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Irish Food and Cuisine for St Patrick's Day. Try Something New (or Old!)

Updated on December 9, 2011

I’ve heard it said that on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish. It does seem to be a holiday that almost everyone loves to adopt – regardless of their ethnic backgrounds. Most Americans whip out a batch of corned beef and cabbage in homage to the Auld Country.

But…I hate to be the one to break it to you – since many of you will hold this dish as authentic AND beloved – but corned beef and cabbage is just not traditional Irish fare. I’m so sorry.

“How can this be?” you might now be wailing? It’s actually a very simple answer.

In Ireland the cattle were highly prized, but kept primarily for the milk production. That’s not bad – think of the glorious Irish Cheddar and butter. What beef was consumed was by the wealthy, and in Ireland, that just wasn’t very many people. Today Ireland raises some of the best beef cattle in the world, exporting it all over.

Prior to the Norman invasion in the 8th century, the Irish subsisted on hunting, the occasional vegetable matter, and the abundant seafood. After the 8th century, they were no longer free to hunt as they wished, and began keeping dairy cattle and kitchen gardens. The Irish kept other crop animals besides the cow though, including umpteen bajillion sheep, as well as chickens and pigs. So while beef wasn’t common on the table, the Irish were by no means strangers to meat. Mutton, chicken and pork often made their way into the Irish cookpot.

After the mid 1600’s, the potato had made its way to Ireland from South America, where it was welcomed with open arms. It joined oats, cabbage and onions as staples. It could be the Irish reliance of these foods that has led to the Irish cuisine being described as ‘bland’, but that’s only by those who can’t appreciate a lovely bowl of Irish Poundies.

While the cuisine of Ireland did rely heavily on a few staple foods, there was certainly more variety than Ireland normally gets credit for. Not only were the Irish clever and creative in making the most of their staples, giving beautiful sausages, breads and dairy products, but the predominance of the Irish coastline meant that cod, haddock, salmon and gorgeous shellfish were also available and widely used.

Modern Irish cuisine has entered the modern age with the rest of Europe of course. Modern Irish chefs are known for the elegant simplicity of their dishes, utilizing local ingredients with flair. Many traditional favorites have gotten gourmet upgrades and makeovers, with delicious results.

If you wish to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with an authentically Irish menu, try one of the following dishes at your house. While you’re at it – give some of the liquids a try as we. Imbibe a bit – to toast old Ireland of course.

Slieve na Mbam
Slieve na Mbam

Apple mash - savory apples and potatoes mashed together

Bacon and cabbage - boiled Irish Bacon with cabbage, served with a sharp mustard or parsley sauce

Bangors and mash - slightly lumpy mashed potatoes with Irish sausages and cheese

Bap - large soft yeast roll, often with currents or raisins

Barmbrack - fruited yeast bread

Beef and Guinness - an Irish Stew made with beef slow braised in Guinness stout

Blaa - soft floury yeast roll

Boxty - Traditional Irish Potato Pancakes

Carrageen moss

Champ - similar to Colcannon, but done with cream and green onions, Northern Irish, and also known as Poundies, Colly or Pandy

Coddle - casserole made of ham, sausage, potato and onion

Colcannon - Comfort Food at its best - Mashed Potatoes, Scallions and Cabbage

Crubeens - brined then slow roasted pigs feet, done like an American pot roast. Renowned as a hangover cure.

Drisheen - Irish blood sausage

Dublin Lawyer – lobster cooked in whiskey and cream

Dulse - edible Irish seaweed

Fadge - potato bread

Goody - desert made by boiling bread in milk with sugar

Irish Breakfast or Fry Up

Irish Stew - stew of mutton or lamb, with potatoes, carrots and sometimes Guinness

Oysters and Guinness - just what it sounds like!

Potato Bread

Potato Farls - potato bread flattened and cooked on a griddle, then quartered

Poundies - see Champ

Shepherd’s Pie - meat pie, usually lamb or mutton, topped with mashed potatoes instead of a pastry crust

Slieve na Mbam - carrots in cream with parsley

Skirts and Kidneys - pork dish with skirt steak and kidneys

Soda bread - quick bread with baking soda for the rise instead of yeast

Soda Farls - soda bread flattened, cooked on a griddle and quartered

Wheaten bread - similar to regular soda bread, but with whole wheat flour

If you find that you simply can’t make it on St. Patrick’s Day without corned beef and cabbage – don’t worry. When the Irish immigrated to America they applied many of their cooking techniques to the foods more available here. In this case it was beef vs. mutton. So while it’s not traditionally Irish – it IS Irish American. Just like most of us. If you want an updated version, try this Corned Beef and Cabbage. Or if you want to make it from scratch try How to Make Homemade Corned Beef.


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    • DixieMockingbird profile image

      Jan Charles 6 years ago from East Tennessee

      Erin go braugh indeed! I hope you enjoy - and thank you!

    • profile image

      Deborah MCMenemy 6 years ago

      THANK YOU...I am Irish and HATE corned beef and cabbage. I would like to try some of your recipes and enjoy a lighter fare. I have been eating seaweeds for years....Erin Go Braugh!!!