As with any trip to a familiar place, I have favorite foods that I must eat while visiting. To celebrate my Irish half this week, I am sharing with you my favorite Irish foods.
I first went to Ireland to meet the family! I was marrying a Dublin native. Food was not what came to mind when I envisioned what Ireland would have in store for me. For me, it was more about Guinness stout, Irish music, and good times. Having been there many times now, (as a parent in more recent years), I really look forward to enjoying my favorite Irish foods, as well as a pint (not pints!) of Guinness and good times with family and friends.
I can’t say that there is a special ingredient here (except perhaps Guinness). It is more about the quality of food and the atmosphere. As you would expect, the stew is made with lamb, potatoes, carrots, and herbs. The meat is local, tender and delicious - it is common to see sheep roaming freely in the countryside. Irish potatoes have a floury consistency that I really like, which contributes to the creamy texture of the stew. Mostly though, its yumminess comes from the context. After a day out in the west of Ireland, walking and taking in the sights, with a constant and not-so-gentle sea breeze for company, a delicious bowl of lamb stew hits the spot. Lamb Stew Recipe Photo by: R. O’Brien
Soda Bread & Brown Bread
Bread is my weakness, especially Italian and French breads. At first, Irish breads just didn’t look as inviting as the crusty light breads I am fond of. I didn’t expect to be won over. However, I was pleasantly surprised that I really liked Irish soda bread and brown bread. Both are more moist than they look and have a subtle sweetness that really works well with a slab of butter! There are many variations on the original recipes to suit everyone’s tastes. Learn more about soda bread from an expert in this interview with Irish chef Rory O'Connell Photo by Rachel Sandall www.applebrides.com
Traditional Irish Fry Up
This could be my all time favorite food tradition. A fry up is usually eaten on a lazy weekend morning. Historically, a fry up was made up of heavy sausages, bacon, and eggs to give those working the land a substantial meal to start off their day. Today’s version of an Irish Fry Up Breakfast is a sampling of Irish specialty meats like rashers (Irish bacon), bangers (sausages), black and white puddings (sausages), eggs, baked beans, sauteed mushrooms, tomatoes and toast. With a more health-conscious generation continuing the tradition, the fry up is often a “grill up” with poached instead of fried eggs. I’ll give my brother-in-law Jim top marks for his grill up - a meal we always look forward to!
Irish Smoked Salmon
I happen to really like smoked salmon and think that the Irish smoked salmon is the best I’ve had. It makes sense that, being surrounded by water, they’d know what to do with fish. Smoked Salmon served on Guinness brown bread with goat cheese, salad and potatoes is just about as good as it gets. My daughter loves it too, so it makes for a healthy family meal and one that we replicate here at home often. Smoked Salmon on Irish Soda Bread with Chive Butter Recipe
On a sweet note, scones are such a treat! Served with jam and clotted cream, they are the perfect pick-me-up in the middle of the day. Afternoon tea with all the trimmings is a real experience. The lovely hotels in Ireland offer a delicious tiered tea tray with gorgeous finger sandwiches, scones and pastries. They don’t seem to mind the kiddies running wild while you’re enjoying your tea and conversation, so that’s a plus. When I think of scones, I think of those lovely outings with my sisters-in-law and friends. Scones are pretty easy to make. Although I have discovered that there’s a lot of cream and butter in them! Enjoy in moderation. Scone Recipe
I picked tea as a favorite must-have while in Ireland because I love cozying up to a cuppa. It goes well with every meal and I’ve learned that there is an art to brewing it. I grew up pouring boiling water into a mug and dunking a generic tea bag until the water turned brown. (This explains my preference for coffee). In Ireland, I learned how to warm the pot, let it brew and add just the right amount of milk to make the perfect cup of tea. There’s no need for fussy cups, a nice mug will do just fine. Now, I never buy ordinary tea. I always look for Barry’s in the imported section of our grocery store. Still, like Guinness, it just tastes better in Ireland.
While some of my favorites may be heavy on the butter, there are plenty of healthy light fare options that we throw into the mix. As they say, there are 40 shades of green in Ireland. That means lush hillsides and farms aplenty with wonderful fresh leafy and root vegetables that make delicious soups and sides. As a cheese lover, it’s also worth mentioning that the Irish are experts in cheese making. In fact, the Irish have gone off to learn how to make gourmet European cheeses and cheekily replicated them, brilliantly I might add.
While many will be celebrating St. Paddy’s Day with cabbage and corned beef, it’s just not a fave, so I think I may opt for the smoked salmon plate and scones with a cozy cuppa!