Cuisine Spotlight: Irish Food
Irish food – it’s just Guinness and potatoes isn’t it? Or should we say mutton and Guinness with potatoes. In a pie.
No, actually, according to our ‘resident Irish’, apparently not! So, in honour of St Patrick’s Day, we’ve turned our cuisine spotlight on Ireland, and we’ve explored some of the country’s finest feasts.
The History of Irish Food
Over the centuries, Irish cuisine has been influenced by many cultures, resulting in the varied and tasty dishes we know today.
600BC – The Celts started the ball rolling and began to farm the land. Their speciality seems to have been the ‘strong stuff’, with mead made with wheat and honey, and unhopped beer made from barley and wheat.
Eventually the English moved into Ireland and added their flavours to the pot, and in the 16th Century, the potato arrived!
Ireland provided the ideal climate for potato farming, and it quickly progressed from garden veg to the staple food crop. For the poorer population of Ireland the potato was the perfect dinner – but the population quickly became spud obsessed. When the infamous potato famine hit in the 19th Century over 1 million people died as a result and a further 2 million were forced to emigrate.
Food in Ireland Today
Irish beef is renowned for being delicious and (veggies excepted) no-one can dare call themselves Irish if they don’t have a taste for Gaelic steak – pan fried tastiness with a shot of whisky. But it’s mutton that’s really synonymous with Irish cooking, and stew springs to mind. A traditional dish made from lamb or mutton, potatoes, onions and parsley, Irish stew has a countless recipe variations but always retains a strong flavour and ‘sheep’ focus!
Surrounded by the sea
Surrounded by the sea, full of rivers and lakes and with a disproportionate amount of rain, Ireland has a strong connection to the water. The benefit is a vast helping of scrumptious seafood – known to be some of the best in Europe. Mussels, crab, oysters, salmon, blacksole and white fish all feature heavily in Irish cuisine.
Simple Bread and Cheese
Ireland is the heartland of sodabread. Filling and delicious, and pairing with anything from salmon to soup, it can pop up during almost every meal at the Irish table. It is also surprisingly easy to make, with no need for kneading for hours or proving for days – simply mix the ingredients, stick it in the oven, wait a while and feast away! And what better accompaniment than fine Irish cheese? Due to the sea-salted grassland that Irish cows graze on, their milk produces exceptionally flavoursome cheese with lots of butterfat in the milk.
Loving the Leftovers
The Irish have a special name for their leftovers, Coddle. A true Dublin dish, Coddle uses up whatever is in the kitchen, so there are hundreds of recipes and no recipe at all! It commonly includes pork or bacon rashers, and, of course, potato. ‘Coddle’ means to cook in water below boiling, and true to the dish’s name, the ingredients bubble away in a pan until cooked. The only seasoning is salt, pepper and sometimes parsley.
And then, there’s Guinness, lot’s of it!
Will you be celebrating St Patrick’s Day this year? Tell us where you are and what you have planned!
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