A look at our top tips for a delicious St. Patrick’s Day the traditional way!
March 17th is the day we celebrate the Patron Saint of Ireland. Saint Patrick is at the heart of Paddy’s Day celebrations here and in Irish communities the world over. Parades and music and merriment to be enjoyed! Here we look at some food traditions which also surround the Saint we love to celebrate, and we create a menu featuring these foods in delicious recipes from our Good Food Ireland chefs!
THE HUMBLE SPUD AND FISHY DELIGHTS
Patrick’s Day is very significant for potato growers, as March 17th is the date by which the potatoes for the season should be planted. The humble spud is Ireland’s true national vegetable. Our Great Famine of 1845-50 marked a period of severe loss of life and mass emigration due to the failure of potato crops. Famine hit particularly hard in rural areas. Today, traditional potato dishes have made a comeback on menus. Colcannon and Champ are well loved and have a new ‘celebrity’ status on the food scene.
Considering Ireland is an island surrounded by plentiful ocean, fish was never a huge hit in the general diet of generations gone by. Things have changed massively, with seafood restaurants now providing some of the best dining in the country. Fish always was and still is eaten regularly on Fridays in most homes, as a hark back to strict religious times, when Friday was the day meat was not allowed. So it makes sense that fish was also chosen by some for the Saint Patrick’s Day meal during ancient times.
Historical records of the 1800’s show salted cod’s head and ling were popular. Irish wild salmon has ties with mystical happenings and with saints and legendary heroes of old Ireland. Favoured as a heath giving and magical fish. Irish salmon is recognised as among the best in the world, and the sight of one jumping a weir to swim up river for breeding is an amazing thing. According to old folklore, we’ve got Saint Patrick to thank for the vim and vigour of the King of Fish! He is said to have bestowed health and vitality on all salmon, which were once plentiful in every river in Ireland. One great place to eat wild salmon in the Good Food Ireland membership is Delphi Lodge, where wild salmon from the Delphi Estate in Connemara are often on the menu in season. Angling enthusiasts can spend some happy hours trying to catch their own Salmon of Knowledge for supper! What a tale to tell afterwards! Read all about our personal experience of Manor House Living in this wonderful country house in the heart of the Delphi Valley.
Our Saint Patrick’s Day Main Course combines potatoes and salmon in a lovely dish of Burren Hot Smoked Salmon on a Bed of Colcannon. What better way to celebrate the Saint than with the foods of tradition cooked and served in the modern style!
FLOWERS FOR A SAINT
Alcohol was strictly out of bounds during Lent, but the Saint’s day allowed a little tipple for those who had missed their drop! See below for more on that! But for those who were observing the no booze rule, homemade fruit syrups and flower based cordials made when the growing season was in full swing were often enjoyed. Elderflower cordial is an old fashioned drink which would have been very popular and has made a comeback in recent times.
We’ve found a gorgeous Elderflower Green Gooseberry Compote with Elderflower Cream as a super dessert for Patrick’s day. Created by our own Darina Allen of Ballymaloe Cookery School. What could be more fitting than these green fruit for our national saint’s day! You should get frozen gooseberries from last year’s summer crops from our farm shops to make this, or use a good gooseberry conserve sharpened with a little lemon to offset the sweet base. Richmount Elderflower Cordial is the perfect cordial to flavour the cream. Yummy!
Saint Patrick’s Day falls during Lent, a religious period of fasting and abstinence in preparation for Easter and the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In times of old, when Lent was observed absolutely to the letter by Irish Catholic families, St. Patrick’s Day was the one day when Lenten restrictions were lifted. Meat made a brief appearance again on March 17th as part of a celebration feast. In the country this might be a joint of bacon from the farm’s own home reared pig, with home-grown cabbage. City dwellers with access to merchant shops, butchers and grocers may have enjoyed more sophisticated meat dishes. Religious law was also relaxed to allow one alcoholic drink from the ‘Pota Phadraig’, or Patrick’s Pot. Whiskey was the drink of choice, and for some it may not have stopped at just one!
Finish your Patrick’s Day Feast off with a delicious Irish Coffee made with your favourite Irish whiskey of choice!