March is a time for all of us to get our green on and turn our thoughts to the land of leprechauns and Leap Year. Amidst the hunt for four-leaf clovers, some Celtic cuisine is sure to set the right tone this holiday. If simply adding green food coloring to the mashed potatoes is not enough this year, here are 10 suggested Irish dishes for sending your taste buds back to the Emerald Isle.
Champ or Colcannon
We can’t talk about food in Ireland without talking about potatoes, and while the food coloring comment was a bit of a joke, it wasn’t too far of a stretch. Picture this: a steaming bowl of creamy mashed potatoes sprinkled with scallions and drizzled generously with butter. It’s not hard to see why champ is a favorite for many an Irish table. Colcannon is very similar, adding cabbage or kale to the mash. It is a holiday treat, served with the meal at St. Patrick’s Day or Halloween.
A variation on the latke theme, the Irish boxty is a beautiful combination of pancake and hash brown. Recipes call for both mashed and raw potatoes to create a signature texture, along with only four other ingredients. This simple food can be eaten alone or as a side with bacon and eggs.
Irish Soda Bread
In the mid-nineteenth century, Ireland was plunged into the Great Hunger, a famine that decimated crops–especially the potato crop–resulting in an almost 22% decrease in the population. In such an environment, a recipe for bread emerged that had only four base ingredients: flour, salt, baking soda (called bread soda in Ireland), and buttermilk. Traditionally baked in a cast iron pot over the fire, many families also add raisins or cranberries.
Recipes for Irish stew are as individual as the people of Ireland themselves. Beef or lamb, sweet potato or carrot, beef stock or Guinness. There is no end of choices for the stew enthusiast. There seem to be only two consistent rules: the stew must be hearty, and, of course, potatoes are a must. Stuck with leftovers? Irish stew is also great baked into a pie.
Corned Beef and Cabbage
Let’s address the elephant in the kitchen. Yes, corned beef and cabbage is sure to come to mind when Irish food is mentioned, but corned beef was actually invented by the English, and its ties to the Irish are rooted in late 18th century Irish immigrants in New York. However, while you won’t find corned beef and cabbage in an Irish pub, the baked brisket and seared cabbage is an Irish-American staple that pairs nicely with March Madness.
Bangers and Mash
Of all the Irish dishes on this list, this may be the most fun to say. It’s also another indication that the Irish certainly understand comfort food. Bangers and mash is another hearty meal of baked or fried sausage (bangers) and mashed potatoes (mash) with sautéed onion and garlic in a savory gravy. Even if the sausage doesn’t burst open with a loud bang, this is sure to be a winner at any St. Patty’s Day dinner.
Dublin coddle is just one example of Irish resourcefulness, working with what one has to make a savory dinner. Layered casserole-style though it is considered a stew, coddle takes leftover sausage, bacon, potatoes, and cabbage and simmers (coddles) them in the oven or over the fire. Slow braising will have the mouth-watering aromas of garlic and onions turning any home into a cozy retreat.
It is the Emerald Isle after all. Though potatoes and lamb may receive the majority of the Irish limelight, the seafood industry in Ireland is worth €1.15 billion to their economy. Seafood chowder offers a lighter meal still authentic and rich in variety, common recipes calling for haddock, clams, prawns, or crab in a milk or broth base. Oysters are also a favorite, either in chowder or on their own.
One key player in the Irish seafood scene is the Atlantic salmon. Often cured or smoked, it is not uncommon to have salmon for lunch or even breakfast in Ireland. Eat it atop boxty or soda bread, and when you do, remember the tale of the Salmon of Knowledge, which legend says ate hazelnuts from the tree that contained all the knowledge of the universe. See if you don’t feel brainier after this meal.
Irish Apple Cake
The rolling Irish hills are checkered with neatly-arranged apple orchards sporting green and red prizes perfect for party games and desserts. One such example, the Irish or Kerry apple cake, is akin to a coffee cake. Topped with a light streusel and a drizzle of a creamy custard sauce, this sweet treat is a chef’s kiss at the end of a classically Irish meal.