FOOD & DRINK
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The green pastures and abundant waters surrounding the island have helped create outstanding natural flavors. Irish beef and dairy products are said to be among the best in the world and a younger generation of chefs is making use of local ingredients and has transformed traditional Irish cooking into a modern and world-class quality cuisine. Food markets have emerged all around the island, showcasing local produce and offering artisan food and drink.
Traditionally, Irish cuisine is simple, good and solid. Since early history, agriculture and cooking was always a means to keep the nation fed. Meagre soils and famines were the big challenges faced by a nation whose feeding was not always guaranteed.
Though the possibility to cultivate grains is limited because of the wet climate, oats have traditionally been the basic of Irish cooking and have been used in bread and porridge. Wheat was mainly reserved for the upper classes. Further, dairy products including milk, butter and cheeses have been used for a long time.
Meat was a privilege to the upper classes and only saw an introduction to wider classes of society during the 20th century. Lamb and beef have been around since the earliest settlements and pork, poultry and eggs were added over the centuries. Irish waters are rich in fish and seafood and algaes played an important role in traditional cooking.
The potato was only introduced to Ireland in the 16th century and has been used by all parts of society since. Especially the poorer and rural population heavily relied on potatoes and the failure of the potato crop during the famine in the mid 19th century lead to a high death toll and mass immigration.
Today an everyday meal is mainly made from potatoes, vegetables, meat, milk, butter and bread.
A traditional Irish breakfast consists of pork sausages, rashers, black and white pudding, eggs, fried potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes and baked beans, accompanied by toast or brown soda bread. Traditionally, Irish breakfast is served with strong black tea and orange juice. Irish breakfast is nearly served in every hotel, B&B or restaurant, but a “lighter” continental choice with cereals, pastries and other baked goods is usually available.
Fish and seafood only found its way to many tables with an increased wealth of the wider population. Stews with potatoes, vegetables and meat are a popular part of Irish cooking and many restaurants and pubs serve a carvery lunch with roast chicken or lamb, accompanied by potatoes and vegetables. Local vegetables are most commonly found and include carrots, parsnips, cabbage, peas or leeks. Very often, potatoes are served as mash or you can find a selection of mash and roast potatoes on your plate. Rice and pasta are not commonly used as sides and mainly find use in vegetarian or international dishes.
Desserts are various and often rich, heavy and very sweet, ranging from sumptuous cheese cakes and chocolate eclairs to fruit scones and carrot cakes.
Ireland’s best known brand is Guinness and the dark stout remains the most popular drink to be consumed in Irish pubs, though it is rarely enjoyed with a meal. Recently, Ireland has seen a huge rise in craft beer producers and local ales, stouts, blondes and lagers can commonly be found in supermarkets and pubs. Irish Whiskey has a long tradition and has been distilled since the 13th century. Popular world brands include James, Tullamore, Kilbeggan or Bushmills and the last couple
years have seen a revival of smaller distilleries which were left abandoned for a few centuries. The opening of new young distilleries has also brought a rise in the production of Irish gins.
Food & Drink