The Food of Ireland

The Food of Ireland
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I started out this feature asking my dad what he remembered about the meals in Ireland when he was there in the 1950's. He didn't have a lot of time there since he was on leave from the Army but he did remember this:
"What I recall having for breakfast at my Aunt Lily's was fried eggs, (the yoke was hard), scones and tea. Uncle Fred and Aunt Lily took me out to lunch and I ordered liver and onions, the other choice was tripe, they were the specials that day."

After talking with him I did more research and looked through many recipes. The ones I chose are traditional farm recipes. If you visit Ireland now you will find a wide variety of dishes to rival those any where in the world-especially the fresh seafood dishes. However, I thought the frugal recipes from long ago when Irish homemakers used what was available to them were so much more interesting.

You will find mostly ingredients such as pork, potatoes, cabbage and herbs. Cows were used primarily for milk, and pigs were raised for food. Pork can be smoked, salted and brined-every part of the pig was used.Some farms raised sheep, and so you'll also see mutton used in Irish cooking as well. Dairy products are used a lot too, again because it was available to families. Buttermilk was used in recipes and for a beverage. Seafood was used when it was readily available to those that fished or could buy it inexpensively. Smoked fish and good aged cheese served on a nice brown bread was a nice treat to start meals.

When bacon is used as an ingredient in Irish recipes it could be any cut of salted pork. American bacon, which is thin and cooks crispy, is not really a good substitute. Look for salted pork or a piece of slab bacon. They should be fairly easy to find in the meat department near the bacon and ham hocks. A side note-if you ever see "thin streaky bacon" in an Irish recipe that refers to American bacon.


Ham and Pea Soup


1 pound or 2 cups dried peas or split peas

Ham bone with some meat still on

1 large onion

6 cups ham stock or water


Soak the peas as directed on the packet. Chop the onion and soften in a little oil or fat over a low heat. Add the peas and stock with the ham bone. Cook gently until the peas are soft - about an hour. Remove the bone and cut off any meat and dice. Set aside the ham pieces. Puree the peas in a blender or pass through a sieve. Adjust the seasoning. Add the diced ham and serve with a little cream or a sprinkling of chopped parsley on top. NOTE: My mom made a similiar soup and never pureed the peas and it was the best split pea soup I've tasted:)

Potato and Leek Soup

2 medium leeks, cleaned and chopped 1 medium onion, finely chopped 1 tablespoon butter 1 cup mashed potatoes 1-1/2-2 pints chicken stock salt and pepper 4 tablespoons cream 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

Sauté the leeks and onion on low heat in the butter until soft. Mix the potatoes with the chicken stock; the less stock you use the thicker the soup. Add the leeks and onion, season to taste and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Pour into individual bowls and garnish each with a tablespoon of cream and chopped parsley before serving.

Mutton Broth (Brachan Caoireola)


1/2 lb. neck of mutton

1 3/4 pints water

1 oz. barley

12 oz. chopped root vegetables-carrot, onions, leeks, potatoes

bouquet garni *see note

salt and pepper

Place meat in a large saucepan, with water and barley. Boil and skim the top. Add the vegetables, bouquet garni, salt and pepper. Return to boil, then simmer, covered for 2 hours. Remove the bones. Pour into soup dishes and serve hot. Note: bouquet garni is parsley, thyme, bay leaf, and rosemary. A leave of sprig of each put into a piece of cheese cloth, tied and simmered with the broth then removed. You could use a small amount of dried, crushed herb and a bay leaf top-then remove the leaf before you serve the soup.


This recipe is made on Samhain (Halloween) or the beginning of the Celtic New Year.



1 lb. potatoes, grated

3-3/4 cups flour

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons warm water

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 cup mashed potatoes

salt and pepper to taste

Soak grated potatoes overnight in cool water to remove the starch. Mix all ingredients together EXCEPT the flour-mix that in a little at a time with a wooden spoon or your hands. Add extra milk if it seems too stiff. Lightly grease a skillet or griddle. Drop the mixture onto the skillet by rounded teaspoon. Brown the bottom slightly, then flatten the tops a little bit with a spatula. Depending on what you prefer they can be thinner and crispy or thick. Cook until golden brown. Served with butter. Notes: Herbs can be added.


This is much like Colcannon without cabbage.


8 medium potatoes, peeled

small bunch of scallions or green onions

1/2 cup milk

salt and pepper


Boil the potatoes until soft, but not mushy. Drain and return to the pan quickly-you want them to stay warm. You can have the following ready a little before the potatoes are done: add the scallions or green onion after you have chopped it to the milk in a small pan and cook for 5 minutes. Beat this into the potatoes until smooth and fluffy. Season to taste and serve with a pat of butter in each serving.



2 1/2 pounds parsnips

4 tablespoons butter or bacon fat

3 tablespoons stock

Salt and pepper

Pinch nutmeg

Peel parsnips, quarter, and remove any core. Boil in water for 15 minutes. Place in an ovenproof dish. Add the stock and sprinkle with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Dot with butter and bake for 30 minutes on a low shelf in a 350 degree oven. Cook this dish at the same time you are cooking your meat.


Irish Stew

This is the basic, traditional stew!


1 1/2 pounds mutton, cut into pieces

6 carrots, sliced

2 pounds potatoes

Salt and pepper

1 pound onions


Place meat and vegetables in saucepan and cover with cold water. Add salt and pepper to season as well as a few sprigs of fresh parsley. Slowly bring to a boil and skim off the top. Simmer over a very low heat for about 2 hours or until the meat is tender.

Dublin Coddle

I found MANY varieties of this stew, probably because it often uses leftovers from breakfast, which of course could change. Some added hard cider with the broth, others even added chicken or ham. Seems to be a "whatever we have around" recipe! It's mainly a traditional dish to Dublin, and one that changes depending on the family and the cook.


1 pound sliced thick bacon

2 pounds pure pork sausage links

2-3 large onions, sliced

4 large potatoes, thickly sliced

2 carrots, thickly sliced

black pepper

broth-chicken, ham-whatever's on hand

fresh parsley

Fry bacon until crisp in large cooking pot. Brown sausage in some of the bacon fat in another pan. Remove and add to the pot. Soften sliced onions in fat, then add to pot with potatoes and carrots. Add 3-4 tablespoons minced parsley. Season with pepper. Cover with broth. Simmer slowly 1 1/2-2 hours over low heat. Garnish with chopped parsley. Makes 6 servings


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About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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