Food and St Patricks Day
Ireland has a rich and complex culinary tradition and the story of Irish food is as varied as the history of the island. It is a story of simplicity and complexity and of native ways blending with outside influences. It speaks of a largely rural community where a traditional pattern of food production followed seasonal changes.
A temperate climate let the island excel in the production of superlative beef and dairy produce, especially butter, cream, curds, soft and hard cheeses. Oats grew well and abundantly, making oatcakes the bread of the Irish. Inland waterways teamed with salmon, trout, and eels and the indented coastline supported a diversity of shellfish and sea vegetables.
Deciduous forests and mountain land supported wild fruits, wild vegetables and hazlenuts and these resources held an important place in the diet until well into the twentieth century. Settlers from abroad brought us not only new ingredients but also new ways of cooking and food production - the Vikings brought an emphasis on sea fish, the Anglo Normans a tradition of wheat bread, spices and kitchen gardens while Anglo Irish estates supported a sophisticated and diverse food culture. The best of what Ireland offered in food and cooking was most evident in the celebration of feast and holy days. The gathering of food to the table on St Patrick's Day was of special significance especially as the holiday often falls during the Lenten fast.
Saint Patrick's Day gave the opportunity to break from the austerities of a fasting regime. Meat made a return to the diet; if only for a day, and those who abstained from alcohal were granted the one-day privilage of partaking in a celebratory beverage, the Pota Phadraig, in honour of the saint.
Why not try out some of these Irish recipes traditionally made during St Patrick's Festival:
Salmon is a very polular starter in Ireland - why not try this tasty Salmon Gravalx recipe from the crew at Ballyvolane Spirits.
Potato Boxty is a traditional Irish Potatoe Cake loved by many - try this boxty recipe from Cornucopia which has a modern twist.
Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit! - Happy St Patrick's Day!