Irish food

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Some people say that Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Chocolate tastes different on opposite sides of the border between Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland. So, we happily put that claim to the test.

Cadbury's Dairy Milk as purchased in the Republic of Ireland (L) and Northern Ireland (R)

Cadbury’s Dairy Milk as purchased in the Republic of Ireland (L) and Northern Ireland (R)

My family are big chocolate fans. When we return from a trip to Ireland, we bring quite a lot of chocolate back with us (Roses and various Cadbury bars are the favorites). So, when a friend mentioned stocking up on Dairy Milk in Northern Ireland because it tasted better, I had to test it out. On a trip to the Giant’s Causeway we purchased a “Northern” Dairy Milk, and later bought a “Southern” one at a Dunnes Stores in Co. Meath. Then, we attempted a quasi-scientific (aka, totally unscientific) test to establish if they taste the same or not. Read the rest of this entry »

An interesting contrast came to light last week when a new survey of Ireland’s favorite brands was announced. In contrast to the top global Irish brands, which are almost all alcohol brands, the favorite brands in Ireland are all food brands, rather than alcohol — so much for the stereotypes that the Irish are only interested in drink.

Although there are some world-famous brands (like Heinz) on the list, most are found only in Ireland!

Here’s a rundown of some of Ireland’s favorite foods — that everyone should try on their trip to Ireland — and a few helpful links to help you find them internationally. (After all, once you’ve tasted heaven, nothing else will do.)

Read the rest of this entry »

May is a very good month to visit Ireland. The average temperature is in the low 50s, with occasional highs into the 60s (F). Spring is turning into summer, so the magnificent landscape is dotted with new-born lambs, at least 35 of the 40 recognized shades of green are in evidence, and wildflowers are blooming in abundance. Ah, it’s grand, so ‘tis.

 

Ireland May Festival MapTo launch the summer in the best way possible, the first weekend in May is a bank holiday weekend (meaning most businesses and schools are closed on the Monday) in celebration of May Day or the ancient feast of Bealtaine.

Here are the best of the festivals and major events taking place in Ireland during May 2014. Enjoy!  Read the rest of this entry »

A roundup of the major festivals and events going on around Ireland during April.

Map of April Festivals in Ireland

Where to go for the best craic in April?

Depending on who you listen to, April is either the cruelest month, the hopeful start of spring, a joyous season of rebirth, or a depressing wet period that must be endured in order to have a beautiful, lush summer. It’s not co-incidental that April is also the month that festival season kicks into high gear after the doldrums of winter. People need entertainment, companionship, and a bit of craic. There’s an incredible wealth and diversity of high-profile events and festivals going on around the country in April — particularly around Easter weekend, as Easter Monday is always a public holiday.

These are 15 of the biggest and best festivals and special events in April 2014 that both visitors and locals can get involved with and enjoy, everything from a celebration of great literature, to outstanding traditional music, testing physical races, and gourmet culinary experiences. Enjoy! Read the rest of this entry »

Tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday, the last day before the start of Lent. In Ireland, it’s more popularly known as Pancake Day.

Nicely rolled Irish pancakes, and "The Flip" in action. Credits: PHPhoto/Pixabay, karpathi Gabor/Morguefile, StaffsLive/Flickr

Nicely rolled Irish pancakes, and “The Flip” in action. Credits: PHPhoto/Pixabay, Karpathi Gabor/Morguefile, StaffsLive/Flickr

In order to begin Lent in the right frame of mind and with your soul sufficiently pure, many Christians want to be shriven on Shrove Tuesday. They confess their sins, perform an act of contrition, and their soul is cleansed. To prepare the body, they consume the last of the rich foods that they will have to give up for Lent: milk, eggs, and butter. Read the rest of this entry »

The Waterford blaa has been granted protected status by the EU. But, what is a blaa? A bored fish, perhaps? A melancholy sheep, maybe? Nope. It’s one of the finest bread rolls known to humankind.

