Think you know Irish cuisine? Hint: It’s more than just fish and chips. In fact, some of the American menu items we think of as Irish aren’t the ‘real thing’ at all. So while you’re noshing on corned beef and cabbage this St. Patrick’s Day, check out these seven foods that are truly Irish. And perhaps you’ll try one of these recipes to hold you over until you visit the Emerald Isle!
#1. Irish Stew
This dish is made with root vegetables and either lamb or mutton, potatoes, carrots, onions and parsley. In Ireland, it’s sometimes called “ballymaloe.” Irish stew became popular in the early 19th century during harsh economic times, since all it took to make was a hanging pot, an open fire, and a few easy and inexpensive ingredients. Today, Guinness stout is often an added ingredient!
#2. Irish Soda Bread
A bread that doesn’t require any yeast in the recipe, Irish soda bread is instead made with baking soda and buttermilk. In the north of Ireland, it’s also called “farl,” with the bread cut into slices and baked on a griddle. In the southern areas of Ireland, Irish soda bread is baked in round tins with a cross cut into the top of the loaf. Tradition has it that this cross would ward off evil.
#3. Shepherd’s Pie
The main ingredients in this comfort food are ground lamb cooked in gravy with onions, carrots, celery and a mashed potato crust on top (and also sometimes on the bottom). In Ireland, shepherd’s pie is sometimes called “cottage pie,” and was considered a delicacy back when the potato was first introduced to Ireland in 1589 as an affordable piece of produce.
This meal has a bit of superstition attached to it. One myth is that a single woman from the home where the dish was to be cooked would be blindfolded and sent out to the garden to pick the curly kale or cabbage needed for the recipe. Once the meal was cooked, she would put the first and last spoonful of her colcannon into her stocking and hang it in front of the house. The next bachelor to walk through the door would become her husband! Colcannon is a creamy mix of mashed potatoes and cabbage or kale, and is usually served with bacon, ham, or sausage and fried eggs.
This dish is normally served at breakfast along with bacon or sausage and eggs, and is similar to a potato pancake. It’s usually made with grated potatoes, flour, salt, pepper and oil, and can also include onions, butter, milk or cheese. The mixture is then pan fried. There’s even an old Irish rhyme about boxty: “Boxty on the griddle, boxty on the pan; if you can’t make boxty, you’ll never get a man!”
A sweet and ‘speckled’ loaf, this is a bread containing fruit (usually raisins). Traditionally, it was served with afternoon tea, as a snack. Each slice of ‘brack’ would be buttered before eating. It’s got some superstition surrounding it, and one custom is to cook an item into the loaf. Whoever ends up with that item on their plate will learn something about their future. For example, finding a coin would mean a prosperous year, and finding a pea would mean you would not get married that year. A cloth or a stick found in your slice of bread would be a bad omen.
#7. Dublin Coddle
Traditionally, this meal would be eaten by the man of the house upon his return from his evening at the pub. In modern times, it’s a hearty meal for the whole family. It’s usually made with leftovers, like sausage, bacon, potatoes, onions and vegetables, all added to a pan with a little water and covered to steam and slow boil. It originated in Dublin, hence the name, and was supposedly a favorite of famous Irishmen like Jonathan Swift!
Want to discover even more reasons to visit Ireland? Click here for more information about our Road Scholar Learning Adventures in Ireland!