Dublin is frequently hailed as a ‘vibrant young multicultural city’ - as, in many ways, it is and its recently settled multi-cultural population has brought unprecedented change (and variety) to its food - yet many visitors, and indeed residents, still wish to seek out the great traditional foods and drinks.
While street vendors hawking ‘cockles and mussels’ may be a thing of the past (or, at any rate, they have moved into the markets these days) unique dishes like Dublin Coddle (a simple stew of sausages, bacon, onion and potato) tell their own social history.
Although they have been out of favour in recent years, these specialities are still made and are now enjoying a revival of interest. Few of the specialist pork butchers that supplied the ingredients for Dublin Coddle and were so much a part of the city’s everyday life remain, alas, although many that do, such as J. Hick & Sons of Dun Laoghaire, are outstanding – and, of course, the ingredients are widely available from other butchers.
Said to be Dean Swift’s favourite meal, this traditional dish is every bit as comforting as it sounds; made on pay day or on Saturday nights, it is a very forgiving dish and always welcoming, whatever the time.
It combines two foods known since the earliest Irish literature - bacon and sausages - and, like all very simple dishes, success depends on the quality of the ingredients, so use the very best sausages you can find, and good dry-cured bacon.
The traditional version is a simple stew; this modern variation (“Campbell’s Coddle”) is made with the same ingredients but has a crispy topping.
450g /l lb good quality pork sausages
325g/12 oz streaky rashers, preferably dry-cured
6 large potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced
4-6 carrots (about l lb/450g), scraped and sliced
1/2 pint/300 ml stock or water, or as required
4-6 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
l rounded tablespoon mild wholegrain mustard (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat a moderate oven, 350ºF, 180ºC, Gas mark 4.
Lay the sausages in a single layer in a large, shallow ovenproof dish. Put them into the oven to brown a little and release some of their fat. Put the thickly sliced potatoes into a saucepan, barely cover with cold water, bring up to the boil and par-boil for 5-10 minutes; drain well. (This stage can be omitted if time in the oven is not at a premium.)
Trim any bits of bone or gristle out of the rashers, but don’t bother to remove rinds; set aside.
Remove the sausages from the oven, lift out with a slotted spoon and drain off all accumulated fat.
Arrange the sliced onions and carrots in the base of the baking dish, scatter with chopped parsley and seasoning then add the stock or water. Arrange the sausages on top of the vegetables, then the potatoes, and scatter with more parsley and seasoning.
Finally, add the rashers, spread out to cover the layer of potatoes as neatly as possible. Cook in the preheated oven for 40-50 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the rashers and potatoes crispy and brown.
Alternatively, cook at a lower temperature, adding extra liquid as required, for as much longer as is convenient.
Serve with a green vegetable such as spring cabbage, lightly cooked in as little water as possible.