Ireland – known as the Emerald Isle because of its lush, green landscape. Simple, tasty, warming food is at the heart of Irish cooking. Here are some easy, traditional Irish recipes for you to try at home.
Ireland has a long history of good, wholesome food. Things like meat, bread, butter, and potatoes feature heavily in Irish cooking. The famous Irish stew is made from lamb, potatoes, herbs, and onions – all plentiful in this region.
Ireland is not attached to Britain, it sits apart from the rest of the British Isles, some 12 miles across the Irish Sea. Northern Ireland is part of the British Isles but Southern Ireland is independent; it’s been that way since 1922 and now calls itself the Republic of Ireland or just Ireland.
This article covers the food of Northern Ireland. There are so many delicious recipes that if you visit, you will be spoiled for choice. Also, Ireland is home to Guinness, a dark stout that is popular all over the world, and Irish whiskey, quite different from the Scottish malt whisky; but it will warm you up on a cold day!
Strawberry, Carrot and Mint Soup
This unusually-flavoured soup is very light and refreshing and makes a perfect start to a big meal. It can be enjoyed hot or as a chilled soup. Serves 6.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
680g carrots, peeled and sliced
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1.7 litres of good-quality chicken stock
340g strawberries, hulled and stalks removed
12 large mint leaves
The juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper
142 ml double cream
Flat-leaf parsley to garnish
Heat the oil and butter in a heavy-based pan and cook the onion until softened but not browned. Add the carrots, potato and stock and bring to the boil. Simmer until the vegetables are soft – about 20 minutes.
Pour the vegetables and stock into a liquidiser and blend to a fine puree. Add the strawberries and mint leaves and blend again. Pour the soup back into the pan and reheat gently, adding the lemon juice and seasoning. Stir in the cream and heat through without boiling.
Serve the soup garnished with flat-leaf parsley, accompanied by soda bread and Irish butter.
These are traditionally cooked in bacon fat and served as part of an Irish breakfast. Or they can be eaten on their own, spread with butter. Makes 18 rounds or triangles.
450g cooked mashed potatoes
Half a teaspoon of salt
110g plain flour
Put the mashed potatoes into a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Add the butter in small pieces and just enough flour to bind the mixture together – don’t add too much flour or the fadge will become tough. Cover the bowl and chill for several hours, or overnight.
Roll out the dough on a floured work surface to a thickness of about 3mm and cut it into triangles or rounds. Heat some oil in a non-stick frying pan and cook the fadge until brown on both sides. This will only take a minute for each side. Serve warm or hot.
This comforting pie makes good use of Ireland’s seafood, and, of course, potatoes. You can add a couple of hard-boiled eggs to the fish mixture if you like, and top the pie with some grated cheese. Serves 4.
400g white fish fillets, such as cod or haddock
200g salmon fillet
100g cooked and peeled prawns
430 ml of full-fat milk
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 dried bay leaf
A strip of lemon peel
0.9kg potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
4 tablespoons of milk
Salt and pepper
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
50g grated Cheddar cheese
Put the white fish and salmon into a pan with the milk, bay leaf, lemon peel, and peppercorns. Add salt and pepper, cover with a lid, and heat gently for 10 – 15 minutes until the fish is cooked. Strain off the milk into a jug and reserve. Break the fish into quite large pieces.
In the same pan, melt the butter until sizzling, add the flour, then lower the heat and cook for 2 minutes, stirring continuously, until you have a thick paste. Add the reserved milk a little at a time, whisking continuously, or stirring with a wooden spoon, until all the milk is used up and you have a smooth sauce with a pouring consistency. Stir in the cooked fish, seasoning, prawns, and parsley and transfer to an ovenproof dish.
Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 15 – 20 minutes until soft but not falling apart. Drain in a colander and return to the pan. Add the milk and butter and some salt and pepper and mash vigorously, until the potato is smooth. Spoon the potato on top of the fish and use a fork to swirl the top. This encourages it to go crispy.
Bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes until the top is browned and the sauce is bubbling up from underneath the potato topping. Serve with a green vegetable or two.
*If using the boiled egg, mix it in with the fish or slice it and place it on top of the fish before adding the potato topping. If you want to use the cheese, sprinkle it evenly over the top of the pie before cooking.
Traditional Irish Stew
This simple mix of lamb, potatoes, onions, and herbs could be considered Ireland’s national dish. It’s all cooked in one pot, saving time and washing up. I just had to include this! Serves 4 – 6.
1.3kg floury potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
650g onions, peeled and thinly sliced
450g carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthways, then sliced
1.3kg middle neck or lamb chops
Lamb stock or water
Salt and pepper
1 dried bay leaf
Put the meat, carrots, onions, and potatoes into a large casserole dish. Add the bay leaf, season with plenty of salt and pepper and pour over enough stock or water to almost cover the meat and vegetables. Cover and cook in a preheated oven, gas 2/150C/300F for about 3 hours, until the meat and vegetables are very tender.
Remove any bones from the meat, take out the bay leaf and serve the stew in deep bowls, accompanied by good Irish bread and creamy butter.
Beef Cooked in Guinness
This rich, dark-coloured casserole will appeal to everyone, even those who say they don’t like Guinness! Don’t be tempted to taste it too soon; you have to give it time for the Guinness to become a deeply savoury gravy. Serves 6.
0.9kg shin of beef or braising steak
2 tablespoons beef dripping or olive oil
110g smoked streaky bacon, chopped
450g onions, peeled and roughly chopped
230g carrots, peeled and sliced into wedges
230g turnip or swede, peeled and diced
3 tablespoons flour
280 ml Guinness
280 ml of good-quality beef stock
2 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
Salt and pepper
Melt the beef dripping or heat the oil in a deep flameproof casserole dish. Brown the cubes of meat a few pieces at a time, removing the meat with a slotted spoon and transferring it onto a plate. Set aside.
Add the chopped onion and bacon to the casserole and fry over a medium heat for 10 minutes, until softened. Add the carrot and swede or turnip, stir and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Add the thyme leaves and season well.
Mix the stock and Guinness together in a jug and add to the casserole gradually, stirring well, until all the stock is used up. Return the meat to the pan, cover and transfer the casserole to a preheated oven, gas 2/150C/300F for about 2 hours.
After 2 hours, check if the meat is soft. If it’s not quite there yet, return it to the oven and give it another 45 minutes.
Serve in deep plates accompanied by champ (recipe below.)
This dish of mashed potato with spring onion and generous amounts of butter goes with just about anything. It’s nice on its own too. Good comfort food. Champ is Ireland’s answer to Scottish colcannon, made with spring onions instead of shredded cabbage. Serves 4.
1kg potatoes such as King Edward, peeled
100g spring onions
150 ml of full-fat milk
85 – 100g of butter
Salt and pepper
Cut the peeled potatoes into chunks and place them in a pan of salted water. Bring to the boil then cover with a lid and lower the heat to medium. Cook for 15 – 20 minutes until tender. Drain in a colander and return to the hot pan.
Finely chop the spring onions, both white and green parts. Pour the milk into a pan, add the spring onions and heat until almost boiling. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 15 minutes. Mash the potatoes with the butter, season with salt and pepper and mix well. Reheat the milk and add it to the mashed potatoes, beating with a wooden spoon. You’re aiming for soft, fluffy mash.
Spoon mounds of champ onto warmed plates and make a hollow in the top with the back of a spoon. Put a generous knob of butter into each hollow so that it melts. The idea is to dip each mouthful of champ into the melted butter. Not exactly healthy perhaps but utterly delicious!
Pears Cooked in Mulled Wine
This is for those who want something light but tasty for dessert after a big meal. You can even use slightly under-ripe pears for this as they will soften in the poaching liquid. Serves 8.
