Charcuterie, escargot, potato vodka, seaweed pesto: Irish food is having a moment

Added October 19, 2018 in

SmokedBlackPuddings

Once, ‘stout and spuds’ summed up our national cuisine. Now innovative Irish producers are serving up our island’s natural bounty in mouthwatering modern ways.

“For many years, the reputation of Ireland has been that the food sucks.” So says the late Anthony Bourdain to Irish restaurateur Joe Macken on his Travel Channel show, The Layover. Now available on Netflix, the Dublin episode tracks 36 gout-inducing hours of Bourdain atin’ and drinkin’ his way around town.

An impressed Bourdain enquires how these uniquely Irish takes on fried food came to be. The answer proffered – that we can thank the Celtic Tiger – is something of a truism. Those affluent years encouraged us Irish to release our inner gourmands and embrace international culinary influences. We also had the funds to conduct our own Bourdain-style travels, fostering more adventurous palates and a better appreciation for our high-quality homegrown produce. We’ve realised that Irish food can be something to take pride in.

Recent research shows that the gap Bourdain identified between the perception and reality of Irish food remains, however: most visitors to Ireland arrive with low expectations of old-school stew, spuds and beer, but leave pleasantly surprised by our modern Irish food offering.

Fáilte Ireland’s new Food and Drink Strategy 2018-2023 aims to close this gap, building on the work of ambitious events like Galway’s Food on the Edge, an international chefs’ symposium that is putting Ireland on the global food map.

So, what can our visitors expect to be surprised by? Today’s Ireland boasts a truly modern food and drink culture thanks to innovative producers and chefs who now have the confidence to marry inspiration from heritage ingredients and recipes, international influences and a bountiful natural larder. It’s a great shame Bourdain is no longer with us to make a return visit, though he’d need to factor in more than 36 hours this time around.

Blood and bones

When Hugh ‘The Smokin’ Butcher‘ Maguire scooped the 2017 Great Taste Supreme Champion Award for his extraordinarily good Smoked Black Pudding – one of an increasing number of traditional Irish puddings based on fresh pig’s blood, but smoked with beechwood by this Ashbourne-based butcher – one judge wondered, “Why has nobody smoked black pudding before?”, decreeing it “genius”.

Elsewhere, the bones themselves are the hero. Produced by ex-equity trader Carol Banahan using Irish beef bones and organic Donegal vegetables, Carol’s Stock Market Bone Broth comes in handy pouches ready for drinking as a high-protein breakfast or sleep-promoting bedtime broth, or to use as a flavoursome stock base. Bone broth also contains hyaluronic acid, which is understood to reduce pain in patients with osteoarthritis, as well as glucosamine and chondroitin, which are believed to be helpful in the management of inflammation, arthritis and joint pain.

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