Mar 13 2013

{What is} Irish Food

Posted by     42 Comments    Posted under: The Snug

Oh. What a can of worms we open when we pose this question whether here at home in Ireland or abroad.

Are there too many chefs in the kitchen to allow our national food identity to develop into what could be a wonderful Food Island culture? And before you get too excited .. we are just talking about Irish Food here … not Irish cuisine …. that is a whole other can of worms.

Every menu we peruse these days we are confronted with global influences sneaking on to our plates. Coconut milk replaced with rich Irish cream or olive oil on the table for dipping your bread in instead of a knob of Kerrygold.

Three years ago I attended a food bloggers workshop hosted by Bord Bia at their HQ in Dublin. They were asking Irish Food Bloggers to work on our SEO and food photo ‘tagging’ to help improve the over all image of Irish food to the world. A fair request one might say, because lets face it, the image the world has of Irish food is still all cabbage and Guinness. With the exception of one of my fellow food bloggers Zack Gallagher  and a couple of American lassies (who are living/working/blogging/eating in Ireland and really know their SEO) the image of Irish food (on Google) is controlled online by Bord Bia, and a few other large corporations. I can’t say this excites me ..

When we asked the kids last night what they would like to have for dinner on Paddy’s Day (March 17th every year and it is this Sunday) we were bombarded with requests. We tried to reject several of their requests because they were not ‘Irish’, or at least what we feel ‘Irish food’ should be.

They think, and I believe they are right, that Irish food is what they eat every day because they are living in Ireland. Be it bacon and cabbage with boiled and buttered spuds or chicken curry with coconut milk. If it is (mostly) produced and made here on the island … then to them, it is all Irish. Ya gotta love kids for keeping it simple.

So I picked out a few photos of whats been gracing the table here at Chez Wise recently and whilst the Chef and I try to keep it interesting … we never consider it to be very ‘Irish’.

What do you think?


Christmas 2012 … not very Irish. Gingerbread ice cream sandwiches .. Pumpkin muffins … Peppermint macarons and a Gingerbread house ….



Ok – all Irish here. Arctic Char fished right out of a tank at a local fish farm a few miles from our home in Galway.



Sushi … all fished right off the coast of Galway Bay … can’t get more Irish than that. Ok – the origin of the cucumbers and lettuce is unknown.



Carrot cake …. with cream cheese – Our own carrots from the poly tunnel and cream cheese frosting from Kilbeg Dairy (best ever Mascarpone cheese). Irish enough for me ….




Irish carrots, Irish butter and Irish honey … all local. all delicious.



Irish butter … Irish egg whites for the icing … no such thing as irish sugar or Irish food colouring so  I guess these are just wishful thinking … and incase you missed it – the decorating on these beauties was done by  a local food artist (Gail Porter) and I blogged about our recent rendezvous with her right here and now, if you are in Galway, you can buy her cookies right here! Go buy some for your family. They look as good as they taste and she can customise the be-jessus out of them for you.



Ah yes … Barley blinis with smoked Mackerel … the fish is Irish, so is the sour cream but the Barley flour is from the UK.



Bold beautiful Beetroot (and apple) soup … all Irish. Why are we not seeing this soup in Irish restaurants?



More Barley … with Irish broccoli, Irish carrots, Irish onions, Irish salad greens.



Ha ha .. so we know the rice and bean sprouts and chilli paste are not Irish … but the egg, chicken, spinach, broccoli and peas are!



Again … if I had my way with the setting of the Irish Food menu … this would be the national salad of Ireland. Not only does it look very inviting … it tastes fabulous all year round. All Irish.



Again .. with our fish supplies on the island we are blessed … and onions grow like weeds they are so easy to cultivate and care for.



Mostly air and egg whites … the kids call this white cake.



Irish scallops, Irish bacon … some kind of Asian sticky sauce with onions and sesame seeds.



Custardy egg quiche … all Irish except for the flour for the pastry. Can’t believe there is no Irish flour to be had.



Spuds and eggs. Otherwise known as a Spanish omelette … but really just a potato and egg supper.



A family favourite .. grow them almost all year round … twice baked sweet potatoes. With Irish onions, Irish bacon, Irish sour cream … Irish cheese.

