Potatoes transformed the Irish diet when they were introduced from the New World in the late 16th century. Ireland’s population boomed with this cheap and plentiful food source, but was later decimated when potato harvests were hit by blight in the 19th century. Potatoes are still a staple at most mealtimes, with traditional dishes remaining popular. Colcannon is a classic, comforting mash of potatoes, cabbage (or kale) and butter (or cream), flavoured with spring onions. Champ is a similar, mashed potato favourite, flavoured with spring onions, milk and butter.
Potato dumpling, potato pancake and potato bread are all descriptors for boxty; some say the name originates from the Irish phrase arán bocht tí, meaning 'poor-house bread'. The recipe calls for grated raw potato to be mixed with mashed potato and then either: mixed with flour and salt and boiled before being sliced and fried in butter ('boxty dumplings'); added to a pancake-like batter before being fried ('boxty on the pan'); or added to a pancake-like batter before being baked in a loaf tin and then sliced and fried ('boxty in the oven'). Whichever way you choose, your boxty can be teamed with just about anything. Try it alongside bacon and eggs or smoked salmon and crème fraîche.
Try making your own... Boxty with bacon, eggs & tomatoes
Boiled bacon, boiled cabbage and boiled potatoes might not sound all that appetising but it remains a firm family favourite. Traditionally, salted pork – a cut from the shoulder or back of the pig – would have been soaked overnight (depending on how much desalting was needed) before being boiled, with the cabbage added to the cooking pot in the last 10 minutes. A silky parsley sauce is the classic accompaniment.
Try making your own... Boiled bacon with cabbage & carrots
Smoked salmon is another must-try – the oak-smoked salmon from the Burren Smokehouse, the beechwood-smoked salmon from the Connemara Smokehouse, and the unusual turf-smoked salmon from The Haven Smokehouse are all worth looking out for.
Try making your own... potato cakes with smoked salmon.
(I do like some shellfish. Clam, have to be deep fried, Scallops, done a couple different ways, though I don't see scallops below)
Visit Ireland outside of summer and your chances of seeing the sun may be slim. On the plus side, you'll be able to feast on the west coast’s plump native oysters (Ostrea edulis), which come into season in September, and pay a visit to the Galway Oyster Festival (28-30 September). Shellfish abound in Irish cuisine, from clams in Connemara to Molly Malone’s famed cockles and mussels, and Dublin Bay prawns, which have their own festival held in Howth every year in May. Try making your own... Mussels steamed with cider & bacon.
The Irish weren’t the only ones to discover the delights of black pudding (pork meat, fat and blood mixed with barley, suet and oatmeal in an intensely flavoured sausage). White pudding (similar, but minus the blood) may be less common around the globe, but no full Irish breakfast would be complete without a slice of each. Beyond breakfast, black pudding is just as likely to appear on the menu of smart Irish restaurants nowadays, served with sautéed scallops, in croquettes, under poached eggs, in salads and risottos and as a garnish to soups.
With roots as a working-class Dublin dish, the name coddle comes from the slow simmering or 'coddling' of ingredients in a one-pot stew. The leftovers at the end of the week would be slowly stewed in the oven for hours, with slices of pork sausage packed in alongside bacon rashers or leftover boiled bacon and sliced potatoes and onions. To make a superior version, use top-quality pork sausages and bacon, and serve the coddle with slices of soda bread to mop up the juices.
Try making your own... Irish coddled pork with cider
There you go!