The humble, and protected, Waterford Blaa. (Credit: Waterford City Council)

The humble, and protected, Waterford Blaa. (Credit: Waterford City Council)

We all know that real Champagne only comes from the Champagne region of France, but the fact that there’s a European body charged with certifying which products are synonymous with which places, and enacting legislation to ban anyone else making a product with the same name, is not something that most people care to worry about. Hence, other vineyards only make sparkling wine, not champagne. Ireland has been slow to get its unique products protected in this way*, but the humble Waterford Blaa is now one of Ireland’s unique food products. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Tis the season to process rhubarb like crazy!

A mild winter and a wet spring have combined to give us an early start to the growing season in our part of the world. It’s late May, but looks like late June out there: the daylilies are hours from blooming, the gladioli are two feet tall, and the Columbine have been in flower for a couple of weeks. Likewise, the rhubarb stems are thick, very high, and rosy, so I’ve been trying to keep it picked so the bottom-most stems don’t rot from lack of light and space.

Irish cooking

The Rhubarb Patch

I compared notes with some Irish gardeners I know, and heard tales of woe and wet weather, so I gather we’re lucky to be enjoying fine growing weather — in fairness, we often get frost into mid-May, so this year is unusual. I’ve always consider rhubarb a typical staple of Irish gardens, as my parents and grandparents grew it when we were kids, and rhubarb crumbles were a sure taste of summer.

Rhubarb is one of the simplest fruits/vegetables (the jury seems to be out on where rhubarb stands — grown like a vegetable, served as a fruit) to grow, but people seem to not know what to do with it. I’ve introduced many to its distinctive tartness over the years. I remember our family grew it in a bed by a hedge, and the mossy grass had taken over the ground so that my father mowed right up to the stalks themselves. It was a very easy plant to care for, and I doubt they even bothered to divide it every few years.

 

Irish Rhubarb/Strawberry Crumble Recipe

This is my favorite rhubarb recipe, and one that I’ve amended over the years to incorporate local ingredients.

 

1.5 – 2 lbs of stewed rhubarb

1.5-2 lbs of strawberries (fresh or frozen)

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup wholewheat flour

¾ cup rolled oats

½ cup walnuts or pecans (chopped fine)

1 stick of butter

 

The filling is simple: in a pie dish or small roasting pan (depending on how large a crumble you need) mix up the stewed rhubarb and strawberries. To my taste, a 50/50 ratio of rhubarb to strawberries should make the crumble sweet enough, others may want to add sugar to cut the tartness (but no more than ¼ cup).

* You can replace strawberries with any other sweet fruit (whatever’s in season).

A traditional Irish crumble usually has a pastry pie shell on the bottom and is topped with the crumbly mixture. However, somewhere in the anti-carb ‘90s I stopped including the pastry bottom, and now I just think of it as needless calories. The crumble topping is simply equal parts granulated sugar, steel-cut oats, whatever kind of flour you like, and butter.  Bring the butter to room temp, and rub it into the combined sugar/flour mixture until the mix crumbles nicely between the fingers. (If you have a thick dough, you’ve used too much butter. Cut with equal parts sugar and flour until it crumbles nicely.) Apologies that this isn’t more precise, but the best Irish recipes are always “a bit of this, and the bit of that…” “How much, Mum?” “Ah, sure you know yourself.”

My other non-traditional innovation is to add about ½ cup finely chopped walnuts (or pecans if you have them — we’re in the US South, so they’re plentiful) to the crumble topping. It tastes great, and adds some protein.

Spread the crumble topping over the fruit, make a small “well” or two to allow the juices to bubble up, and cook in a pre-heated over for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees F (or until the crumble topping starts to brown).

Serve with custard or ice cream.

 

How to Stew Rhubarb

Irish CultureWash and chop the stems. Discard the bottom two inches and the leaves, as these are inedible (the leaves are poisonous, containing oxalic acid). Add a tiny bit of water to prevent the rhubarb sticking to the bottom of a thick-bottomed saucepan, but not much as the stems contain plenty of water, which will be released as they cook. How long and how much you stew them depends on personal taste. I like my rhubarb to remain chunky, but most people seem to prefer a uniform apple-sauce like consistency, so I aim for something mid-way between these extremes.

Stir often to prevent sticking, and either freeze in small batches or use soon after cooking. Stewed rhubarb is a great addition to muffins, so I like to keep some in the freezer throughout the year, as our youngest loves to cook muffins to bring to school.

Anybody got any other good rhubarb recipes to share?