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Classic Irish Foods

A mention of St. Patrick’s Day generally conjures up thoughts of steaming hot corned beef and cabbage and plenty of green beer! But Irish folks will tell you that there’s much more to Irish cuisine than these traditional March17th favorites, including a host of foods that just about anyone can make and enjoy. As a matter of fact, corned beef and cabbage isn’t even a traditional Irish dish; it’s an American invention that became a St. Patrick’s Day staple sometime in the early 20th century, making at exclusively an Irish-American tradition, not one that is eaten around the world.

So, if you’re tired of corned beef, here’s a list of classic Irish foods that can also be enjoyed on this unique holiday.

Irish stew – An old favorite of the working class Irish that would include affordable animal parts like lamb or mutton neckbones, shanks, and other trimmings as the basis for the stock, Irish stew is a perennial favorite with “real” Irishmen. This simple recipe still includes lamb or mutton as well as potatoes and onions. It may also include additional vegetables for color and taste, such as carrots or parsnips. This hearty dish simmers all day so that the meat is tender and most cooks add some extra flavor by using a bit of stout (like Guinness) in the recipe. The result should be quite thick and filling.

Colcannon – This starchy dish is also quite easy to make and was consumed in large amounts during the Irish famine because it would quickly fill hungry little stomachs. Basically, colcannon in a combination of mashed potatoes mixed with finely chopped onion and shredded green cabbage. Those ingredients are combined with milk and butter and, these days, the recipe is served as a side dish not a main entrée. It takes just minutes to create, especially if you use instant mashed potatoes.

Poundies – Also called “champ”, this dish also includes potatoes, an ingredient you’ll find in many classic Irish recipes. When making poundies, the potatoes are mashed and mixed with chopped green onion. They’re then piled in a heap and a well is made in the center for a pool of melted butter. Diners eat the potatoes from the outside edges in, dipping each spoonful into the buttery well. Yum!

Boxty – This is the Irish version of the potato pancake. Traditionally, this recipe calls for both leftover mashed potatoes and raw, grated potatoes. These are mixed with eggs and dry ingredients so that they can be formed into patties and fried in butter or oil. Often, they are dusted with sugar after frying.

Irish boiled dinner – A one-pot meal, Irish boiled dinner often resembles a soup more than a stew. It uses an inexpensive cut of beef, like brisket, which is cooked on the stove-top for several hours to break down the connective tissue, eventually resulting in a tender roast. The beef is generally cooked in water and lager beer with seasonings that might include bay leaf, parsley, and peppercorns. Once the beef has almost reached its doneness, most cooks add vegetables such as potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and turnips and cook them until they’re tender.

Coddle – Another stew-type meal of the sort that was practical during the famine, coddle includes pork sausage, ham, potatoes, and onions. Simmered on the stove top, the meal is generally done in about an hour, making it a fairly quick recipe.

Irish soda bread – All of those wonderful stews demand some tasty bread to go with them. That’s where Irish soda bread comes in. Often found in American bakeries around St. Patrick’s Day, this tasty bread is a quick bread that does not require yeast. Rather, the baking soda acts as the leavening agent. Other ingredients for this crusty bread include buttermilk and raisins.