Monday, March 14, 2011

Celebrating Ireland


The emerald countryside of Northern Ireland.

Long before it became trendy to boast of dishes prepared with locally-procurred, and organically-grown meats and produce, the Irish had perfected the art of country-cooking.  Having graced more than a few Irish country pubs, and farmhouse bed and breakfast establishments, Rick and I have long been fans of Ireland's humble, cuisine.

Irish menus may not be lengthy or extravagant, but no matter where you go in Ireland, you can generally count on the food being fresh, and prepared in a tasty manner. Irish cooks are at their best, when making do with what they have on-hand, and though the country is a relatively small island, staples vary widely by region.

Whether roasted, or served in a rich, savory stew, country-lamb takes center stage in the north and interior of Ireland, while fresh-water trout is a favorite of the mountain districts.

Though most commonly served in restaurants these days, locally harvested shellfish can still be purchased from handcarts, in many small fishing villages along the southern coast.  While touring Ireland in the mid 1990's, I was delighted to hear a weathered old vendor hawking his cockles and mussels from a pushcart, while strolling the sleepy streets of one dreamy little village.

In addition to shellfish, the cold water of the North Sea produces a mild, soft-pink, salmon few in the United States would recognize. Nothing screams comfort on a bitterly cold and windy day, like a bowl of steaming fish chowder, served with whole-grain, brown bread, that's been slathered with creamery-fresh, unsalted butter.

And, when you're feelin' a bit parched, and a wee-bit hungry, nothing beats a frothy pint of Guinness, a wedge of sharp, farmhouse-cheddar cheese, and a sliver of baked ham.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention, my favorite Irish meal-of-the-day, breakfast!  As most good country-folk know, you can't start your day, without fueling your engine.  A typical Irish breakfast includes eggs cooked sunny-side-up (with the largest, most deeply colored yolks I've ever seen), bangers (plump little sausage links), pan-fried tomatoes, and mushrooms, clotted cream, marmalade, and breakfast scones.  And, if that's not enough, you can always order a pork chop on the side.

While touring Ireland, I purchased several local cookbooks which I found easy to follow, and chock-full of wholesome, country recipes. What you won't find in Ireland, much to the surprise of most tourist, is corned beef and cabbage, a distinctly Irish-American dish.  No matter, it remains a favorite of our family, and always makes an appearance around St. Patty's Day, along with my mother's Bit O'Shamrock cake (ever hear of an Irish pistachio?).

A listing of recipes, both authentically Irish, and Irish-American, can be found labeled Irish/St. Patty's Day, in the margin of this blog.

2 comments:

  1. THANK YOU!!! I'm excited to try something new!!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh I do love being Irish! Pass me a GuinNess!

    ReplyDelete