Irish yum!



(French) Onion soup … not very French at all…



Our New Years Eve party snack … left over spuds (potato cakes) with left over ham …



Brisket … one of the most beautiful pieces of Irish beef … yet no one really asks for it at the butcher shop or knows how to cook it.



We can, quite easily, grow all of these onions. No basle .. virtually disease resistant. And they have huge cancer fighting qualities. Eat.more.onions.



Ok  … no question its Irish right … eh, no .. wrong actually. Not even brewed here (for now) and the ingredients are not all Irish either.


Kiss me I'm Irish

My whole point to this picture blog is this …

Irish food is everywhere. If your mantra is, like ours, to buy local, you will see that it is not impossible to make a good 65% (if not more) of your diet .. all Irish and all delicious.

Irish cuisine is in its infancy however. We do not have a long and rich gastronomic history like the French and we do not have the familial food fanfare that the Italians celebrate daily. We had a poor and strange affiliation with ‘thick milk‘ before the potato arrived and once we started to eat and depend on the auld spud .. well we know how that ended.

If we are ever to change the image of how the rest of the world perceives Irish food … we need to love it for what it is and make sure the generations to come are growing, cooking and eating real food … and not looking for a green McShake on Paddy’s Day.

Support your local community by buying and eating local (organic when possible) foods.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all xx


PS – if you want your pretty Irish food photos to show up on Google you need to place the word “Irish” in the main title of the blog post. All I ask is that you please make sure it looks good!

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42 Comments + Add Comment

  • Móna, I’m drooling!! Gorgeous photos 🙂 And as to customising the be-jessus out of cookies – oh how that made me laugh 😀

    • Ha ha Gail! I sure hope you were not drooling on the cookies!
      And yes…you can customise the be-Jesus out of cookies. We saw you do it ‘on the fly’ right here
      with no prior planning at all xx

      • Absolutely not 🙂 I might have to steal that as my tag line 😉

        • Ha ha! I dare ya! It is true!

  • Very interesting question. Is something Irish because it was made/grown/produced in Ireland or is it something else less tangible? Is a tri-color flag made in China Irish? Is Irish stew made with New Zealand lamb Irish? Is a stir-fry made with Irish chicken and bok choy Irish?

    For me that last answer would be “no”, because a stir-fry doesn’t evoke “Irishness” to me even if it was made by an Irish chef in Ireland from Irish ingredients. That’s not to say that someday it couldn’t or doesn’t for someone else. If the first stir fry you ever had was in Ireland, then maybe you will always associate it with Ireland and hence it becomes, to you, Irish.

    Now some things are inextricably linked with Ireland: the tri-color (of course) and certain dishes like Irish stew, colcannon, bacon and cabbage, etc. No matter where these are made they will always evoke Irishness. And Guinness, owned by a huge conglomerate and brewed who-knows-where, will always be Irish.

    Thanks for posting this, Mona. It’s a good question to ruminate on.

    • Hi Bill,

      I am laughing here in Galway because the first story-fry I ever had was … ‘La-Choy’ … I shit you not.
      I know…it boils down to the style of dish (like the stir-fry will always be Asian or in my case American-Asian!) or the cooking technique or sauces used to help identify the type of cuisine we are cooking and eating … But the food in general, that we have access to here in the island, ain’t all that bad. As much as we all like the traditional Irish Stews and Bacon and Cabbage, it is hard for other nations to get excited about tasting and trying this food because it does not appeal to many on a visual level.

      Thanks for the visit. Hit me up for a cuppa tea when y’all are next in Galway!

  • Could not agree with you more, Mona… This is the way to celebrate the beautiful, healthy, and tasty ingredients that comprise real Irish food. Great piece + gorgeous food.

    • Hi Elizabeth,
      Thanks so much!
      I always get a little antsy this time of year when I see all the green beer and boiled to death
      dishes popping up all over the place. Our food culture is smouldering and I hope it will soon burst in to
      flames and claim a true identity :0)

  • I hate to ‘harp’ on about it – but what about the tayto sandwich?

