Food is especially important to the Irish. Even now, many generations after suffering through times of starvation.
Most of their traditional recipes still contain ingredients from times of economic hardship, such as potatoes. Irish Moss seaweed stepped in for many families during the Potato Famine. Luckily, Irish Moss is a “super food” that is packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and protein. Interestingly, Irish Moss is also harvested in the Maritimes. Cabbage is often seen in Irish dishes because it was a popular, cold-tolerant crop in Ireland. It was more affordable because it was harvested locally in great quantities. It offered highly-digestible nutrition, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties to the Irish.
As more food became available, the traditional recipes expanded to include more palatable fare. Every year, Irish Canadians (and those who love them) enjoy traditional cuisine on St. Patrick’s Day, or a modern version of it anyway.
Some traditional Irish dishes include:
- Irish Potato Soup: A milk and stock-based soup, its main ingredients are potatoes and onions.
- Irish Breakfast: This very hearty breakfast meal is served with bacon, sausage, blood sausage, white (oatmeal) pudding, vegetables and bread.
- Colcannon: A creamy dish made with mashed potatoes and cabbage or kale, with a little bacon thrown in too.
- Boxty: A potato pancake, made with grated and mashed potato, pan-fried in oil.
- Irish Stew: The traditional version includes mutton, potatoes and onions. However, more modern versions add other vegetables and meats.
- Bacon and Cabbage: Boiled cabbage, bacon and onion are sweetened with brown sugar for a very satisfying meal.
“Two main waves of Irish immigrants moved to Canada between 1815 and 1850. The second wave arrived during the Great Potato Famine (1846-1851),” states Library and Archives Canada. “Irish immigrants settled all across Canada, but most chose Ontario. Today, there are more than 3,800,000 Canadians who share some Irish heritage.”
And I’m one of them, albeit distantly and only a small part of my crazy mix of heritages. My Irish ancestors made their way to New Brunswick.
“There were significant Irish settlements in Atlantic Canada and Quebec before the Famines of the 1840’s sent many more to our shores,” says Concordia University.
Canadian St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations Known for Irish Food
Skip the cooking (recipes below) and experience Ireland through your taste buds, by attending these Canadian St. Patrick’s Day events that are known for their culinary delights. Foodies of all heritages will feel compelled to hop on a plane!
- Residents of the Miramichi, NB, consider it to be the Irish Capital of Canada. Whether that’s blarney or not, they do celebrate like it’s true on St. Patrick’s Day. The Legion is famous for its corned beef and cabbage!
- Follow the Annual St. Patrick’s Parade (starting at Ottawa City Hall) and you’ll find Irish food along with locally-brewed beer, at Beau’s St. Patrick’s Party on March 16th.
- Newfoundland celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with gusto for days on end. Many revelers land on George Street to party, and are pleasantly surprised to also find some of the best Irish pub food in town at Bridie Molloy’s.
- Many would agree that the best Irish breakfast in town is served buffet-style at Hurley’s Irish Pub in Montreal. The buffet offers a diverse selection of food to start your St. Patrick’s Day, including native fare like soda bread.
- Vancouver does St. Paddy’s Day up right with an Irish festival and lots of opportunities to eat until you’re green. One of the most popular brunch buffets is at The Blarney Stone.
- Some say at least 25% of the population of Prince Edward Island has Irish roots. The Benevolent Irish Society puts on a St. Patrick’s Day dinner that sells out every year.
Traditional Irish Recipes
Irish Soda Bread
Irish soda bread, made with buttermilk, sour cream and caraway seeds is super simple to make. Made in a cast iron skillet, it’s heavy bread and therefore excellent served with soup, stew or any dish where you may need to soak up natural juices or gravy.
There are many varieties of soda bread and the ingredients you can add to it are unlimited. Many people add raisins, orange zest and nuts to their soda bread. Some prefer to use yogurt instead of sour cream and up the amount of sugar to make it a dessert. And still others suggest replacing a portion of the buttermilk for whiskey.
