Farls and Eels: Traditional food in Ireland
Apprx. Reading Time: 6 minutes
When you think of the UK, I bet images of potatoes, bacon rashers and sausages pop to mind. Add some grilled tomatoes and a helping of baked beans with toast and you’ve got yourself a hearty breakfast, served the way the English do!
There’s Shepherd’s Pie, Cottage Pie (there’s a difference), puddings, Fish and chips and crisps (again, there’s a difference!)
But there’s more!
If you wander beyond London to dear Northern Ireland, you’re in for a treat. Rustic food with ingredients sourced locally, traditional butcher shops and baking methods and artisans making cheese and beer make a huge difference to what you’re eating.
And while Game of Thrones was the highlight, the food definitely did not disappoint. We ensured we had our fill of:
If you get your hands on the Ulster Fry, you’ve pretty much got Northern Ireland on a plate. Here’s what the Ulster fry contains:
Bacon, Sausages, Eggs, Grilled Tomatoes and mushrooms, Black and White pudding and the griddle (flat iron skillet) breads: Soda Bread and Potato Farl.
Porridge and baked beans may also be thrown in for good measure.
Many claim all the ingredients have to be fried in Rapeseed oil. Just like many others claim baked beans are not to be included. Every house has its own version of the Ulster Fry and baked beans or not, it is sure to fill you up.
If you’re someone like me who has a tiny tummy, I’d say maybe skip dinner if you plan to finish everything on your plate.
If you end up at a place which offers a dash of Bushmills Whiskey to finish it up with, go for it!
It may have a funny name but this simple, delicious item does not disappoint. Usually served as an add-on, it’s tasty even if it’s had all by itself.
These potato pancakes, in the earlier days were popular as a peasant’s dish and legend has it that this item was invented to make the potatoes go longer during the famine.
Another dish that can be boiled, baked or fried, the fried version is more popular and is made with a mixture of grated and mashed potatoes mixed with flour and then fried over the griddle.
These pancakes might also remind you of hash browns but there’s definitely a difference in the texture.
Usually served with a rich gravy or used as a replacement for bread to make a roll.
Steak and Guinness Pie
While there isn’t a dearth of pies when in UK, a Steak and Guinness pie is as local as it can get when it comes to Ireland. Guinness the local Irish dry stout is combined with Irish beef, onions, tomatoes, carrots and celery and slow-cooked for a couple of hours.
The mild burnt flavour that is synonymous with Guinness permeates the meat and makes it very flavourful. The stew is then topped with pastry and baked.
Served by itself or with a helping of peas.
A hearty meal which is best enjoyed on a cold winters day or a rainy day (which is usually almost every day!)
Champ and Colcannon
Mash with an attitude!
If you replaced or added an ingredient in a dish, chances are it’ll definitely be called by a different name.
Like mash with scallions and milk turns into Champ. And Champ with kale or cabbage turns into Colcannon.
Although both are varieties of mash, the addition of these simple ingredients with butter and pepper, takes it up a notch.
Traditionally made on the next day after St.Patricks Day, quick to whip up any other day too!
‘Farl’ comes from the Gaelic word ‘Fardel’ which means four parts. Once again made over a griddle, it’s the best way to re-invent leftover mashed potato.
Simple ingredients like flour, salt and butter are added to mashed potatoes and the sticky mixture is then rolled into a dough, cut into four parts and cooked.
Served as part of the Ulster fry, this flatbread is also great for dipping into stews or soups or can be had plain with some butter too.
Another item that evidently was invented during the times of the famine.
Soda bread the next of kin of the Potato Farl where the potato and butter are replaced with baking soda and buttermilk.
No yeast, no kneading, no wait times. Ready within an hour.
A griddle is not involved this time and the bread is baked traditionally in an oven.
Soda bread is usually served as part of the Ulster Fry for breakfast, but being popular, it can also be served with meals to soak up gravies or stews.
You’re likely to find a cross on top of the soda bread. While religious elders might say it’s to ‘let the devil off’, the cross makes it easier to let steam escape and cut the bread when done.
Lough Neagh Eels
A Lough is nothing but a lake and Lough Neagh is the largest freshwater lake by area in the British Isles.
Sustainable and traditional fishing is carried out on Lough Neagh to catch wild eels which are then smoked, jellied or fried in chunks.
While many mistake the eel to be a water snake, it is nothing but a slithery fish and is very creamy to taste!
Although many of the eels caught are exported they are available in many restaurants across Northern Ireland.
Be it the Queen Scallops, Mussels or the Oysters, the seafood in Northern Ireland was the freshest I’ve had in a long while and while it cannot be termed traditional, it definitely deserves a mention. Many restaurants sell fresh fish and double up as restaurants too, ensuring you only get the freshest food!
In comparison to the other European countries, Northern Ireland may not have an extensive variety of traditional fare to offer but once you’ve had the above, you can rest assured that you’ve had all the Irish dishes that are definitely unique to Northern Ireland!
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Traditional food in Ireland
- I had Ulster Fry at the place we were staying at. But I’m sure many cafe’s must be serving it throughout the country
- I tried my first boxty at Holohan’s on the barge and I loved it. Not overpriced and great service. Their steak was great too and so were the desserts. Reservations suggested
- If you’re looking for excellent seafood, Mourne Seafood Bar should be at the top of your list. They sell fish and the same is used for the dishes too. Top quality and great taste. Reservations required
- The Duke Of York is a great place to hang out and get some pub food
- The Allotment Bistro Restaurant, The Lantern are other places where the food was good, coacn’t say traditional but nevertheless good
- If you’re looking for more info how how to make that Irish adventure more fun, there’s lots of resources here!
All the articles for planning a great getaway to Norther Ireland (including a Game of Thrones tour) are here!
I sometimes feel I only travel for food and then sneak attractions when possible! Do you love trying out the local cuisine at a new place?
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