Category Archives: Irish food

Cold plate warms the heart

I finally got out of the house on Saturday, which was a good thing as cabin fever was starting to set in. I had to go up to Lismore in Co Waterford, to do some interviews at the Immrama festival.

Got the interviews out of the way in the morning and having wound up the second one about quarter to one, I suddenly felt very hungry indeed.I knew I would be in Lismore all day – I was going to the sessions of the writers I’d interviewed – so I figured I’d have dinner later in the newly refurbished Lismore House Hotel.

No point in eating there twice I thought so I wandered down the street and went into the first pub I came to – Eamonn’s. Eamonn was behind the counter. I always take it as a good sign to find the person whose name is over the door is also the person dishing out the drinks, whatever about the grub.

Eamonn’s is a proper pub, not very big, kind of old-fashioned but without bicycles hanging on the wall and what I can only describe as all that shite you sometimes get in both rural Irish pubs and mockeeyah Oirish pubs.

“Have you any sandwiches?” I asked Eamonn. He regarded me dolefully. I half-expected him to say “No”. I smiled encouragingly at him. “We have soup and sandwiches,” he said before taking a deep breath and rattling off the full menu.

“We have soup homemade mushroom soup sandwiches toasted sandwiches cold plates you know cold plates with chicken and home-cooked ham or smoked salmon cold plates tea coffee and sweets.”

I don’t know when I last heard anyone refer to dessert as “sweets”. It was rather endearing. I opted for a chicken and ham cold plate and took a seat in the corner.

Maybe it was my copy of The Guardian, my too-trendy glasses or the overall cut of me but Eamonn had his doubts. He came over with cutlery.

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Loving Longueville…now at Mahon Point

Brief pause for a commercial break…

…Well, not quite but I would like to give a plug to Aisling and William from Longueville House, who are now selling lots of goodies at the Mahon Point Farmers’ Market every Thursday from 10am to 2pm. These include preserves & chutney, honey from their own bees, house smoked salmon, wild game terrines, lamb sausage, olive savoury cake, herb infused vinaigrettes, pesto, fruit liqueurs, chocolates & jellies. Yum, yum and more yum.

Plus William is happy to dole out tips on preparation and cooking to anyone visiting the stand and that has to be worth the price of some chutney. He’s a hell of a chef – am salivating at the memory of wood pigeon I had there over 18 months ago.

So pay the stand a visit if you’re in the area or, better again, go to Longueville. It’s one of those died-and-went-to-heaven places that is so worth going to.

New (to me) Irish food blogs

Answering some comments here reminds me I’ve been remiss in adding some of the newish Irish food blogs I’ve come across to the sidebar. (Cannot bring myself to use the word blogroll. That is one ugly word.)

First up is Deborah, aka the Humble Housewife, who is a lovely lady (NOT an American!) living in Offaly. I like her blog a lot and don’t think she should be humble at all. I am also in awe that she is even contemplating buying a fresh truffle.

Next is Abulafia at Eat Me Drink Me. Like that Alice in Wonderland reference although you’re putting the likes of me to shame by curing your own bacon!

And then there is Laura at Eat Drink Live, who is a baker in Limerick. Damn, some of her creations look good, including the Chocolate & Guinness muffins with Irish Whiskey Cream.

There is quite a merry band of food bloggers in Ireland now. Some day, we shall have to have a food bloggers’ convention and all eat lots of cake. Yay.

Patrick’s Day tips for Epicur(ious)eans

Goodness, just realised that I’ve gotten a lovely shout-out from Tanya at I’ve been visiting that site for years so I’m most chuffed with the mention. Hello to anyone who has arrived here from there. As it’s quite likely you might be American, I thought I’d give you a few tips for March 17th.

First of all, and I hate to be the one to break it to you, Irish people do not eat corned beef and cabbage. That’s an Irish-American thing. We eat bacon and cabbage, although we don’t necessarily do so on Patrick’s Day. I seem to remember we used to have roast lamb (meltingly tender Irish spring lamb, of course) for Patrick’s Day when I was a kid.