200g of granulated sugar
A cinnamon stick
A strip of lemon rind
170 ml of full-bodied red wine, such as Merlot
8 conference pears, peeled
Put the sugar, wine, cinnamon stick and lemon rind into a heavy-based pan with 170 ml of cold water. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. (You should be able to lift the wooden spoon and not see any bits of sugar left in the liquid.) Increase the heat and boil for 5 minutes.
Place the peeled pears in the pan with the mulled wine then cover the pan and simmer gently for 20 – 30 minutes, or until the pears are as soft as butter. Remove the lemon rind and cinnamon stick from the syrup and discard.
Boil the syrup until it’s thickened and is dark red and glossy. Allow the pears and syrup to go cold then chill in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
Serve the pears on plain white plates with the syrup poured over. You can enjoy them as they are, or with cream or ice cream.
Irish Porter Cake
This cake is traditionally made with Irish porter ale, hence the name. Its flavour improves the longer you keep it. There are some similarities to English Christmas cake in flavour and texture and it goes well with a nice cup of tea.
450g self-raising flour
1.5 teaspoons ground mixed spice
340g butter, softened
340g soft light brown sugar
4 medium eggs, beaten
340g raisins, washed and dried
340g sultanas, washed and dried
230g currants, washed and dried
230g mixed peel, finely chopped
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
200 ml porter ale or Guinness
Sieve the flour and mixed spice into a large bowl. Beat the butter and sugar together with an electric hand whisk until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly blended. Add the flour and fold it in gently with a large metal spoon, followed by the dried fruits and mixed peel.
Pour the ale into a jug and add the bicarbonate of soda. Stir until dissolved then add enough ale to the cake mixture to make it a soft consistency, but not too runny. If you scoop some up on the spoon and then turn it upside down, the mixture should fall easily off the spoon. Pour into a greased and lined 23 cm square cake tin and level the surface.
Bake in a preheated oven, gas 4/200C/400F for an hour, then reduce the oven temperature to gas 3/170C/325F and cook for a further one and a quarter to one and a half hours. Push a skewer into the middle of the cake and if the skewer comes out clean, the cake is done. If it’s getting too brown on top, cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper to stop it from burning.
Leave the cake in the tin until it’s completely cold, then wrap it in fresh greaseproof paper and a layer of foil. Store the cake in an airtight tin for a week. Serve in thick slices, with butter if you like.
This is the easiest bread to make because it doesn’t need yeast, so no proving or long kneading sessions are involved. The name comes from the use of bicarbonate of soda to make the bread rise, instead of the usual yeast. This is eaten all over Ireland and is popular in other countries now as well.
625g plain or wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 – 2 tablespoons of salt
570 ml of full-fat milk
Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl and stir together. Stir in the milk and knead lightly to form a soft dough. Place the dough on a baking tray lined with non-stick paper and shape it into an 18 cm round. Cut a cross in the top with a sharp knife, going about 2.5 cm deep, and bake in a preheated oven, gas 5/190C/375F for 35 – 40 minutes.
Cool the bread on a wire rack and serve in wedges with lots of creamy Irish butter.
This makes a wonderful end to a meal if you haven’t got room for dessert! Black coffee, spiked with Irish whiskey and topped with cream. Serves 1.
150 ml freshly-brewed ground coffee
50 ml Irish whiskey
Half to one teaspoon of brown sugar
2 – 3 tablespoons double cream
Pour the hot coffee into a heatproof glass. Stir in the whiskey and sugar until the sugar has dissolved, then put the tip of a teaspoon upside down on the surface of the coffee and slowly pour on the cream over the back of the spoon. It should float on top of the coffee. Sip the coffee through the cream and enjoy!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the food of Ireland. If you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
For more information on British food please visit traditional British food recipes
Have you ever dreamed of starting your own online business? It’s easier than you think. Try Wealthy Affiliate; it’s worked for me, why not find out if it could work for you too? Best of all – it’s free!