Traditional Irish Recipes
Northern Ireland's epic landscapes yield up fantastic raw ingredients, and we are privileged to still have recipes and methods for cooking with them passed down through the generations. The pure, natural quality of these simple ingredients is at the heart of our food culture and tastes. There's always room on the menu for traditional flavours, so get in touch with the past by trying these four classic Northern Ireland recipes.
Irish stew originated from the old ways of cooking over an open fire. The authentic recipe calls for mutton, potatoes and onions, but nowadays most people use lamb, with carrots and pearl barley added for extra colour and interest. A good Irish stew should be thick and creamy, not swimming in juice. It's the signature dish at the café in Cultúrlann Ui Chánin (House of Culture) in Derry~Londonderry and you'll find it on loads of other eateries in Northern Ireland.
750g (11/2lb) potatoes
1kg (2lb) gigot chops or breast of mutton
Chopped parsley and thyme
5 medium onions, salt and pepper, 375ml (3/4pt) water
1. Trim the meat and cut into fairly large pieces. Peel and slice the potatoes and onions.
2. Put layers of potatoes, meat and onion with seasoning into a large pot, finishing with a layer of potatoes. Pour the liquid over and bring to the boil.
3. Simmer gently for about two hours or bake in a slow oven gas 2/150°C/300°F.
4. Check during cooking, adding more liquid if necessary.
Northern Ireland's love of the potato goes a long way back and we have a rich legacy of dishes derived from it: champ, boxty and of course potato bread (fadge, farls) among them. Now usually served with breakfast as part of the Ulster Fry, in the past this recipe used up leftover potatoes. It's our oldest bread. You can get a real life demo of the old style of cooking potato bread at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum in Holywood and the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh.
225g (8oz) warm mashed potatoes
25g (1oz) Irish butter
50g (2oz) plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Add the butter and salt to the warm mashed potatoes. Work in the flour to make a dough.
2. Split the mix in two and roll on a floured board into two circles about 1/2cm (1/4”) thick.
3. Cut the circles into quarters and bake on a lightly greased hot griddle or heavy pan until browned on both sides – about five to six minutes.
4. For a modern twist, serve warm with maple syrup, or with sugar and a little lemon wedge.
This is a dish of mashed potatoes and cabbage or kale, dressed up with a little butter, cream or milk. It's the kind of food past generations ate regularly, but you can still taste it on the menu of top restaurants like Hadskis in Belfast. A favourite among ex-pats around St Patrick's Day, colcannon goes well with boiled bacon or red meat, or can also be eaten on its own with an extra knob of butter on top.
450g (1lb) cooked potatoes
1 small onion
225g (1/2lb) cooked green cabbage
2 tablespoons cream
50g (2oz) butter
Salt and pepper
1. Chop the cooked cabbage roughly. Chop onion and cook gently in the butter until soft.
2. Drain the cooked potatoes, season and beat well.
3. Add cooked onion and cream.
4. Fold in the cabbage. Serve hot.
This sticky delicacy is a true Northern Ireland speciality and it's even immortalised in folk song with the lyric: "Did you treat your Mary Ann to some dulse and Yellow Man / At the Ould Lammas Fair in Ballycastle-O'. It can be found at Aunt Sandra's Candy Factory in Belfast and delicatessens around Northern Ireland, but here's how to make your own.
11/2 cups golden syrup
1 cup brown sugar
50g (2oz) Irish butter
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon bicarbonate of soda
1. Take great care with this one as boiling sugar can be very dangerous!
2. Gently mix the syrup, sugar, butter and vinegar together in a large saucepan. Then bring it slowly to the boil (do not stir).
3. Boil until a drop hardens in cold water, then carefully stir in the baking soda (the mixture will foam up when the soda goes in).
4. Pour out on to a lightly greased slab and when cool enough to handle, work the edges into the centre. Keep doing this until the mixture turns to a pale yellow colour.
5. Pop it into a lightly greased flat tin and leave to cool and set. When cold, break it into bite size chunks with a clean hammer.
6. Bag-it-up, then off you go to the Ould Lammas Fair.