I am very proud of my Irish heritage. Both my birth parents are Irish as were two of my adoptive grandparents. I was brought up in a Northern town with a strong Irish Catholic community. I love the Irish character full of humour and strength. I have visited Ireland throughout my life and can tell you that eating in Ireland is a delight. Today I wanted to share some of my favourite experiences of dining in the country that means so much to me.
You can keep your English breakfast however tasty it might be. Although the Irish breakfast has similar components to an English one it has additional delights such as field mushrooms and soda bread. If you are lucky as I was on a trip to Donegal, leftover potatoes will be added as a hash or bubble and squeak.
I see potatoes as God’s own food. In Ireland they are revered. I love how often it is the simplest fare that is the most satisfying. You have missed out if you have never tried potato bread which I first enjoyed on my first holiday with a girlfriend in my early twenties. We travelled via bus and discovered potato bread in a cafe in Galway. My sister’s favourite treat is a farl. The word farl originates from the Gaelic word fardel meaning four parts. Indulge in these potato griddle breads which can be made with leftover mashed potatoes. I introduced my children to them recently served hot with butter. If you visit a private dining establishment, you will be amazed at how simple foods like potatoes are transformed into something really special.
I am not drinking alcohol much these days but I can make an exception for Guinness. I love it as a simple drink but even better in a beef casserole or a lamb stew. These are the dishes that really can be described as the best in comfort food. If you like sweet rather than savoury food, you can’t go far wrong with a chocolate Guinness cake for afternoon tea. I first tasted this when visiting a special family whose son I met at university. They lived near Omagh and made me so very welcome. Those holidays were great as it seemed every house that you visited were ready with tea, chat and a slice of scrumptious cake.
The Irish have always loved soda bread. It made me smile when there was a yeast shortage in the supermarkets during lockdown. Everyone had time on their hands to bake but could not find yeast for love nor money. Soda bread uses sodium bicarbonate as a leavening agent instead of the traditional yeast. The ingredients of traditional soda bread are flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk.
Irish food in the 21st Century
Irish food was always special. Local foods are easy to source in such a rural country. In modern times it is wonderful to see traditional Irish cuisine such as boxty, coddle and colcannon prepared in new and artistic ways by creative chefs. Irish food is here to stay whether home-made or fine dining.
What is your favourite Irish eating experience?