Food Exploration: Tastes of the Emerald Isle

“It’s easy to halve the potato where there’s love.”
Irish Proverb

Map of Ireland at CHEFScatalog.comFor an authentic Irish meal, pass on the popular St. Patrick’s Day corned beef. While many consider corned beef, served with cabbage, the most Irish dish they know how to cook, it is actually considered Irish-American and not a traditional meal of Éire. There’s much more to Irish cuisine than St. Patrick’s Day traditions.

Authentic Irish flavors

Over the centuries, Irish cuisine has been exposed to many outside influences. However, traditional foods have remained a part of the diet in some form or another. Irish recipes tend to be simple and use basic, inexpensive ingredients. That makes them easy, yet satisfying, to create yourself.

Throughout Ireland’s history, the country has not had a period of affluence. The cuisine of the island reflects not only geography, but its economic status. Irish chefs pride themselves on using locally produced food in order to create traditional dishes for their guests.

  • Potatoes. While there is more to Irish food than the potato, it would be impossible to talk about the country’s diet without mentioning the infamous tuber. Potatoes are served with nearly every meal and have played an important role in the history of the island. (See more.)
  • Bread. As with most peasant diets, bread has played an important role in the cuisine of Ireland. Soda bread is the a well-known source of grains in the country and is often eaten alongside stews. Typically, it is a brown bread that is made with whole wheat flour and buttermilk.
  • Meat. Pork and seafood are the most commonly consumed forms of meat in Ireland, with other meats—chicken and mutton—also making frequent appearances on menus. While many Irish families can now afford to eat beef, traditionally it would have been too expensive. .
  • Cheese. Until the 1970s, the art of cheese-making had nearly been lost on the island. Artisan farmhouse cheeses are considered delicacies because each individual farmhouse has its own type of cheese with unique flavors.

Preparing a traditional Irish meal

Irish meals are known to be hearty, with strong familial ties. Make sure your entire family is home to take part in your traditional Irish meal, whether you’re roasting a lamb or simply having a stew with a side of soda bread.

Don’t forget to offer a little Irish whiskey or a pint of Guinness with your meal. Since the Irish pride themselves on locally sourced foods, try and get your ingredients from a local farmers market or butcher.

Soda Bread Grilled Cheese Bites

This recipe uses traditional Irish soda bread and Irish cheddar cheese.

Soda Bread Grilled Cheese Recipe at CHEFScatalog.comIngredients

Soda Bread

3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1-1/2 cups buttermilk

2 tablespoons unsalted butter/ melted

Grilled Cheese

8 slices Irish Cheddar Cheese

1/2 cup butter, divided

Cooking instructions

Soda Bread

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Create a well in the center of the dry mixture.

Add buttermilk into well. Mix with hands, until the dough is soft, but not too wet.

Remove dough from bowl and place on flat, floured surface. Knead for one minute.

Shape dough into an oval, about 1.5 inches deep. With a serrated knife, cut an “X” across the top.

Place on a lightly greased baking sheet, and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. After baking, remove bread from baking sheet to cool.

Grilled Cheese

Using serrated bread knife, cut slightly cooled soda bread into 8 slices. Spread slices out onto flat counter or table, into 2 rows of 4 slices.

Top one row of bread slices with two slices of Irish cheddar cheese, covering as much of bread surface as possible.

Top the bread and cheese stack with another slice of bread. Lightly butter the top of the top slice of bread.

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in large skillet.

Place two sandwiches, buttered side up in skillet. Sear until golden brown (approximately 3 minutes). Using a spatula, flip sandwich so buttered side is face down. Allow second side to sear (approximately 3 minutes).

Remove from heat, and add 1 more tablespoon of butter to skillet.

Repeat with remaining sandwiches.

Cut 4 sandwiches into quarters. Serve immediately.

Cook’s Country Slow Cooker Hearty Beef Stew

Cook's Country Slow Cooker Hearty Beef Stew Recipe at CHEFScatalog.comIngredients

5 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup vegetable oil

4 onions, chopped fine

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

2 cups low-sodium chicken or beef broth

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 bay leaves

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pound red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme

2 tablespoons Minute tapioca

2 cups frozen peas, thawed

Cooking instructions

Brown meat: Pat beef dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook half of beef until well browned all over, about 8 minutes. Transfer to slow-cooker insert and repeat with additional 1 tablespoon oil and remaining beef.

