Ireland is a beautiful country beautiful food. And, it is so passionate about its food that some of the foodstuffs are a key feature in Irish folklore. In Irish mythos, there is a story that involves a young servant boy and a salmon (one of the favored meals among the Irish).
The boy’s name was Fionn, and he was one day given a salmon to fry by his master, Finn Eces. However, his master gave him specific instructions not to eat the fish. Fionn found this rather peculiar but would not defy the order. Little did he know that the fish he had been given to fry was the famed Salmon of Knowledge, sought by men, great and low alike and the subject of many a song and poem. The story went that whoever was first to eat of this fish would gain all the knowledge of the world.
Fionn took the salmon given to him by Finn Eces and set about frying it. He stirred the fish, turning it over as it deliciously cooked. At some point, he touched it to check for tenderness and got a burn for his troubles. His finger had come into contact with a stray drop of hot fish fat. Fionn quickly put the finger in his mouth and sucked in reaction to the pain. What he didn’t know is that all the fish’s wisdom had collected into that little drop. Fionn’s eyes were opened! When he presented the fish to Finn Eces, his master instantly knew what had happened and let him have the rest of the fish.
The story of the Salmon of Knowledge is long and only a small part of a greater saga but it is an example of how deeply attached the Irish are to their food. A cuisine that has spread to the rest of the world and come to be loved by many. Even so, there is still much the world has to discover about Irish food. Many great meals and their recipes remain in Ireland and it is only proper that the rest of the world knows about them. I’m going to give you the top five so the next time you’re coming down to Ireland you know what to look for in those takeaway restaurants you like. Better yet, you can try the recipes for yourself and recreate a little of the Irish magic the world has come to appreciate. You never know, you might stumble upon the same good luck as our hero Fionn.
Perhaps the most distinctive food in Ireland is the potato. It features in almost every meal and is the most important part of many. Eaten by both the rich and poor, the potato has become so synonymous with Ireland that the common variety is known as Irish potatoes to the rest of the world. Well, the Irish have no qualms about owning the identity and what better way than to have bread made entirely out of potatoes? You grate some potatoes raw and mix it with mashed potatoes. Throw some flour and salt into the mix and boil it all. Once you’re done you can slice it up and fry in butter or bake it the oven as a loaf. This is a great dish as it can be paired with almost anything! You’ll find it at most takeaway restaurants and can consider it a healthy takeaway.
Another potato based dish that’s easy to cook and bound to be great for the body and soul. Colcannon is simply mashed potatoes cooked with either cabbage or kale, usually curly kale. Sometimes butter is added, or cream to give it a smooth taste while flavouring can come in many forms.
3. BLACK AND WHITE PUDDING
Black pudding is definitely not unique to Ireland. The practice of mixing blood with pork, pork fat, water, salt, and barley is quite common in other places. In fact, the practice of cooking your meat with some blood is present in cultures like the Maasai, all the way in Africa. What’s much rarer in other places is white pudding. Think of it as black pudding without the blood. This delicious meal has become a staple of Irish breakfast and you have to try it when you come to the country. Better yet, recreate it in your kitchen!
Historically, the peasants were a large part of the Irish population. Some meals were only found in a peasant household and, consequently, some among the nobility had never even heard of them. Coddle is a good example of such a meal. You’ll never want to throw leftover food away after learning of this dish. Simply stew them in the oven for about 3 hours with pork sausages, bacon, onions and (drumroll!) potatoes. Serve with the Irish’s very own soda bread and you have a delicacy!
5. SMOKED SALMON
Of course, I had to throw this in somewhere! Remember our little story about Fionn and the Salmon of Knowledge? I didn’t pull that story out of my rear end! Salmon is quite the delicacy in Ireland and wild salmon is particularly preferred over the domesticated alternative. Smoked salmon can be found on the menu in most smart restaurants and comes from specific “smoke houses” around the country. The three methods used are oak smoking, beechwood smoking, or turf smoking. Some of these include The Haven Smokehouse which smokes the salmon in peat, the Burren Smokehouse, which oak-smokes and the Connemara Smokehouse, which uses beechwood.
The emerald Isle has always held a deep allure for outsiders and, due to good advertising, has attracted many tourists. The 21st century has been quite a great time because it has seen a sort of renaissance as far as Ireland’s food culture is concerned. People want to go back to authentic Irish cuisines and establish their identity as Irishmen. These are just some of the foods that contribute to that identity. If you’re in love with the Irish and would like to explore, try them. They’re bound to touch more than just your stomach in a positive way.