In October 2016, my grandfather, Jim, turned 100. Jim Shortall was born in Dublin’s North Inner City in 1916, a time of great turmoil for the Irish state. Last year, as we commemorated the 100 year anniversary of the 1916 rising, my family was celebrating a joyous milestone for an incredible gentleman who once cycled internationally for Ireland.
Food that would have been common at the turn of the century in working class Dublin might be viewed as unhealthy or unappealing in modern Ireland. Many of the dishes include offal, which is much loved by the newer Irish immigrants from across Eastern Europe, Asia, and beyond.
I live in an area which has a multitude of different ethnic backgrounds. There are region-specific food stores nearby, indeed my estate alone boasts more than 40 nationalities.
When I think about the food that my grandfather grew up with, and still loves to this day, I can see how it should still appeal to us all now. We have a rich culinary heritage that sometimes gets lost in the ‘corned beef and cabbage’ or ‘green food’ associated with St Patrick’s Day.
There’s no reason why we can’t continue to cook our traditional recipes, but tweak them to include newer ingredients and flavours to reflect how diverse our country is today.
Recipe: Boiled Bacon Ribs
Traditionally served with a hunk of fresh crusty turnover, slathered in golden Irish butter, bacon ribs were boiled in a pot for at least 3 hours, until the meat fell off the bones. What is a turnover? It’s a white loaf, which is similar in size to a batch but lighter. It has a darker crust on top than on the base. The problem with this meal is that it’s full of fat and you’ll end up feeling a little bit greasy once you’re finished (if very satisfied). Instead of serving the ribs with a slice of turnover, I pair mine with an Asian-style slaw of brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, carrots, spring onions, garlic, chilli, and rice wine vinegar. The vinegar cuts through the fats of the ribs and it’s a much lighter dish. Pick up kohlrabi from your local Asian food store – along with the rice wine vinegar. Click/tap the image to be brought to the recipe.
Recipe: Gur Cake
This is a brilliant traditional Dublin recipe with a fantastic story! This cake is so called because it was made from the sweepings (cut offs) of cake from the bakery floor. At the end of a day in the bakeries in Dublin the young fellas in the area would nip by and ask for the off cuts of cake to take home to their Mams to make this cake. The kids were called gurriers – which is Dublin slang for a young (male) messer. So the cake is called gur cake after them. There are many other names for this cake across Ireland including Donkey Gudge Cake!
The cake has a base of pastry, then soaked stale breadcrumbs are piled on top, followed by another layer of pastry before baking. 100 years ago the stale cake would have been soaked with tea. To modernize the flavours sometimes I soak my cake with fresh cocoa, orange zest, and cardamom. The smells when I take it out of the oven are incredible, then a little drizzle of dark chocolate on top. Irresistible. Once again the image will bring you to the recipe.
Always start his day with an egg…
That’s what my great grandmother told her newly wed daughter in law not long after she married my grandfather. She’s still alive by the way! But what my great grandmother meant was to start his day with a RAW egg. For years before he went out for a spin (cycle) Grandad would knock back a raw egg to give himself extra energy. When he was working on the building sites and didn’t have time to make lunch, he would carry an egg to work in his tin mug and stick it in the work billy can to boil. To this day he likes to start his mornings with an egg and toast and I think you can’t do much better than that.
St Patrick’s Day Pie Recipe
Irish Recipes From Irish Food Bloggers
As if you’ve not been spoiled enough for recipes, here are many, many more that you can browse from just a few of the talented Irish food bloggers: