First, let’s talk about bread; in this case, we are talking chiefly about soda bread. It’s a funny thing that soda bread is so very common place in Ireland compared to households in England. So what is it? Well, soda bread differs due to the use of buttermilk and bicarbonate of soda, which raises the flour, without the use of yeast. In Ireland, it is a great staple in most families and, of course, benefits significantly with a generous spread of wonderful Irish salted butter.
An Irish stew is one of the classic one-pot dishes that are really worth tasting. This is as pared down as it gets with a brilliantly short ingredients list. It’s all about slow-cooking mutton with chunky potatoes, large slices of carrots, good meat stock and pearl barley to help soak up all the delicious cooking juices. This is usually cooked for at least one and a half hours
Champ and Colcannon
When you’re next in Dublin, keep an eye on the local menus and try and get to taste the regional classics of Champ and Colcannon that both take the idea of side dishes to the next level! Champ is essentially a potato mash with spring onions, butter and milk that produces the most heavenly side dish to accompany the best in Ireland. Colcannon is made with savoy cabbage, back bacon and cream. It is outrageously calorific and makes no apologies. A classic!
This originates from the Irish word ‘aran bocht ti’, which translates as poorhouse bread. This typically combines grated raw potato with cooked mashed potato. Then it can be made in a variety of ingenious ways. It can be mixed with flour and salt and then boiled, sliced and finally fried in butter. Or, it can be added to a batter and then baked in a loaf tin before relenting to the frying pan! Mmmm cholesterol heaven!
A Teahouse special but probably best homemade Barmbrack is a brilliant fruity tea loaf baked throughout the year. Mixed spices, raisins and candied fruit all make it in the mix. With typical good humour at Halloween, they will place ‘charms’ in the loaf that allege to foretell the future! Perhaps, you’ll find a green pea that means you won’t get married next year, or you’ll get lucky and find a ring to tie the knot!
If you’re lucky enough to journey to the wild west coast of Ireland, then be sure to eat some local shellfish. The best time of year are the autumn and winter months when you may be able to feast on oysters, and in particular, try and time your visit to coincide with the Galway Oyster Festival ( runs late September). There are prawns to be tasted in Dublin Bay and mussels and cockles made all the more lyrical by Molly Malone!
One local dish to try making at home is mussels cooked in cider and bacon. So head down to the harbour and chat with the fishmongers for their catch of the Day!