This Saint Patrick’s Day, skip the corned beef and cabbage, and try some traditional Irish food on this list instead.
Although this holiday was originally a day to celebrate St Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, it has now become more of a celebration of Irish culture… including the food and drink. In the U.S. I feel like it’s especially focused on the “drink.” On Saint Patrick’s Day we wear our green and go out for Guiness and corned beef and cabbage. While the Guiness is clearly authentic Irish, the corned beef and cabbage is less so. But it does stem from an Irish background.
Corned beef and cabbage is not actually a common dish in Ireland, even on St Patrick’s Day. The term “corned beef” was coined by the British to describe the salt used in curing the beef. Ireland had a very low tax rate on imported high quality salt and a plentiful beef supply. They were prohibited from exporting cattle to England, so began to supply Europe and the Americas with this corned beef. Very few Irish could afford to eat it themselves. Corned beef & cabbage was more fueled by Irish-Americans living in New York.
So here are 5 examples of authentic Irish food that you should try this St Patrick’s Day alongside a pint of Guinness.
Irish Stew is native to Ireland, and traditionally made with root vegetables and either lamb or mutton as the meat. The recipe has changed over time, and food historians generally believe that it was originally made with goat but is also now commonly made with beef. Potatoes were added after they were introduced from the Americas in the 16th century. The modern-day version of Irish Stew typically includes carrots, onions, and parsley. You can even double down on the Irish by adding Guiness to the broth, which is probably more due to the great marketing of the beer rather than anything to do with tradition.
Try this traditional Irish strew recipe.
It is common for many regions of the world to have similar items, just with their own twist. Boxty is simply the Irish name for their version of potato pancakes. It is commonly associated with the northern part of Ireland. The potato is ground fine and then often covered in mashed potato and flour giving it a much smoother feel than other versions of potato pancakes, almost resembling a pancake.
Although attributed to Ireland and a staple of Irish kitchens, soda bread was actually first made by Native Americans. But when baking soda (also known as Sodium Bicarbonate) was introduced to Ireland in the 1830s, the recipe was replicated. It was an inexpensive way to make bread, combining only Irish grown soft wheat flour, salt, baking soda, and sour milk (now generally replaced with buttermilk). The baking soda mixed with the acidity of the milk causes the bread rise, rather than requiring yeast, and also caused small bubbles of carbon dioxide to form, giving it the unique texture.
The above Irish foods might be familiar to you, but Colcannon likely is not. And like soda bread, it became popular partially because it was inexpensive to make. Colcannon is generally made of just four ingredients: mashed potato, butter, milk, and cabbage. Some variations can replace with cabbage with kale, and include things such as leeks, onions, or scallions. It is similar in nature to the English dish Bubble & Squeak.
Perhaps the most common dish on the menu of Irish bars across the United States is Shepherd’s pie. It’s beloved in Ireland, but perhaps rooted in England. First documented as Cottage pie in the late 1700s, the details about which meat was used and the exact toppings are vague.
But it came together as a way to reuse food rather than wasting it by combining leftovers into a dish that could be re-served as a new meal. Just top the meat with mashed potato and bake!
And as for the difference between Cottage Pie and Shepherd’s Pie? Cottage Pie uses beef (typically ground or fresh chunks). And traditional Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb.
I hope you go out for Saint Patrick’s Day and try some of this traditional Irish food!