If you’ve ever had traditional Irish food, you’ll know that it’s made from inexpensive, simple ingredients. There is also a “no waste” approach to food. This comes from a long tradition and history of poverty amongst a large portion of the population. Of course, Ireland has come a long way and times have changed, but the traditional meals are still grounded in this long, rich history.
A Brief History
One glance at a true Irish recipe and you’ll see that there are often only a few ingredients. Few seasonings are used, with salt and pepper being the most common. Common recipe ingredients include potatoes, cabbage, bacon, beef, lamb, bread, and other vegetables. Note that beef, lamb and other pork are more recent additions. Potatoes, of course, were the main staple of the poor Irish diet for a very long time.
Not only is there a focus on keeping things simple with food, but there is also an emphasis on ensuring everything is eaten. For example, pigs are common livestock in Ireland and the Irish use everything. From the Crubeens (pig’s feet) and tripe (stomach), all the way to drisheen (blood sausage), nothing is wasted.
There are a number of common traditional meals in Ireland. However, you might be surprised to learn that corned beef isn’t included in them. While many think that corned beef is a traditional Irish food, it was not commonly served at the Irish table. Beef was expensive meat that many could not afford.
Some Traditional Irish Foods
Here are a few traditional foods you may, or may not, recognize:
Irish Potato Soup: A milk and stock-based soup, its main ingredients are potatoes and onions.
Irish Breakfast: This very hearty breakfast meal is served with bacon, sausage, blood sausage, white (oatmeal) pudding, vegetables, and bread.
Colcannon: A creamy dish made with mashed potatoes and cabbage or kale, with a little bacon thrown in too.
Boxty: A potato pancake, made with grated and mashed potato, pan-fried in oil.
Irish Stew: The traditional version includes mutton, potatoes, and onions. However, more modern versions add other vegetables and meats.
Bacon and Cabbage: Boiled cabbage, bacon, and onion are sweetened with brown sugar for a very satisfying meal.
Many recount the Irish approach to food after the Great Famine as being just as a means of sustenance, rather than for enjoyment. They also give credit to Myrtle Allen to expanding the country’s interest in food in the 1990s. She started as a cookery correspondent to the Irish Farmers Journal. Then the family opened a restaurant Ballymaloe House and farm that exposed Ireland to new European methods of cooking. Along with her daughter-in-law, Darina O’Connell, she opened the Ballymaloe Cookery School. The ideas spread, changing the face of the way the Irish ate.
Today, there are many restaurants and international foods are quite common, but the traditions still thrive and are grounded in a long, rich history.
Traditional Irish And Not So Traditional St. Patrick’s Menu
Here are some suggestions for your St. Patrick’s Day feasts with a nod to various cultures.
Corned beef and cabbage with carrots and potatoes: Buy prepared corned beef at the grocery store deli. The potatoes can be ready to heat and serve. Carrots can be carrot sticks or baby carrots. Serve with bread or rolls. This is an easy dinner if you don’t want to cook. If you do want to cook, it’s still easy. Simmer the corned beef in a slow cooker for 4 to 6 hours. Add carrots, cabbage, and potatoes during the last few hours.
All American St. Patrick’s Menu
Hot dogs served with pickle relish, “green” mayo, and “green” mustard. Add liquid green food coloring to change both to green colors. Mustard takes more color to change. Make sure to label them, they end up looking the same.
Cole Slaw can be store bought or homemade. Homemade is one package of shredded cabbage or bagged coleslaw mix. Add ½ cup of mayonnaise, a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, and a tablespoon of sugar. Mix well. Salt to taste.
Crackers with green cream cheese spread or cheese wiz/spray sprinkled with dried or fresh parsley.
Green apple salad: 3 chopped green apples with skin on, 1 cup of chopped celery, ½ cup chopped walnuts, 1 cup of green grapes, ¼ – ½ cup of mayo, salt, and pepper if desired. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl with a fair amount of mayo coating all ingredients. Use enough mayo so that the ingredients can absorb the mayo. Refrigerate at least two hours.
Italian St. Patrick’s Menu
Spinach pasta with Alfredo sauce. Sprinkle minced parsley or basil over top for a more “green” effect or your choice of plain pasta with pesto sauce. Serve pesto on the side if you want to have plain pasta for the children available.
Baked Italian bread: Take a loaf of Italian bread and cut lengthwise. Spread butter or margarine on both halves. Sprinkle grated parmesan cheese, parsley, and basil. Bake on about 350 degrees in the oven watching carefully. Bake until toasted.
Cooked asparagus or broccoli with melted cheddar cheese. Melt the cheese and add green food color if you like. Caesar salad or simple garden salad with Italian dressing.
Mexican Food St. Patrick’s Menu
Tostadas: Top corn tostadas with warm refried beans, cheddar cheese and shredded lettuce. Top with green salsa or verde sauce. You can add taco seasoned hamburger if you like, just end up with the green lettuce and salsa.
Cheese Quesadillas topped with sprinkled parsley or cilantro.
Nacho cheese dip: Melted pasteurized process cheese spread with green color added.
Guacamole: Homemade or store-bought. Guacamole is easy to make, simply mash an avocado. Add finely chopped onions and tomatoes and hot sauce. Serve with tortilla chips
Corn muffins: Use your favorite corn muffin mix add diced green bell pepper or chopped cilantro, jalapeno, and/or cheese. Any combination works well. You can add some green food coloring if you like. Bake following the muffin mix directions. Sprinkle the muffin tops with grated cheddar cheese about 5 minutes for taking out of the oven.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
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