IRELAND - TYPICAL FOOD
Also known as a `fried breakfast` or locally an `Ulster fry`, a full Irish breakfast is a meal so hearty you`ll barely need to eat again all day. The full breakfast generally includes bacon, black pudding, sausages, eggs, stewed tomatoes, mushrooms, and toast accompanied by condiments like brown sauce and jam. Depending on where you are in Ireland, breakfast could also include white pudding, baked beans, or fried potatoes. The main breakfast plate may also be preceded or followed by fruit and cold cereal or porridge.
A simple bread made only of flour, buttermilk, baking soda, and salt, Irish soda bread is a staple perfect for covering with butter and jam or dipping in lamb stew. Although you`ll find many types of soda bread today studded with raisins or dried fruits, these are considered cakes in Ireland, not soda bread. The only variation in true soda bread is whether it`s made with wheat flour or white flour. You`ll find it served alongside any stew, at breakfast, and with many other meals in Ireland.
Meaty and warm this rustic dish is perfect for fighting damp, chilly days. Sausages, potatoes, bacon, and root veggies are cooked low and slow in a light broth with a few herbs. Often served with soda bread on the side, coddle is comfort food at its simplest and best. This is the common dish for Dubliners on a Saturday night before they `hit the tiles` (go out).
At its most basic, Irish stew is lamb (often extraneous bits like shank and neck) and potatoes boiled slowly with whatever other ingredients one has on hand like carrots, onions, and barley. Today you`ll find many versions all over the country. Many pubs add Guinness to their stew recipes for a little extra richness. You`ll find Irish stew made with beef and full of other veggies like mushrooms. An authentic Irish stew can be just about anything as long as it`s warm, filling, and cooked slow. This was a typical peasant dish, but current prices in Irish restaurants might put it more within the culinary sphere of the gentry.
Thick pieces of flaky, fresh fish battered and deep fried served with chips/fries to go on paper smell of salt and the sea. Sprinkle a little malt vinegar over both and you`ve got authentic fish and chips. Many pubs serve it more formally on a plate, too, but the best places are usually take-aways. In Dublin, you`ll find plenty of take-aways open late for a midnight snack.
With all the heavy, delicious food in Ireland you might find it tough to save room for dessert, but try to hold out for a slice of Irish apple cake. Spiced with cinnamon, topped with ice cream or caramel sauce, flavored with a little local whiskey…every Irish baker has a favorite apple cake recipe. It`s often on the dessert menus at pubs or you can grab a slice from a bakery.
When most people think of Irish beer, the first word that usually comes to mind is Guinness. The black, smooth stout is as iconic as the shamrock (but much tastier). One could easily drink nothing but Guinness Stout on a trip to Ireland and be perfectly satisfied. But if you did, you`d be missing out on the many other good Irish beers out there. Smithwick`s Draught, an Irish red ale brewed in Klikenny, and Kilkenny Cream Ale, which shares similarities with Smithwick`s Draught and Guinness Stout, are two national beers that showcase the flavor of Ireland. Many local and microbreweries are also popping up throughout the country. For a taste of something sweet, you`ll also find cider on tap in many pubs.
Traditional Irish dishes usually include some form of potato, while most main courses are served with at least one kind of spud, and sometimes three, for example, mashed, roast and dauphinoise. Cabbage with bacon remains a firm favorite, and is usually served with unpeeled potatoes on a side dish, their skins bursting open. Another favorite is Irish stew (onions, potato, carrots and lamb, boiled together, seasoned with salt and pepper and parsley). Dublin coddle( ham, sausage, potato and onion cooked on the stove top in a broth) is a great comfort food. In Cork, tripe and drisheen (cows` intestines and blood pudding) is a traditional dish, and one stall at the entrance to the famous market on Princes Street sells nothing else. Pig`s trotters (feet) are popular in both Cork and Dublin; both dishes are on the menu at Cork`s Farmgate Café.
All meat in Ireland is now traceable back to the farm, and the flavor of locally reared and butchered meat comes as a pleasant surprise. The Irish Food Board runs a program, Féile Bia, encouraging restaurants to source as much of their food as possible from local suppliers, and to pass on the information about its provenance to their customers. `Bia` is the Irish word for food, and `féile` means both festival and celebration. If you see these words on the menu, it means that the restaurant is committed to serving carefully sourced fresh local produce. This reliance on Irish suppliers of meat means that restaurant menus will change according to the season. There will often be game in the autumn and winter, including venison, pheasant, duck and woodcock. New season spring lamb is eagerly awaited, especially in Connemara and Kerry, and is usually on the menu by Easter. Irish restaurants have also increasingly turned their attention to the quality of their bread, which is usually served with butter on the side. Most places now either bake their own or buy it in from an artisan baker.
Irish fish comes straight from the Atlantic, and in places such as Kinsale, Dingle and Galway, which have their own fishing fleet, most restaurants buy direct from the boat. The difference is remarkable. Be sure to sample a fresh crab open sandwich, lobster, brill, john dory, tuna and monkfish in summer, and oysters and mussels from September to April (although they are sold all year round, this is the traditional season).
Regarded as a delicacy in other countries, salmon was one of the most common fish in Ireland and a staple ingredient of the Irish kitchen. The usual way of preparation is poached in fish stock, this then being served with peas and potatoes. Fried salmon is popular as well. Exotic dishes such as pasta with salmon are slowly catching on.
The most popular way to enjoy salmon is simply smoked, either on bread, with scrambled egg or simply on its own with a salad side. Farmed salmon can be rather pedestrian - the flavor of wild salmon tends to be better. Unfortunately the price of wild salmon tends to be significantly higher as well.
Only widely available outside the main tourist season these once were food for the poor. Oysters were plentiful and free on the Irish coast before they became a delicacy and an aphrodisiac in `better circles`. Normally served on ice with a helping of seaweed, a no-frills food. The traditional side dish would be a pint (or several) of Guinness. This combination can be ordered for a moderate price especially around Galway.
Definitely not a poor man`s dish, the traditional Irish ham was coated with sugar and dressed with some cloves, then baked until crisp on the outside, tender on the inside. Generally served with loads of boiled cabbage and cooked or fried potatoes. This is quite a festive meal and not everyday fare, not even for the well-to-do. Bargains can be had in some pub carveries, however.
Even though suicidal lambs and sheep may provide your daily bit of frisson on Irish roads; their meat is actually quite expensive. The best parts are fine cutlets or a traditional rack of lamb. Both are accompanied by, you guessed it, potatoes and sometimes served with mint sauce or jelly. Again not an everyday dish.
The typical Irish vernacular for a sandwich, encompassing anything from the factory-produced, plastic-wrapped emergency rations available nearly everywhere to the freshly made platters at O`Brien`s. All sorts of weird and wonderful ingredients make up the filling, from the old favorite `ham & cheese` to the pedestrian `stuffing & coleslaw.`
Advertised nearly everywhere, usually served with bread and butter and a very good value snack at lunchtime. In a typical Irish way the question `What is the soup of the day?` will, in nine out of ten cases, be answered with a shrug and `vegetable.`Pot luck is the order of the day.
Handmade, artisan cheeses from sheep`s milk, cows` milk, and goat milk are an Irish specialty. As much of the country is agricultural, seeking out these cheeses is easy to do. Head to local markets, delis, farms, and grocery stores to find great cheeses to try like Irish cheddar or blue. Pair them with some beer and soda bread and you`ve got a perfect picnic.