Once upon a time, a whole generation of Irish Americans grew up thinking that the cuisine of Ireland consisted of corned beef and cabbage, fish and chips and a lot of potatoes. A lucky few knew that oatmeal porridge figured in there somewhere. The really fortunate ones had also heard of or maybe even sampled a fry, aka a full Irish breakfast. Children of Irish immigrants heard their parents mutter and grumble about proper tea and decent rashers. Mentions of having pudding for breakfast confused us, and explanations that black pudding was meat, not dark chocolate, did not entirely convince us.
Visitors to Ireland quickly learn that those images are an overboiled load of cabbage. Fish and chips have come a long way baby, although people heading home from the pubs and clubs in the early hours do favor the greasy, fried version. The Celtic tiger years saw the culinary equivalent of the Celtic revival of a century ago. Chefs and foodies embraced local flavours and traditional foods and took Irish cuisine to new heights. Now visitors want to bring home more than Irish jewelry and Aran sweaters.
What’s on the Menu Today?
Are you looking for a taste of the real Ireland? Do you want to discover traditional flavors that are still enjoyed every day? Here are a few ideas.
- Salmon and Brown Bread – This is so simple, and yet so rich. Salmon has historically been plentiful in Ireland. And smoked salmon paired with Irish brown bread is a popular lunch or hors d’oeuvre. This bread is not the standard brown bread seen in North America. It’s a flat, flavorful, crumbly loaf made without yeast.
- Apple and Rhubarb Tart – Apples and rhubarb both grow easily in Ireland. Generations past could find plentiful supplies to snack on as they roamed country roads. Baking them together in a tart creates a sweet desert with a slight kick. It’s the taste of the Irish countryside on a lazy afternoon. Top it with cream, and enjoy it with tea. Your taste buds will feel transported.
- Lamb Stew – Rich with potato, carrot, turnip, onion and leek, a traditional Irish lamb stew can come close to sorting out your recommended five servings of vegetables a day. You can even find many recipes that include Guinness. Nothing will warm you on a damp, winter night more than Irish lamb stew.
Ireland today is a good place to be a foodie. Not only can you find culinary treats from around the world, but traditional Irish fare is center stage.
West Cork is a haven for foodies, and farmers’ markets are popular all over the country. County Cork is also home to chef Darina Allen’s famous Ballymaloe Cooking School. But Cork isn’t the only place that can brag about excellent Irish food. You’ll find Michelin star restaurants around the country including chef Enda McEvoy’s Loam in Galway, Derry Clarke’s L’Ecrivain in Dublin, Lady Helen at Mount Juliet in Kilkenney and Ox in Belfast. Dublin’s Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud boasts two stars.