    • Ha ha … I know. I think I have been promising that for ages but I never got the fancy PR promo pack from Keoghs with the Shamrock crisps so I am boycotting the idea for now.

  • Excellent piece Mona. I shall be daydreaming about that square of carrot cake all day….looks positively divine! But, I digress. When we shot Small Green Fields, I asked everyone in the film the same question, “What is Irish Food”…the answers were varied, but the word “natural” seem to pop out of every person’s mouth. Vague, I know, but with the amazing natural resources this island has to offer, so true.
    A producer friend of mine in NY said to me last year (when I mentioned I was working on a film about Irish food) “It will take ALOT to convince me that there even IS food in Ireland, thought there was only Guinness” of course he was joking, but big brands go a long way to define many cultures and the same is true for Ireland. Thanks for writing this post and sharing your beautiful images and thoughts with us. Imen

    • Ha ha … Making a mental note -if I ever pop down to visit you must bring Carrot cake!
      I know…it is a tough sell Imen…and I love the ‘natural’ response.
      The Ireland I was raised in was ‘all natural’ and there was virtually no processed food brought into
      our house … the food was not all that exciting but it was grown in the back garden
      and wholesome. I hate that our food image is so lifeless and dull because it can be so much more exciting
      without making it look like the Michelin star fluff stuff either.
      Looking forward to the film xx

  • Must have overlooked the good old black pudding and baked beans there 🙂 But fantastic pictures, I especially liked the facts on onions being overly healthy!

    • Well….I should do a whole other blog post for breakfasts!
      And onions are incredible…raw garlic too and so easy to grow.

  • really interesting post Mona. I get asked this a lot here especially this time of year when everyone is eating corned beef and bloody cabbage drinking green pints and then those damned shamrock shakes ????? I cringe at the thought but when people hear me tut they pose that very question , what is Irish food ? it is a tricky one ….
    In my eyes it is the food that connects me to home…my mothers soda bread ( an almost daily event ) or beef stew , sunday roast beef at my in-laws, my sister-in-laws healthy brown bread, …..those foods trigger memories and are what we look forward to when we go home. i was lucky enough to be raised in a family where we all sat and ate together along with any stray friend that came over after school and it was just plain but damn good home-cooking !

    • I know …plain but damn good home cooking and nothing wrong with it Brenda.
      We always had to eat at the table too and I have never allowed my kids to eat dinner in front of the
      TV … We eat together and talk about the food and our day at work and school.
      Food connects us in sooooo many our friends, our families and yes … To home.
      Happy Paddy’s Day to you!

  • Fascinating post and as I scrolled down through the pictures I was thinking what you stated at the end – there is a difference between “food” and “cuisine” and isn’t it up to us to bring those together? What I find so fascinating about this post is that you show how well traditional foodstuffs and dishes can be turned into something so modern and refined. In our home, we tend to hold onto the old traditional versions if for anything to give our sons a piece of their heritage, much as you do in a very different – yet somehow similar – way. But one thing is for sure – the fact that you grow so much of your own food or search it out close by is fabulous and I congratulate you guys on that. Great post! Great food!

    • Jamie,
      The task of defining a new food culture is unfathomable …
      Yes. It is up to us to share what we deem as Irish Cuisine (well Irish and American in our home)
      Because that is where we live and where we are from. But would we eat like Italians if we lied in Italy or would we hold on to our own ‘cuisine’ even tighter? We eat the same no matter where we live. Ron has always grown his own food so our diet seems to stay the same … Just varies depending on what we want for dinner.
      Tonight it is veggie lasagna…all Aubergine .. And other veggies with Irish ricotta cheese and no pasta.
      Loads of homemade garlic bread though … Can’t wait! We are very lucky to lie in a thriving agricultural part of the country so whatever we don’t grow we have easy access to at the local village markets and grocery stores. Hope all is well xx

  • Hi Mona!
    Wonderful post. And what exactly is wrong with a big ol plate of stew and taters?;) We’re such a melting pot down here in SA, try getting across the answer of one national cuisine. Some will say it’s braai (bbq) but that’s more a national pastime than a definitive cuisine.
    Good job re eating local as much as possible – how’s the garden?
    I got a packet of heirloom purple cauliflower on Saturday – looking forward to getting that going, but truthfully terrified. Ha

    • Hello darling!
      The garden is almost ready to go … Lots of rotted seaweed and horse poo :0)
      You are right … The Braai I always associate with SA and the BBQ with USA …
      Purple Cauliflower sounds fabulous! Where can I get those seeds?
      We are a melting pot of many cuisines … And we embrace them all but I wish we could
      love our own food and promote it to its fullest!

