In an Irish food mood

Irish food rocks. We have wonderful fresh produce, an ocean of seafood, and the best dairy in the world (I don’t make that claim lightly). But as a multicultural nation we have come to overlook our own mild-mannered Irish recipes in favour of spicier, more exotic cuisines. Which is all well and good (and I love my global grub too) but don’t forget to give Irish food a chance!

Being a somewhat obsessive compiler of lists, I have put together my 5 favourite “authentic” Irish dinners, 3 Irish starters and 5 desserts.

You’ll notice my liberal use of parsley throughout. It’s the most used herb in Irish cooking and for good reason – delicate and fresh, packed with vitamin C, and you can chew the stalks to freshen your breath. For Irish recipes make sure you use the curly kind which is authentically Irish.

Top 5 Irish Dinners:

1. Wild mushroom barley risotto (“barlotto”?!) with Irish sausages. Serve with lots of fresh parsley or even a drizzle of wild garlic pesto if you can get your hands on it. I’m so into barley – it takes at least 10 minutes longer than rice but it’s well worth it. In fact this “barlotto” is a meal in itself, but sure why not have the sausages while you’re at it. They have to be Irish sausages though – liberal quantities of white pepper is the secret ingredient. Delicious.

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Wild garlic, the woods are full of it throughout the summer.

2. Boiled Bacon (ham), cabbage, steamed potatoes and white sauce with lots of parsley. Apparently voted Ireland’s favourite dinner. Serve with lashings of Dijon mustard on the side. Warning: do NOT overcook the cabbage!

3. Corned beef, peas and colcannon made with curly kale, and yet more parsley sauce! Unlike some recent aficionados we Irish have been fans of curly kale for centuries.

4. Irish stew. Famous worldwide but so often misunderstood. I’ve included own recipe at the end of the page as I haven’t found a satisfactory one elsewhere online.

5. And of course there is the Irish breakfast, which can also be eaten later the day (when it becomes a “mixed grill”). This deserves its own post, but here’s a picture to get you salivating.

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Favourite Irish starters:
1.
Smoked mackerel pâté (made with a mixture of mayonnaise / natural yoghurt, lots of lemon juice, black pepper and grated horseradish), home made soda bread, serve with watercress garnish.

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2. Scallops and black pudding. Maybe a little fancy for everyday cooking but perfect for a dinner party.
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3. Irish Smoked Salmon on home made soda bread with a squeeze of lemon and scattered with a few capers.

And my top 5 Irish desserts?

Strictly speaking I’m sure some of these are more Anglo than Irish, but let’s not be picky about it… I highly recommend the Odlums website for simple baked recipes, and have included links below.

1. Eve’s pudding – in honour of my mother in law who makes the best – this is just stewed apple cooked with sponge on top, served with hot custard. Gorgeous.

2. Bread and butter pudding. Like my mother used to make, which reminds me I MUST cook this soon (will post the recipe)

3. Apple or rhubarb tart. Importantly there has to be a top layer of pastry or it’s not proper Irish tart. No fancy-dancy lattice work. Serve with cream or custard, or both!

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4. Sherry Trifle. Totally irresistible, this reminds me of childhood visits with our cousins in Longford.

5. Gooseberry fool – this is so simple, just sweetened stewed gooseberries, cooled and folded into whipped cream. Serve chilled in individual glasses. Glorious, but not for the dairy intolerant.

So there you are. Eat Irish, agus bain taitneamh as! Enjoy!

Irish Stew recipe: serves 8
1 kilo (about 2 lbs) of lamb shoulder or gigot chops, roughly cut into 1 inch pieces
4-5 carrots, chopped roughly (large pieces)
2 parsnips, chopped to same size as carrots
3-4 medium onions, quartered
2 handfuls of barley (rinsed)
Quarter teaspoon of sea salt
A good pinch of white pepper
A litre of water or stock
2 bay leaves

To serve: stir in plenty of freshly chopped parsley before dishing up with steamed potatoes and smooth Dijon mustard.

Cover the lamb in cold water, bring to the boil for 10 minutes or so, skim off any scum. Then drain, add fresh water and all the other ingredients, cover and simmer gently on the hob (or in the oven in a casserole dish) for about 1.5 hours.

My preferences include using barley instead of flour to thicken the gravy, and I don’t brown the meat or veg as I think it interferes with the delicate flavour. I also tend to cook the potatoes separately as I find they can get a bit mushy otherwise.

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