Even though Ireland is a small country, it has a distinct culture all its own,
and a distinctive cuisine as well. Irish cooking takes its inspiration from
the ingredients that have sustained its population through good times and
bad over the centuries: cabbage, lamb, pork, wheat, dark beer and, of course,
potatoes. Because most of these ingredients are inexpensive and widely available,
traditional Irish dishes are enjoyed by people in all walks of life, both
rich and poor, urban and rural. The following ten dishes are some of the most
beloved and familiar dishes eaten at home and at restaurants or taverns throughout
Irish Stew is one of those dishes that are made a little bit differently by
every cook in every part of Ireland. Stewed meat and root vegetables are the
common denominators, but the meat can be lamb, mutton or beef, and the vegetables
can include carrots, turnips, onions and potatoes. The stew is cooked for several
hours to make sure the meat is tender and flavorful. Some cooks even pour in
some Guinness stout for a little extra zing.
Boxty is Ireland's answer to that world-wide favorite dish: potato pancakes.
It seems many cultures have their own version, but what makes Boxty distinct
is the combination of both mashed and grated potato. You can have Boxty for
breakfast, as a side dish, or even wrapped around a filling like a flatbread.
When you combine all of the favorite ingredients of Irish culture, you're bound
to come up with something delicious, and that delicious dish is called Colcannon.
A mixture of mashed potatoes, cabbage or kale, onions or leek and sometimes bacon,
Colcannon is Irish comfort food at its very best. Dig a hole in the top of your
Colcannon and pour in melted butter to create an especially decadent treat.
Throughout Irish history, small farmers sustained themselves on what they
produced, and almost every farm had its own pigs and grew its own cabbage.
Thus Bacon and Cabbage was born. This dish usually uses back bacon, which
is not smoked or sliced, but smoked bacon is also used. When Irish immigrants
came to the United States, cooks found corned beef more readily available
than back bacon. This means that Corned Beef and Cabbage is actually an Irish-American
dish, a stand-in for the authentically Irish Bacon and Cabbage.
Shepherd's pie, a popular dish throughout the British Isles, came about when
the potato was brought from South America as a cheap and nourishing food
staple. Shepherd's pie incorporates a crust of mashed potato--rather than
pastry--over a thick, stew-like filling. Either ground beef or lamb can be
used along with potatoes and vegetables.
The presence of baking soda rather than yeast is what characterizes Soda Bread.
The baking soda allows the baker to use the softer wheat that grows well in
Ireland, rather than the hard wheat needed for yeast bread. Unlike the soda
bread seen in America and elsewhere, traditional Irish Soda Bread is a plain
white or brown loaf that does not contain fruit or raisins. Soda Bread can be
formed into large round loaf or flattened and cooked on a griddle. These
flattened cakes are called Farl.
For many Irish people, the coming of spring means it's time to enjoy a slow-roasted
leg of lamb. Sheep have long been more common and affordable than beef cows in
Ireland, and lamb makes a tender and flavorful roast. Served alongside fresh
spring peas, tiny new potatoes and a tangy mint sauce, this dish could hardly
be more emblematic of the excellence of Irish cuisine.
Guinness Stout is practically the national beverage of Ireland, so while a
Chocolate Guinness Cake isn't especially traditional, it is very Irish. The
dark beer gives the cake an extra-rich flavor and the alcohol evaporates,
so you don't have to worry about letting kids try it. A fluffy white icing
on top of the cake is reminiscent of the creamy foam on a pint of stout.
Salmon is a favorite fish in Ireland, and people come from all over the world
to fish for salmon in Ireland's crystal-clear rivers. Irish salmon fishing
season opens on March 17th, St. Patrick's Day, which makes Roasted Salmon
the perfect Irish entree.
Many cuisine over the world have a special name for a dish made of leftovers,
and in Ireland it's Dublin Coddle. This homey dish is made from sausages,
bacon, onion and potatoes, layered together and cooked slowly in broth. To
many Irish people, the taste of Coddle is the taste of home.