What to eat on St. Patrick’s Day?

This ^^^ is what I am eating on St. Patrick’s Day! The traditional favorite, accompanied by root veggies and cabbage. My mother called it a “boiled dinner”, and she also made that with ham, as well as corned beef.

There are many dishes that the Irish eat which I enjoyed as a child growing up, even though we never considered them to be Irish. Most of them contained potatoes in some form or another. Potatoes and beets. Potatoes and beets and corned beef (red flannel hash). Potatoes and cabbage and/or onions (colcannon). Potatoes are probably my favorite food. Did you ever wonder what the Irish ate before they had potatoes which, after all, came from the New World? I ran across this article from Bon Appetit, and it’s very interesting.

What the Irish Ate Before Potatoes

What was Irish food like for the 1500 years between Patrick and potatoes?

The short answer is: milky. Every account of what Irish people ate, from the pre-Christian Celts up through the 16th-century anti-British freedom fighters, revolves around dairy. The island’s green pastures gave rise to a culture that was fiercely proud of its cows (one of the main genres of Ancient Irish epics is entirely about violent cattle rustling), and a cuisine that revolved around banbidh, or “white foods.”

There was drinking milk, and buttermilk, and fresh curds, and old curds, and something called “real curds,” and whey mixed with water to make a refreshing sour drink. In 1690, one British visitor to Ireland noted that the natives ate and drank milk “above twenty several sorts of ways and what is strangest for the most part love it best when sourest.” He was referring to bainne clabair, which translates as “thick milk,” and was probably somewhere between just straight-up old milk and sour cream. And in the 12th century, a satirical monk (this is Ireland, after all), wrote a fake “vision” in which he traveled to the paradise of the Land of Food, where he saw a delicious drink made up of “very thick milk, of milk not too thick, of milk of long thickness, of milk of medium thickness, of yellow bubbling milk, the swallowing of which needs chewing.” And many British tacticians, sending home notes on how best to suppress local rebellions, noted that the majority of the population lived all summer on their cows’ milk, so the best way to starve out the enemy would just be to kill all the cows.

Read the rest of the article. It’s interesting, particularly if you enjoy cooking. They go on to say that the Irish eat more butter per capita than anywhere else. The other thing the Irish subsisted on in ancient times was grains (bread and porridge), particularly oats, as in griddled oat cakes. Apparently Irish Soda Bread didn’t show up until the 1800’s.

I think I might make traditional soda bread this week. Here’s a recipe to try; they say it’s very traditional:

450 grams all-purpose flour (about 3 1/2 cups)
3 grams fine sea salt (about 1/2 teaspoon)
4 grams baking soda (about 3/4 teaspoon)
1 ½ cups buttermilk, more as needed


Heat oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking soda. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk. Using your hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl. The dough should be soft but not wet and sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface. Wash and dry your hands. Knead the dough lightly for a few seconds, then pat the dough into a round about 1 1/2 inches thick. Place it on a buttered baking sheet and using a sharp knife, cut a deep cross in the center of the dough reaching out all the way to the sides.

Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees, and continue to bake until the top is golden brown and the bottom of the bread sounds hollow when tapped, about 30 minutes longer. Serve warm.

Finally, here’s a cocktail/dessert to sip in honor of the day!

Guinness Floats with Whiskey Whipped Cream

1/2 cup cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons Irish whiskey, plus more to taste
2 teaspoons sugar
2 cups vanilla, chocolate or coffee ice cream
1 12-ounce bottle Guinness or other stout, chilled


Combine the heavy cream, whiskey and sugar in a bowl and whisk until soft peaks form. Taste it, then fold in more whiskey if you want!

Divide the ice cream between 2 chilled glasses, then very slowly pour the Guinness into each. (Be careful — it will bubble over if you pour too fast!) Serve with the whiskey whipped cream.

So many Irish treats, so little time! What is your favorite?

This entry was posted in History, Holidays, Recipes, The Culture, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to What to eat on St. Patrick’s Day?

  1. Lucille says:

    Ahhh, that corned beef looks soooo good! Only veggies but not potatoes are on the menu for me. The following article contains many delicious recipes to sub for the traditional St. Patrick’s Day dishes…”Green and Easy Recipes for St. Patrick’s Day”

    I love the idea of lima beans rather than chickpeas (though I love chickpeas) for hummus.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. weather257 says:

    Good mornig, all! Stella, that is so interesting about the Irish and their milk. My mother was English (half Scottish), so we had corned beef/cabbage more than once in a year…via dutch oven. She also prepared canned hash with cabbage…we called it ‘dog food’ but enjoyed it nonetheless. I remember and appreciate the well-balanced meals she seved every day and the high-spirited conversations around the dinner table at supper.
    Looking forward to reading the Irish link! Have a wonderful and blessed week! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  3. czarina33 says:

    We always had corned beef, usually the only time all year, cabbage, onion & potatoes. Czar loved those veggies, and I had grown up on them, having Irish, English and German forebears. My only try at soda bread caused me to swear off, and return to other coarse breads with lots of butter, of course.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Menagerie says:

    Here’s my Irish bread recipe, so easy that we make it a lot as a last minute addition to a meal. The Guinness strongly flavors it so IMO it is best with hearty meals. Any other beer will work, I like Belgian beers better than the Guinness in this, unless I’m serving a Shepherd’s pie or hearty stew.

    3 cups AP flour, 1 Tbs, brown sugar, one Guinness, and one melted Tbs of butter. Mix the first three with half the butter and pour into a greased pan, pour the melted butter over the dough and bake at 375-400, depending on your oven, until done, usually about 30 minutes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Menagerie says:

      I’m making this bread today, and remembered that I listed the wrong flour. It should be self rising. If you don’t keep that you need some baking soda added in.


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