Cookery Feature - Ireland for Food Lovers

Ireland for Food Lovers by Georgina CampbellVisitors to Ireland often seek simple traditional food based on local ingredients, as it has a real sense of place - and, although this kind of food has been out of favour with many Irish residents in recent years (and therefore harder to find than it should be), it is now deservedly enjoying renewed popularity.

Ireland for Food Lovers is not primarily a cookery book, but some recipes based on the foods of each region have been included for home cooks to enjoy. The recipes have been selected for simplicity and - although there are of course many excellent contemporary and international dishes to be enjoyed throughout Ireland - with a bias towards the homely and traditional.

Kerry CowsThese are the kind of dishes that reflect the foods produced in Ireland over many generations, and that suit our weather and the changing seasons.

Comfort food par excellence, traditional Irish dishes are perhaps at their best in the colder months, so trying these three dishes taken from the South-West, East and North regions could be a good excuse to spend more time in your cosy kitchen.

"What a lovely, lovely book! There should be a copy on show in every Irish embassy in the comprehensive & so beautifully produced" Myrtle Allen

Kerry Lamb Pie Kerry Lamb Pie

The meats of any area are very much a product of the environment, and traditional Kerry black-faced mountain lamb reflects the rugged conditions and natural production methods of the area. It is a seasonal treat – the prized meat of these hardy, lean animals has the special flavours of the heather, wild herbs and grasses they feed on and is available late season (July-November approx).

Another particular speciality is the Blasket Island lamb. The product of the salt-sprayed heathery pastures of this small group of uninhabited, but much-visited, islands 3km/1.5m off Dingle peninsula (, the meat is comparable to the famous pré-salé (salt marsh) lamb of Normandy and Brittany, with yet an extra ‘je-ne-sais-quoi’; supplies are very limited, so catch it if you can when in the area.

This very modern take on the traditional Kerry pie is light years away from the original that inspired it, but very tasty nonetheless - and it was chosen to be included in Ireland for Food Lovers because it is true to the spirit of the original dish while having contemporary appeal. It is adapted from the cookbook Roly's Bistro, The Restaurant and Its Food (Gill & Macmillan), and has been a favourite dish at the perennially popular Dublin restaurant for many years.

Kerry lamb pies – or, more particularly, Dingle Pies – were modest little mutton pies, not unlike Cornish pasties; the shortcrust pastry was made with mutton fat and the pies were often boiled in mutton stock, rather like dumplings.

Today’s modern versions are lighter (and probably more palatable); Piog Pies, of Dingle, include a Kerry lamb & vegetable pie in their handmade range.

The filling for these pies could be made ahead and cooled, leaving only the pastry and oven baking to finish before serving.

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Dublin Coddle Dublin Coddle

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.

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Bacon Chops with Apple & Cider SauceBacon Chops with Apple & Cider Sauce

Mention Fermanagh and the chances are that the response will be ‘Fermanagh black bacon’ – in a county famous for its pork, this special product made (and trade-marked) by Enniskillen butcher Pat O’Doherty has earned its place in the foodie hall of fame.

The O’Dohertys keep their own herd of free range Saddleback pigs on Inishcorkish Island on Upper Lough Erne, and the product is a great credit to both the standard of meat and the artisans who make it into unique dry-cured Fermanagh black bacon.

Visits to the island can be arranged by appointment, and the shop in Enniskillen is a must-visit too - a model Northern Ireland butchers.

Pork, apples and cider are traditional companions and make especially good partners for some of the great products of the region, including Armagh apples.

Pork chops could be used instead of the bacon chops suggested; either way it’s the kind of meal you don’t tire of – good, simple comfort food.

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