoculture potato crop and a potato blight. This means there wasn’t enough genetic diversity in the potato to fight off a potato blight.
Irish cuisine is a little unique in that it has been developed by the commoners. Modern chefs have interesting interpretations of this cuisine but it was the working class that developed these much loved recipes from the food that was available to them. There wasn’t any Irish royalty that had master cooks developing fine cuisine for the upper class.
Holidays in Ireland
- New Years Day
- St. Patricks Day
- St. Stephens Day
There aren’t many holidays in Ireland. There are some additional bank holidays but they aren’t associated with any meaningful event.
St. Patricks Day
St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17th and is mostly a product of Irish immigrants wanting to celebrate their heritage, especially in North America. A group of Irish men, longing for their homeland got together in New York, before American Independence, and celebrated Ireland’s patron saint. In America, the celebrations spread from there. Most Americans identify as Americans and other. We are a nation of immigrants so we easily identify with cultures of our ancestors. This may be the reason why this celebration spread so quickly.
It didn’t take long for Irish immigrants around World to celebrate March 17. St. Patrick’s Day may be the most successful exported holiday by any ethnic group to date.
St. Patrick’s Day didn’t become a public holiday in Ireland until 1904. That celebration was more somber with mass in the morning and a military parade at noon. Pubs actually closed.
Today, this holiday is very commercialized and is celebrated to some degree in most countries.
St. Patrick was actually born in Britain. At age 16 he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and brought back to Ireland where he worked as a shepherd for six years. There he found God and made his way back home. He later returned to Ireland as a missionary and converted thousands of druids to Christianity. The druids worshipped snakes, St. Patrick was credited with driving out the snakes from Ireland. There actually weren’t any snakes in Ireland, it is probably a metaphor. Since he brought Christianity to Ireland, he became the patron Saint of Ireland.
You don’t need any special occasion to make traditional Irish food. The fare is simple but so hearty that it’s actually really good weeknight fare, something you can whip up for an appreciative family. You could stew Coddle all day Saturday and make a quick soda bread to go with. This is very easy fare to integrate into your family’s favorite family dinners.
What is your favorite Irish recipe?