Brown onions: Add onions, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to now-empty skillet and cook until browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, until paste begins to darken, about 2 minutes. Slowly stir in broth, soy sauce, and bay leaves and bring to boil. Transfer to slow cooker.

Wrap vegetables: Toss carrots, parsnips, potatoes, remaining oil, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in large bowl. Place vegetables on one side of large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Fold foil over vegetables to form packet that will fit in slow cooker; crimp edges to seal. Stir tapioca into slow cooker; set vegetable packet on top of beef.

Slow cook: Cover and cook on high until beef is tender, 6 to 7 hours (or cook on low 10 to 11 hours). Discard bay leaves and transfer vegetable packet to bowl. Carefully open packet (watch for steam) and return vegetables and any accumulated juices to slow cooker. Stir in remaining thyme and peas, cover, and let stand until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.

Baked Brie with Spiced Fruit Chutney

Baked Brie with Spiced Fruit Chutney Recipe at CHEFScatalog.comIngredients

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

3 cinnamon sticks

2 slices of lemon

6-8 peppercorns

2 whole cloves

1 cup dried pears, cut in 1/2-inch dice (not organic)

1 cup dried apricots, cut in 1/2-inch dice (not organic)

1 cup dried cherries (not organic)

2 lbs whole double crème Brie cheese with rind

Cooking instructions

Place the wine, water, sugar, and spices in a 3-quart All-Clad saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1-2 minutes.

Add the diced fruit, cover the saucepan with a lid, bring to a second boil, and simmer with the lid askew for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.

When cooled, remove the lemon slices, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, and cloves. Can be prepared ahead and refrigerated for up to 1 month.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Place the whole brie in a 10-inch pie pan. Mound about 1/3 of the fruit in the center of the brie leaving a 1 1/4-inch border of cheese. Spoon the remaining fruit into the well of the pan filling the cavity completely around the pan. Any syrup that remains should be drizzled over the top of the brie and around the edge to glaze the fruit.

Bake the brie for 30-35 minutes or until the cheese looks puffy and the center has warmed. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the brie, it should feel warm.

Let cool for 5 minutes. Serve with toasted French bread slices or plain crackers.

Recipe from, © 2007 by Carole Walter, CCP

Iced Irish Coffee

Irish Coffee at CHEFScatalog.comIngredients

8 cups ice cubes

1 cup sugar

1 cup hot water

8 cups fresh brewed coffee, chilled

3 cups Irish whiskey

1 cup chocolate syrup

Whipped cream

Cooking instructions

Several hours before you are going to make iced coffees, prepare 8 cups of fresh brewed coffee and place in refrigerator to chill.

In large pitcher combine 1 cup sugar and hot water and stir well.

Once combined, pour chilled coffee into pitcher.

Add Irish whiskey and stir.

Add chocolate syrup and stir to blend.

Fill serving glasses with ice and pour coffee and whiskey mixture over ice.

Top with whipped cream and serve.

Chocolate Stout Brownies

This recipe uses the famous Irish beer in a sweet treat.

Chocolate Stout Brownies Recipe at CHEFScatalog.comIngredients

1 cup flour

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter

8 ounces dark bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1-3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided

4 large eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1-1/4 cups stout (Guinness) at room temperature (do not use foam)

Cooking instructions

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, and salt, and stir until combined well. Set aside.

In small saucepan, melt butter, chocolate, and ¾ cup chocolate chips over very low heat, stirring constantly. Once combined well, remove from heat.

In large bowl, beat eggs and sugar until airy. Add chocolate and butter mixture and stir.

Pour flour mixture into chocolate mixture. Stir well.

Using whisk, stir in stout beer.

Pour remaining chocolate chips into batter.

In 9 x 13 inch baking pan lined with aluminum foil, pour batter.

Place in oven and bake about 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Allow brownies to cool before cutting, then serve.

Your turn: Do you believe in “The Luck O’ The Irish?” What is your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

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