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Irish Cuisine and Recipes

Irish Recipes and cooking

Cooking by Country - April 2004

 

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Also see our  St Patrick's Day page

 

 

Go to:-    Ireland Speciality Dish  |  Irish Featured Ingredient  |  Cooking by Country Main Page

 

 

Ireland is an island situated to the west of the United Kingdom with a total coastline of 1,448 km  along the Irish Sea, North Atlantic and Celtic sea.

 

Whoever named it “The Emerald Isle”, certainly got it right. Its relatively  temperate climate and heavy rainfall together with its level fertile lowlands and meadows, woodlands and wetlands makes for a  lush green habitat which is excellent for the growing of crops and grazing of livestock. Its many lakes and streams plus its coastline further add to the diverse local produce to be found there.

 

 

Ancient times, History and Influences on Irish Cooking

 

Archaeological evidence shows that there were indigenous people in Ireland dating back to  the Mesolithic Period (12,000-4,000 BC)  when the peoples inhabiting this land were most certainly hunter gatherers, taking advantage of the rich source of indigenous wildlife and fresh produce as well as seafood such as cockles and mussels which could be easily gathered along the coasts and fresh water fish from the many lakes and streams. By the Neolithic Period (4,000 BC - 2,000 BC) the keeping of livestock and the growing of crops were widely practiced by farmers. Oats and barley were the most common cereals grown.

 

The Celts (a people from central Europe of indo-European descent) began to settle in Ireland from around 500 BC, many believe earlier. They were renowned for their love of food and drink and everyday foods included pork, lamb (or mutton)  and seafood including whale, and dolphin. They used every part of the animals including the blood, particularly of pigs in the making of Black Pudding.  Meats such as deer, bear, and wild boar  would feature on the menu of feasts held on special. They are also responsible for the introduction of domestic poultry. By this time the principal grain staples grown were wheat, barley, oats, and rye.

 

The main method of cooking food was long and slow in a large pot or cauldron or on spits over an open fire. This cauldron was also sometimes used as a crude type of oven, sometimes being turned upside down over hot stones or the cooling embers.

 

Next came The Vikings (c794 AD) who introduced more complex sea fishing techniques, enhancing and enlarging on the seafood consumed,  but it was probably the arrival of the Anglo Normans around the 12th century AD who had a more profound influence on Irish cuisine. Not only did they introduce many vegetables and herbs from the Mediterranean,  but also the all-important  Potato  in the 16th century, which was  to become an important  staple in the diet, particularly of rural Ireland. Unfortunately,  so much so that The Potato Blight of 1845 made famine and the death of many unavoidable. 

 

It’s interesting to note that cattle wasn’t always slaughtered for its meat, butused for dairy purposes. This can be explained by the fact that a man’s wealth was judged by the amount of cattle he owned.

 

Current Day Irish Cuisine

 

What most people consider to be today’s traditional Irish cuisine originated in the kitchens of the farmers of the past, not from the nobles or gentry. It is good, wholesome food made from locally grown/reared produce. Ireland’s lack of natural  (industrial) resources back in the late 1800’s meant that, unlike much of the rest of western Europe, its agricultural practices remained in tact,  thus preserving a unique culinary identity.

 

Potatoes still feature prominently  in  today’s diet and old time recipes like Irish Stew and Dublin Coddle remain firm favourites. Lamb and pork or bacon are still popular meats as well as fish such as salmon and shellfish.

 

A Full Irish Breakfast (very similar an English breakfast) consists of bacon rashers, eggs, sausages, baked tomatoes, mushrooms, white pudding, black pudding, fresh fruit, toast or scones with butter and marmalade. In Northern Ireland (still part of the UK) they  add fried potatoes or Potato Farl to it and call it an 'Ulster Fry' .

 

Lunch in rural Ireland is usually  the largest meal of the day consisting of meat with vegetables and potatoes although most city dwellers would substitute this with sandwiches and/or soup and have their main meal in the evening. The Irish are also famous for their soda bread and teatime favourites such as barm-brack and boxty bread, not to mention Guinness and whiskey….both of which are excellent when used in certain dishes.

 

Click here for lots of Irish Recipes

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