A Brief History of Irish Cuisine Before Saint Patricks Day
Saint Patrick’s Day is just around the corner, and what better way to celebrate than by adding Irish cuisine to your menu? Some of the most popular Irish dishes are Steak and Guinness Pie, Irish Stew, Boxty, Colcannon, and Dingle Bay Seafood Chowder. Each dish has an origin story and what better time to learn about them than on the day dedicated to celebrating the patron saint of Ireland?
Somewhat Traditional Irish Cuisine
Steak and Guinness Pie actually originated in England, not Ireland, as most people believe. This particular dish was introduced to Ireland when the Croppies (Irish rebels) found that they could eat their fill of beef with lots of gravy while also having enough scraps left over to make a rich, flavorful pie. The English traditionally braise the steak, while the Irish stew it. The savory dish became a staple of Irish cooking because of the country’s association with beer and whiskey, as well as its long history of beef exports.
“Boxty in the griddle, boxty in the pan, if you can’t make boxty, you’ll never get a man.“
Boxty is a dish made of potatoes and grated turnips that is alternatively served as an entrée (pudding) or a side dish with the main course. The traditional way to cook boxty is to press the grated raw and cooked vegetables together with a potato masher into flat cakes, resulting in a crispy, crumbly texture. Boxty was, and still is, commonly eaten with the evening meal and rarely for breakfast, as the dish is not commonly found on an Irish breakfast menu. An early mention of boxty is in the Memorandum Book at Dunspeace, Perthshire, in 1780, in which “boxty pancakes” are referred to as a favorite dish of both Lord and Lady Dunspar.
Boxty may not be a common Irish breakfast dish, but the next traditional Irish food sure is.
Cabbage for breakfast?
By definition, colcannon is made of potatoes and cabbage boiled and mashed together with seasoning and butter. The word “colcannon” is derived from the Irish cole, or cabbage, and the Irish creán, or criathar (potatoes). Colcannon can be eaten as a side dish with boiled meat or fish, but it is more commonly found as part of the traditional Irish breakfast. Colcannon and champ are both served with Irish stew. Colcannon may also be served with bacon or as part of a cold meal such as an Irish salad—a mixed salad of lettuce and other raw vegetables with a boiled egg, potato, and bacon.
Have leftover Colcannon? Not for long!
Dingle all the Way
Dingle Bay Seafood Chowder (also known as “Irish fishermen’s chowder”) combines colcannon, bacon, and seafood in a single dish. It is also eaten as an addition to recipes, such as moussaka, cooked with leftover colcannon, baked fish (whole or filleted), or bread pudding using colcannon as a topping. This Dingle Bay seafood chowder has its origins in the Dingle Peninsula, on Ireland’s west coast. It is claimed to have been invented by fishermen who would add small amounts of locally-available fish or seafood to their colcannon. Popular Dingle Bay Seafood Chowder ingredients include the more usual fish heads and added seafood, creamy sauces with flour, salt, baking powder, carrots, and peas.
Traditional Irish Desserts
And what is the history of Irish cuisine without traditional Irish desserts? Some popular Irish desserts are Kerry Apple Cake, Brown Bread Ice Cream, Carrageen Moss Pudding, and the quintessential Irish barmbrack.
Kerry Apple Cake originated in the Dingle area and is made up of butter sponge cake, a layer of apple filling, and a crunchy topping. It is great served with fresh cream or custard, and it should always be served warm.
Brown Bread Ice Cream is a more recent invention and was developed by chef Oliver Dunne at Ballymaloe House. It is made with a batter of buttermilk and brown breadcrumbs, which are left to soak overnight before being churned in an ice cream maker with cream. Mmm, delicious!
Carrageen Moss Pudding is getting more and more popular these days, too. This is an Irish twist on a traditional French dessert with the addition of carrageen (Irish moss), which is added to the custard to set it – hence its name.
Irish barmbrack ((Báirín Breac)) is a traditional Irish sweet bread, also known as a speckled loaf. It’s traditionally introduced to the house each Halloween, then served on All Souls Day and New Year’s Day. You can get it ready-made in many supermarkets now, or you can make your own by following this very simple recipe from The Daring Gourmet.
Will you be featuring any of these traditional Irish cuisine recipes during your Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations?