Potatoes are an important part of Irish cuisine, and potato-based traditional Irish foods are ever so tasty.
In America, potatoes are considered an absolute staple. From french fries to mashed potatoes to potato chips, this is one delicious starch that would be impossible to live without.
Irish people love to eat potatoes. In fact, the spud originally came to Ireland from the Americas. Perhaps the Irish brought their love of potatoes back to America as they emigrated there over the centuries.
For centuries Irish people cultivated spuds, and they depended on potatoes as a food source. The humble potato became ingrained in Irish history. This is why they’re such an important cultural icon in Ireland.
History of Potatoes in Ireland
The legend goes that Sir Walter Raleigh introduced potatoes to the Irish around 1589. He brought them to Ireland from his travels to the New World or America.
Over time, potatoes became the most prominent crop all over Ireland. In the 1700’s, they became a dietary staple all across Europe, but in Ireland's damp climate they grew extremely well, even in infertile, boggy soil.
Poor Irish farm workers who labored for farmers and landlords could survive by growing their own potatoes. Evidence of their potato fields still exists in Ireland's furrowed fields.
This is why The Great Famine (otherwise known as the Irish Potato Famine) was so significant. A potato disease affected all the potatoes, thereby eliminating the food supply for the impoverished Irish.
The famine affected Ireland from 1845-1850, and it is one of the most significant events in Irish history. It transformed Ireland and America, since so many Irish people were forced to leave their homeland and sail for America.
Because the potato was so important to the Irish, and before the famine Irish people ate potatoes for three meals a day, some different ways of preparing potatoes emerged.
Today I wish to share 5 amazing pieces of Irish cuisine that Irish families have created over time.
These are notable traditional dishes that are still cooked to this day. I’ve even included my family’s recipes for these dishes so you can make them yourself!
One of the top Irish potato recipes is Irish colcannon. This is a combination of mashed potatoes and fried cabbage or kale with salt and pepper.
Its first recorded appearance in history was in 1735 for Halloween. A man named William Bulkely was visiting Dublin from Wales and wrote about being served this dish.
At the time, colcannon mash was a traditional Celtic way to celebrate Halloween. The Celts would cook various non-food items into the dish, and whatever item you got in your food was supposed to signify what would happen in your future. Halloween was a time for foretelling the future.
If you have leftover mashed potatoes, boxty is your new best friend! Boxty is a special kind of Irish potato cake, that can be cooked in a variety of ways, from boiling to baking to frying.
Its history dates back to before the potato famine, and it even has a silly traditional rhyme attached to it that goes, “Boxty on the griddle, boxty in the pan, if you cannot make boxty, you’ll never get your man.”
This is one of those traditional Irish recipes that can be prepared more sweet or savory, and it includes grated potatoes, mashed potatoes, flour, baking powder, salt, eggs, milk, and sometimes sugar.
The name of this dish, boxty comes from the Irish language. One interpretation is that the name comes from arán bocht tí (pronounced ah-rawn buck-th tee) meaning poor house bread.
Others claim the name comes from the word bacstaí or to bake. Counties Leitrim and Cavan are famous as the original home of boxty.
Many Irish pubs around the world now serve boxty in creative ways, with flavorful savory fillings. My cheesy stuffed boxty recipe is an example of how we can take the humble potato pancake and transform it into gourmet food.
Potato farls (potato cakes)
If you’d like something a bit more bready, potato farls (also known as Irish potato bread or potato cakes) are for you! This is an amazing dish that can also be made from leftover mashed potatoes.
Each potato farl, or Irish potato cake, is often made as one big pancake-like circle and cut into four, making the shape somewhat similar to a four-piece quesadilla.
In Ulster it is known as fadge and usually made this way. In Munster individual servings are usually made.
You can serve these up alongside a cup of tea for your traditional Irish breakfast.
Farls are often served as part of an Irish fry with cooked tomatoes, Irish bacon, sausages and eggs. They can even be cooked in the bacon grease in the frying pan to make them even more delicious.
This potato dish is slightly different from boxty in that boxty uses raw potatoes and farls just use cooked potatoes.
Irish potato soup
Nothing is better to eat on a cold winter day than some creamy soup, and homemade traditional Irish soup is as easy as it comes.
All this simple spud-based soup takes is potatoes, onions, butter, chicken or vegetable stock, cream, and salt and pepper. It’s similar to traditional Irish potato and leek soup, but it's simpler and has more accessible ingredients.
This is an amazing option from the Emerald Isle if you prefer gluten-free recipes, and the cooked ingredients are easily combined in a blender to liquify them.
In years gone by before the invention of blenders, cooks would pass the soup through a sieve a few times to make it smooth.
Champ is a similar food to colcannon, but it’s considered its own specialty dish. Colcannon is one version of mashed potatoes that has cabbage or kale, herbs, green onions, and milk.
Champ is essentially colcannon without the cabbage and herbs, and in years gone by buttermilk was often added to the mix.
This creamy mash was originally made with stinging nettles in Irish history, but now spring onions are more popular.
Green or spring onions are called scallions in Ireland. They give this potato dish its distintive flavor.
These top Irish potato side dishes are very important to myself and my family. We always have at least one at family gatherings.
Which of these traditional foods is your favorite?
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Mairéad -Irish American Mom
Pronunciation - slawn ah-gus ban-ock-th
Mairéad - rhymes with parade
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