  • Why is there no Irish sugar or flour?

    Are all the recipes to match the pictures someplace to be had?

    • Not grown here anymore…
      So most of the images are Sunday Times recipes … I have them all and if there is something you want specifically just ask xx

  • Mona,
    Your photos are gorgeous and I really want to have a regular seat at your table because you all clearly eat so very, very well on your Irish food diet!
    For me, Irish food will always include the scones, jam, double cream and pot of tea we had in the afternoon after finding a B&B to spend the night in, somewhere near Baltimore. It was probably not a huge fuss for our landlady, but for us weary backpackers it was ambrosia.
    I like to think that the food of a nation is what regular folks put on their table every day combined with the special dishes for special national holidays, and really there’s a lot of similarities to what people eat across the globe. The spices in a given area are different, but methods of preparation can be very similar.

    Thanks for a lovely read.

    • That’s it exactly Kirsten ….
      It is what we eat every day and when I was scanning through the last few months of food
      photos from our own kitchen, I found none of them looking ‘Irish’ but all very nourishing
      and nutritious. Oh…and there are a few cranberry scones and jam around these parts too with bottomless pots of tea!

  • Excellent post with mouth-watering photographs and a message for all.

    • Thanks Paula…with all the Sharocks and Shilleleighs flying around this week,
      I just wanted to make sure readers did not forget that it’s all a lot more normal here on the island :0)
      Hope all is well Paula and Spring has finally settled in!

  • Great question Móna.

    I think for me, Irish food is defined by both what is grown here and our culture. My food culture has been shaped by time spent abroad, what my family members taught me as they grew up etc. My husband’s food culture is completely different to mine and yet we both ate Irish food as children. Now, as I feed our children I’m very aware of what I want to put on the table. Be it rediscovering dishes that we ate as children, or using the ingredients we grow to create new ones – similar to what you do I guess. I wonder though what my neighbours, the majority of whom are Irish but weren’t born here – 46 different cultures in my small estate – what they would say is Irish food? A question I think I’ll be asking sooner than later!

    Anyway to flour…. Dunany Flour is certified Organic and is grown locally in the Louth area, then milled in Dunany. Skerries Mills in North County Dublin is a refurbished Windmill. They do demonstrations using the mill sails when they can, and obviously the by-product is locally milled flour, as far as I’m aware they get their grain from a farm in the Boyne Valley. When they don’t have the flour produced in the mill on sale they sell Dunany Flour. Also Ballyminane Mills produces Uncle Aidan’s Flour – I think they received an investment from Dragon’s Den on RTÉ last year by the way – they are based in Enniscorthy and are also producing locally grown and milled flour.

    Knowing that you prefer to source organic where possible I think Dunany Flour might be your new find!

    • Thanks Caitríona,
      Now it is just a matter of being able to buy it.
      I noticed that the Dunany is widely available buti have not found any places in Galway to stock it yet :0)
      Wow … That’s a lot of diversity you have going on in your neighbourhood. I would love to hear what they think Irish food is! The mushy peas and boiled to death meat is still out there but I think overall the
      Food scene has greatly improved. Now, if only we could get the photos on Google to look better!

  • On brisket – when I was a kid my Mum used to do it as a long-cooked pot roast, studded with cloves, with tomatoes and root veggies and onions. I must get the recipe. As a treat for her Mothers’ Day dinner, I made my carrot cake (hadn’t baked one in years) ‘cos she loves it. Even if I say so myself it was a damned fine carrot cake!
    Re sugar – I think it’s time that Irish people bombarded the government to reopen many of the sugar beet processing factories that were closed during the Celtic Tiger days. A criminal act by the government – they allowed the EU to dictate that a viable local industry be shut down because there was too much sugar being produced in Europe. Not even a whimper did they raise. And the worst thing? The ‘Siúcra’ brand is now owned outside of Ireland! Greencore sold it to a German company in 2009.
    I texted the farming programme on RTE (Radio 1, 8am on Saturdays) about this and lo! there was a feature on it recently. Seeming they are going to builld a new one – costing a fortune (what a waste of money to destroy it and have to rebuild again!) in Carlow. And there are plenty of growers. With the weather becoming so wet we need to concentrate on what grows really well here, AND can support an indigenous industry.
    Rant over.
    I need a bun. Or more coffee.