Neither do we consume green beer, green cake or any other green stuff on St Patrick’s Day, apart possibly from peas, broccoli, cabbage or other things that are supposed to be green, like the mint sauce for the lamb.

Furthermore, we do not dye the rivers green or dress entirely in green. Surprised? To see how odd the American version of Patrick’s Day seems to us, have a look at this article from one of yesterday’s Irish newspapers on the bemusing experience of being Irish in America on March 17th.

I can’t think that we eat anything else special on the day, although as children we were always given a day off from our Lenten fasting so we used to chow down on lots of sweets and chocolates. I don’t do Lent any more so that’s immaterial.

What will I eat on Saturday? Probably some lovely Irish salmon with spring vegetables and new potatoes, so the plate will be vaguely green, white & orange. Well, I have to make some sort of effort to honour the national holiday…

Food history proves fascinating

I’ve been a bit remiss about posting lately but, busy as things are, I did get along to two of Regina’s three history of Irish food classes so far. And it’s been so interesting that I’m making sure I’ll keep the next seven Wednesdays free.

Week one began with an overview, including a quote from Prof Louis Cullen, which said that Ireland had “one of the most interesting culinary traditions in Europe”. Who would’ve thunk it? It’s to do with all those successive invasions and waves of migration/immigration, apparently.

Then we got on to the course proper, which began with the earliest evidence of food in Ireland in Mesolithic times. Evidence gathered at sites in Derry and Kerry indicate that, far from being on the brink of starvation, our hunter-gatherer forebears were pretty knowledgeable and organised when it came to feeding themselves.

What did they eat? Nine thousand years ago in Derry, Irish people were tucking into salmon, eel, trout, wild boar, hare, thrush, pigeon, capercaillie, wild apples, wild pears, hazelnuts and, possibly, water lily seeds. To keep them going in winter, they smoked the fish, dried the fruit and made sure they had big old stores of hazelnuts.

Two thousand years later (4,600-4,300BC) in Kerry, they were eating an astonishing amount of fish and shellfish (“a diet almost identical to Greenland Eskimos” according to one expert). They didn’t eat much else but it’s still bizarre to think that fellas running around in animal skins were eating a far more varied selection of fish than we do now.

I missed week 2 – the beginning of farming – but will post on week 3 at some point in the next few days.

A little history of Irish food

I still have the January blues but I am perking up greatly at the thought of starting Regina Sexton’s short course in UCC tomorrow: A little history of Irish food. Regina, Ireland’s leading food historian, will take us through the eating habits of the Irish over the past 10,000 years. Food and social history all wrapped up together – it couldn’t be more up my alley. I’m looking forward to learning plenty and meeting a few kindred souls. Be sure and say Hi if you are going too. 🙂

The Corkonian love of spiced beef

Yes, I know Christmas is over and the time to talk about spiced beef was really weeks ago but I’ll never remember to post this tale next December so here goes. A friend of mine was telling me on New Year’s Eve about the lengths she went to so she could have a taste of home in Australia on Christmas Day.

Like me, she’s from Cork and if you’re from Cork, you have spiced beef as part of your Christmas dinner. Sure, you have turkey and ham like everyone else but you also have to have spiced beef. It’s a Cork thing.

My abiding memory of Christmas Eve will always be standing in my mother’s kitchen, chatting with the family, all of us shivering because she had the windows open as the smell of spiced beef cooking is truly rank. I couldn’t even eat it for years because the sight of it reminded me of the cooking smell, which immediately made me feel sick.

If you can get past that, spiced beef is just lovely – tender, salty and aromatic. We normally buy ours from the lovely Cork butcher O’Donovan’s (which sells it online if you’re having a belated hankering).

But my friend’s family always prepared their own, leaving it to marinate in a pot outside the back door for a week. As she pointed out the other night, however, it’s too hot in Australia in December to do that so she had to leave it in the fridge, something that did not best please her vegetarian Australian husband.

Far more hassle was getting a prescription for the saltpetre, necessary for making proper spiced beef but also employed as an ingredient in explosives. Anyway, she managed it all and was very happy to have spiced beef as part of her Ozzie Christmas dins. She used Darina Allen’s recipe. You’ll find it here but you’ll have to scroll down quite a bit.