Some Irish food traditions
Fiercely loved by Waterford, this is a white bread bun, served in crispy or doughy varieties. Barron’s bakery in Waterford continues to bake them. “It’s the oven that gives the bread its uniqueness,” says Mac Con Iomaire.
Padraig Gallagher of Gallagher’s Boxty House called this potato pancake ‘ the caviar of Longford’ and you will find it more along the northwest counties. You’ll find it in Kerry too, but they call it ‘ stampy’.
“Bread and butter is the most basic representation of Irish hospitality,” says Jonny Dillon. “Fresh, cooked daily in Irish homes, we didn’t just get recipes but also gathered information on the processes involved in cooking it, from the rolling pins to the aprons used, and the memories those items invoke.”
This is one of Darina Allen’s favourite Irish ingredients and one she says is criminally underused. “The big challenge is to weigh it properly, as it’s very light.” She uses it to make a carrageen moss pudding.
Hand- written recipes on scraps of paper, cuttings from newspapers and old cookbooks were the most emotionally resonant items received by the Blasta project, says Dillon. “Granny’s handwritten banana bread recipe on a scrap of yellowing paper, lifted from a tin box for us, carries so much emotion and memory.”
Not, as commonly believed, invented by Irish- Americans who couldn’t get their hands on bacon to serve with their cabbage ( the cabbage cooked in the bacon water, of course). There’s evidence this was eaten as far back as the 12th century, says Mac Con Iomaire. “After the Cattle Acts of 1666, live cattle could no longer be exported to Britain, but corned beef could. When the Irish emigrated to New York, they encountered a lot of Jewish butchers who also had corned beef as part of their cuisine, and it quickly grew to be the national Irish dish of America.”
A Cork dish that Mac Con Iomaire says he’s not in a hurry to try again. It’s a type of blood sausage with a gelatinous consistency, and it’s traditionally served with tripe ( stomach lining of a cow or sheep).
HB ice- creams
The ice- creams of people’s childhoods have changed. People periodically call for Wibbly Wobbly Wonders and Fat Frogs to be brought back. For Dillon, the power of these brands is the memories of childhood they invoke. “They’re as Irish as the great battle between King and Tayto crisps.”
An old cooking utensil, composed of two prongs, used to cook herring on an open turf fire. “There are all sorts of superstitions associated with this utensil, including the idea that if someone is going on a long journey, you’d throw it out the door after them for good luck,” says Mac Con Iomaire. “Atty Ní Ghallachóir showed us how to make the herring in Donegal, but she now uses a basket she got in Ikea which sits perfectly over her turf fire.”
McDaid’s Football Special
A popular soft drink synonymous with Donegal, this was invented after the successes of Swilly Rovers football club in order to fill the winning cup with a non- alcoholic drink.
An old recipe passed through by this journalist’s family, sneered at by lesser minds. It’s little more than boiled onions in a white sauce, served with fish and potatoes.
“Filming in Connemara, we came across a tradition known as ronnach buí,” says Mac Con Iomaire. “The salted mackerel is soaked in water for a few days to reconstitute it, with a few changes of water. Then the potatoes are cooked in the pot with the skin on, and three- quarters of the way through, the mackerel is added with the lid on, and the flavours get exchanged. Serve with butter on the potatoes.”
Possibly the most divisive Irish dish. For some, an Irish stew should be white and contain lamb, whereas others consider it as a brown beef stew. “Some add oxtail soup or Bisto to the beef stew, and others make the colour naturally,” says Mac Con Iomaire. “There is no right way: the traditional method is whatever you were familiar with at home and the only good one is probably your mother’s version.”