This soda bread only has the basics and is not too sweet, as it’s meant to be served with stew.
1/2 c. white sugar
4 c. all-purpose white or wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. caraway seeds
1 1/4 c. buttermilk
1 c. sour cream
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease an 8 inch cast iron skillet or round baking pan.
In a medium size mixing bowl, combine flour (reserving 1 tablespoon), sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Add the caraway seeds & mix with a spoon.
In a separate small bowl, blend eggs & buttermilk.
Add the sour cream & mix.
Pour the liquid mix into the flour mix & stir with a fork just until flour is moistened.
Knead dough in bowl about 8-10 strokes. Do not over knead! Dough will be sticky.
Place the dough in the prepared skillet and pat down. Cut one or more 4 inch by 3/4 inch deep slits in the top of the bread. Dust with reserved flour.
Bake for 65 – 75 minutes or until top and sides are brown and crispy.
Let cool slightly then turn the bread onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
4 large eggs
600 ml of milk
4 ounces of fresh breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
Some chopped thyme
2 tablespoons of chopped chives or scallions
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons of butter
Beat the eggs lightly, then add the milk, breadcrumbs, herbs and seasonings, and mix well.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a pan until foaming, then pour in the mixture and cook over a low flame until it is brown underneath and just set on top.
Put under the grill to finish.
Serve cut into wedges with a pat of butter on each piece.
Corned Beef & Cabbage
5 pounds of corned beef brisket
1 large onion with 6 cloves embedded
6 peeled and sliced carrots
8 new potatoes, peeled and cubed
Pinch of dried thyme
A bunch of Parsley
2 Heads of cabbage, quartered
Half pint of whipping cream
3 tablespoons of prepared horseradish
Boil the beef, onion, carrots, potatoes, thyme and parsley in a pot of water. Simmer and cook for 3 hours.
Remove sediment and the thyme, parsley and onion.
Add the cabbage and simmer for a further 20 minutes or until the cabbage is cooked.
Remove the meat and divide into pieces.
Remove and season the cabbage heavily with black pepper.
On a large plate surround the beef with the cabbage, carrots and potatoes. Prepare the horseradish sauce by whipping the cream and adding to the horseradish.
Coddle, sometimes referred to as Dublin Coddle, is a traditional Irish dish made up of layers of rashers (fatty bacon) and sausage, sliced potatoes and onion. It is steamed or partially boiled and seasoned with salt and pepper (occasionally parsley too).
2 quarts water or pork stock
1 lb. pork sausage links (breakfast sausage links)
1 lb. sliced back bacon
3 lbs. potatoes, chopped
2-3 yellow onions, peeled and sliced
Salt & pepper to taste
1 bunch parsley, chopped (optional)
Preheat oven to 425°F. Chop meat and veggies.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the onions and meat and stir well. Cook until meat starts to brown but not so long that the onions burn.
Transfer ½ the meat mixture to an oven-safe pan or casserole dish.
Next layer ½ of the carrots then ½ of the potatoes. Repeat layering, ensuring potatoes are the final top layer.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add the stock and cover with a lid.
Cook for 45 minutes at 425°F then reduce heat to 350°F and cook another 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Peek at the dish when reducing heat to see if it is getting dry. If so, add a bit of hot water to it.
Serve with Irish soda bread.
Steak & Guinness Pie
12 inch pie pastry
1 or 2 pounds of round steak
1 tablespoon of flour
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of raisins
5 medium size onions
1 bottle of Guinness Stout (not ‘draught’)
8 slices of bacon
3 tablespoon of shortening/butter
1/4 teaspoon raw Irish Moss powder
A bunch of chopped parsley
Dice the steak, cover with flour and brown, with the bacon, on a medium heat using the butter.
Peel and chop the onions and brown.
