Food in Focus: Irish Cuisine
With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, it’s a great time to try some Irish cuisine. Most Irish foods rely heavily on potatoes and hearty meats, so there are sure to be some comfort foods that everyone in your family will love.
A traditional shepherd’s pie is made with minced lamb or mutton, vegetables and mashed potato. However, when the dish originated, the meat was often whatever leftovers were available to scrounge together. Shepherd’s Pie was created to be economical and was known as a poor man’s dish. It has now become a staple in Irish cuisine and its popularity has spread across the globe. Try Gordon Ramsay’s recipe for a traditional shepherd’s pie.
Barmbrack or Brack
This traditional bread is also known as speckled bread because it’s filled with raisins. Barmbrack is sweet and is commonly served with coffee. There’s a fun tradition that goes along with Barmbrack if it’s served on Halloween. The bread has a hidden pea, stick, cloth, coin and ring. Each item has a meaning assigned to it. For instance, if you get the slice of Barmbrack with a ring in it, then it means that you’ll be married within the year.
Colcannon is a mashed potato dish with kale or cabbage mixed into it, and it’s often then served with boiled ham. There’s even a traditional Irish song dedicated to Colcannon because it’s a common comfort food in Ireland. Colcannon is also a part of Irish Halloween traditions, where it’s common to hide a ring, thimble or coin in the dish. Whoever finds the prizes gets to keep them.
The Great Famine hit Ireland in 1845, which caused for a lot of Irish recipes to use all parts of the animals in their meals. There are several recipes that call for pig’s blood, pig’s feet or kidneys. While it was common during the famine to use all parts of the pig, most Coddle recipes today just include sausage, bacon and potato. Coddle can include barley and Guinness, but this also isn’t as common anymore.
In 1990, an Irish man, John Lucey, set out to create a new cheese. When Lucey originally created the cheese, he named it “Aralgen.” It’s described as having the sharpness of a mature cheddar with the sweetness of parmigiano. In 1994, Dubliner earned its new name as commercial production began. It’s common to include Dubliner on a cheese board or use it to make grilled cheese sandwiches.
While not everyone is brave enough to try a traditional Irish dish like Skirts and Kidneys, there are several tamer options for those of us looking to eat conventional meat options. No one can deny that a meal of mashed potatoes, sausage and beer sounds delicious, so try making your own version of an Irish classic to celebrate St. Patrick’s day with a good hearty meal.
Text by Katherine Polcari