    • Wow … Yes you do!
      I know Karen … The Suicra thing is a disaster!
      I have since been informed that there are a couple of flour mills around but now I need to find out if they will post into Galway for me!
      Looking forward to seeing you xx

  • Whatever “green glop” we are eating on Sunday, we will be thinking of you, Ron, and the children. Wish we could be with you to enjoy truly delicious food, Irish or not. I may try to make your Irish Coffee, even though it never tastes as good as when you make it.

    Happy St. Patricks Day–we miss you!

    • I am certain it will not be glop in your house MS!
      We miss you too and I wish I was there to make Irish Coffees with you too!
      Say hi to the big guy and Heather for us xx

  • Very thought provoking post Mona, I’ve always thought of Irish food as anything grown or farmed here but also as ultra fresh, without much travel between the field and the fork! I love your children’s view on it though! 🙂 Fantastic pictures by the way, I shouldn’t have looked at them before I had breakfast!

    Plenty of Irish brewers here making up for the lack of Irishness that surrounds “G” Only last night I was trying some Eight Degrees Kindred Spirit, it’s a stout aged in Teeling Whiskey barrels, fantastic flavour, the smokiness of the whiskey really shone through. At 7% it’s for sipping!!! 🙂

    Happy St Patrick’s Day to you and your family.

    • I love Eight Degrees! Sorry it took me so long to respond to comments.
      I have been a wee bit tied up with a back problem and it has slowed me down to no end!
      And yes… Field to fork is the best way for Irish Food.

  • You’re so right Mona; what makes something Irish (or Dutch for that matter)? And I would eat any of those meals without hesitation! It’s funny too as I am currently writing a post about typical Dutch food… Maybe not so typical after all. Lol…
    Hope all is well with you Ron and the kids and Happy St. Patrick’s Day dear!

    • Hi there,
      I know … I am sure that if we looked closely at our foods we find many similarities
      Across the board. Hope all is well with you Simone xx

  • […] (and if you’re looking for more on the subject of what constitutes Irish food anyway, you can pop on over to Wise Words and see what Móna (and her commenters) have to say on the […]

  • […] the foodies out there an Irish food paradise on Wise Words, the oeuvre of Irish food blogger Mona Wise and her chef husband (winner of Blog […]

  • Mona – I am drooling after scrolling through all your gorgeous photos of real Irish food. I truly believe Irish food gets a bad rap all over the world. Homegrown Irish vegetables taste better than any I have tasted anywhere, and some of the old Irish baking techniques are fantastic.
    I always remember when an older cousin visited America. After about a week of eating in restaurants and visiting friends and family, she made a big announcement. “I know now why they cover everything in sauce,” she proclaimed. “The basic ingredients are poor quality and over processed, so they have no other choice. What can you do with a tasteless spud or carrot, only cover it in sauce.” She made me laugh, but deep down there was a lot of truth in her words.
    American mass produced food looks great, but tastes terrible. We buy locally and as much organic produce as possible – it’s the only way to taste the real flavour of food.
    Thanks so much for this thought-provoking post.
    All the best,

    • Hi Mairead,

      Thanks so much for this comment.
      We eat as much Irish grown/produced food as we can and the loveliness of it shows in the photos.
      Looking forward to Spring!

  • Oh god. This makes me so hungry. Looks so delicious.

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About Móna
I am a native Galway girl that seems to be drawn to professions that rhyme with 'err'. Writer, Mother, Restauranteur, Wedding Planner, Dishwasher, Grass cutter, Cocktail maker. I suppose you could say I am a well rounded entrepreneur.
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