Add to the meat in a casserole dish. Add raisins and brown sugar and Guinness.
Cover the dish, simmer and cook over a lowish heat for 2.5 hours.
Add water if the gravy mixture starts to thicken excessively.
Coat a pie dish with half of the pastry and bake.
Add the Meat and Gravy mix when cooked and place the remaining pastry on top.
Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with potatoes and vegetables.
Traditionally made with potatoes and kale (or cabbage), Colcannon has been a staple in Irish homes for hundreds of years. This classic dish combines the two vegetables along with a few other ingredients to create a warm, creamy delight. Serve as a side dish with ham or pork roast.
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 small head cabbage (or kale), chopped (about 2 cups)
1 onion, chopped (or 4-6 scallions)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, divided
salt and pepper to taste
Chop the potatoes, kale (or cabbage) and onion (or scallions).
In a medium pot, add the potatoes and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and continue to boil until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Drain well & return to the pot.
While potatoes are boiling, in a separate pot, over medium-high heat, add ½ of the butter.
Once butter is hot, add the kale (or cabbage) & onion (or scallions). Cook until slightly tender, about 6-7 minutes.
Add the milk and remaining butter to the potatoes & mash.
Add cabbage and mix well with a fork.
Salt & pepper to taste and serve hot with a garnish of chopped scallions.
Lemon Curd Cheesecake
An important staple in the Irish diet, curds were used for many things. This recipe for lemon curd cheesecake is mild in flavour and comes with a crispy crust.
Because cottage cheese comes in various sizes, if you aren’t sure you’ll like the look and texture of large curds like we used, you could use small curds instead or even use a hand mixer to break them down even more.
To add variety to this recipe, you could add a half teaspoon of cinnamon or nutmeg and even some crushed nuts if you like. Swap the lemon for an orange for a totally different flavor.
6 oz. premade pie crust
¼ c. butter
¼ c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. (heaped) plain flour
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
8 oz. cottage cheese
1 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
Powdered sugar to dust
Preheat oven to 350°F, lightly grease a flan tin or round cake pan.
Line the pan with the pie crust & trim off any excess.
Using a colander drain the liquid off the cottage cheese.
In a medium-size bowl add the sugar & butter. Mix with a spoon.
Next add the flour, lemon rind, lemon juice, eggs and cottage cheese. Mix well.
Pour this filling into the pie crust.
Rinse the bowl and then proceed to make the topping by adding all the topping ingredients together and mixing well.
Spread this on top of the curd layer.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until the top is lightly browned and slightly firm.
Dust with powdered sugar. Allow cheesecake to cool slightly before serving.
Apple Barley Pudding
4 tbsp. pearl barley
1 1/2 lbs. apples (peeled, cored and sliced)
3 tbsp. sugar
1 c. heavy cream
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 c. water (approx.)
In a small pot over medium-high heat, bring barley and water to a boil.
Add the apples and cook until they begin to soften. They need to be soft enough to blend well, but no so soft that they lose their flavour.
Drain the water off and blend the apples with a hand mixer.
Next add the sugar and lemon and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow it to cool.
Once cooled, add the cream to the top and chill until ready to serve.
3 oz. Irish whiskey
2 tsp. brown sugar
12 oz. hot coffee
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Start by making your coffee as you normally would.
While that is brewing, in a small bowl, lightly whip the heavy whipping cream. Once lightly whipped, put it in the refrigerator to keep cold.
Next, add one level teaspoon of brown sugar to each coffee cup.
Pour in enough coffee to fill the cup about 2/3 full.
Divide the whiskey into 2 parts, adding 1 part to each cup and stir to mix.
Carefully float cold cream on top. Do not mix! Cream should stay at the top and you drink the coffee through it.
Raise Your Glass!
Canadian Irish settlers suffered greatly, while demonstrating a level of strength and bravery that few of us could hold a candle to today. They helped to build this country, enriched our culture and expanded our menus. Here’s to them!
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