Know a good Irish Traditional place
to find these foods?  Register Irish eatery!

New! Teatime Cookbook Click Here
Join the party at our new Real Traditional Irish Food Blog just clickit here

We depend on your help to keep these pages on line. Please consider making a donation. Thanks

A Feast of True Irish
t is often said that the Irish do not have good food.  This is not true. They just say that their food is not good so you won't get any of it! Try these recipes and find out for yourself. You will soon know how the  Irish were able to survive! For food and drink of the ancient Irish click here. To the  Main Menu of Irish Foods For Teatime cakes and sweets click  here.
If your local Irish place does not serve these then I think it's time for a strong word with the management! 

To return to the main food and drink page click here




The Main Menu
Irish Lamb Stew Irish Spiced Beef Dublin  Coddle  Irish Rarebit  Champ  Limerick Ham
Colcannon White Pudding Sausage Beef With Guinness  Stuffed Marrow Squash  Bacon and Egg Pie: Back to Food and Drink
 Boxty  Bangers 
Strawberry Scones  Crubeens!  Mackerel Rolls Brigid's Bread
Boiled Boxty Mussel soup with fennel Mourne Mutton Broth


Oatmeal and Onion Soup Salmon Steaks in Oatmeal
Skirlie Champ potato cakes with smoked salmon Cabbage Pie with Bacon Beef and Guinness Pie Irish fish chowder Soda farls:
Potato Farls          

To return to the main food and drink page click here

Back to Irish Studies Pages

Irish food is a wonder and a treasure. But you will not get proper Irish food unless you ask for it!--If you do not find at least some of these main courses at your eatery---there are serious problems! ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTES!

Directory of This Irish Studies Page 

Literature and Verse Resources for Irish Gaelic Weddings/Wakes
Folklore and Seasonal Celebrations
Drink and the Pub
A lake of Links
Music and Song Humor Ireland-The Island Feedback History


To return to the main food and drink page click here
















If you do not like Lamb- use Lamb - (you might wish to add more carrots and garlic and pepper)
A traditional Meal- Just right for after a night out at the pubs-and it gets better as it gets older!

1/2 pound thickly sliced bacon,diced
6 pounds boneless LAMB shoulder cut into 2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 cloves garlic,peeled and finely chopped
1 Large Yellow Onion peeled and finely chopped
1/2 cup water
4 cups Beef Stock -canned or home-made
2 teaspoons sugar
4 cups carrots-cut into 1 inch pieces-use large manly ones!
2 large yellow onions peeled and sliced
3 pounds potatoes peeled,quartered and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 teaspoon dried thyme,whole
1 bay leaf
1 cup dry white wine
Garnish-chopped parsley
Saute bacon in large frying pan-reserve fat and bacon.
Put lamb salt pepper and flour in large mixing bowl-toss to coat meat evenly
Brown meat in frying pan with bacon fat. Put meat into 10 quart stove top casserole-leave 1/4 cup of fat in frying pan. Add the garlic and yellow onion and saute till onion begins to color.Deglaze frying pan with 1/2 cup water and add the garlic-onion mixture to casserole with bacon pieces,beef stock and sugar.Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or till tender. Add remaining ingredients to pot and simmer covered for 20 minutes until veg. is tender.
Check for salt and pepper before serving-top with parsley garnish before serving.

Another Lamb (Mutton) Irish Stew

Blanch three pounds of mutton chops by dipping
them first in boiling water, for two or three minutes,
and then into ice-cold water. Place them on the bottom of
a clean stewpan, barely covering them with cold water.
Bring them slowly to a boil; add one teaspoonful of salt;
skim clean ; add a little parsley, mace, and a few peppercorns.
Simmer twenty minutes ; add a dozen small onions •
whole, and two tablespoonfuls of flour mixed well with cold
water. Let it simmer for an hour; add a dozen potatoes
pared and cut to about the size of the onions. Boil till
these are done; then dish, placing the chops around the
edge of the plate, and pouring the onions and potatoes into
the centre. Strain the gravy, add three tablespoonfuls of
chopped parsley, and pour over the stew.
Back to the top

St. Brigids Day Foods

1.Colcannon for 6

1 1/4 lbs. Kale or green Cabbage, 2 cups water, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 1/4 pounds peeled and quartered potatoes, 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, 1 cup cleaned and chopped leeks white part only, 1 cup milk, pinch of ground mace, salt and ground pepper to taste, 1/2 cup melted butter (use real butter)
1.simmer kale or cabbage in 2 cups water and oil for 10 minutes , drain , chop fine.
2.boil potatoes and water, simmer till tender.
3.simmer the leeks in milk for ten minutes till tender. 4.drain and puree the potatoes.
5.add leeks and their milk and cooked kale. 6.mix. add mace, salt and pepper.
7.mound on a plate and pour on the melted butter.Garnish with parsley.
Back to the top

Boxty Cakes:

1/2 pound hot cooked potatoes, 1/2 pound grated raw potatoes, 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda,
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, butter for frying, salt and pepper.
1.drain, peel and mash the hot potatoes.
2.stir in the raw potatoes, flour and baking soda.
3.add salt and pepper to taste.
4.mix well with enough buttermilk to make a stiff batter.
5.Shape into 3 inch patties about 1/4 inch thick.
6.fry on hot greased griddle until crispy and golden on both sides. Makes 12.
Back to the top

St. Brigids Oaten Bread
1 cup flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, 3/4 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon salt., 3 tablespoons butter in small pieces, 3/4 cup uncooked oatmeal flakes. 1 egg, 1/2 cup buttermilk
1.heat oven to 425 degrees. 2. grease baking sheet. 3.combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in bowl and mix. 4.Add butter bits and cut in with knife until mixture is crumbly. 5.add oats and toss to combine. other bowl beat egg with buttermilk. 7.make a well in the dry ingredients. Pour in the egg mixture and mix with a fork until crumbs hold together. Make dough into ball and transfer to floured surface. Knead 20-25 times. Add flour if sticky.
8.pat dough into 8-inch round and transfer to baking sheet. 9.score a deep cross into the bread but do not cut it through 10.bake 15-20 minutes till brown.
Back to the top

Irish Spiced Beef

Ingredients:20 cloves, 2 tsp ground allspice or cinnamon, 6 Shallots, 2 tsp Prague Powder(can be obtained from the Sausage Maker-26 military Rd,BNuffalo,N.Y. 14207), 1Pound Kosher Salt (coarse), 1 tsp black pepper, three tsp. ground mace, 7-8 lb. beef. 2-3 bay leaves, ground nutmeg, Two Pints Guinness Stout. Instructions:1. Grind all dry ingredients and mix 2. Add finely chopped shallots 3. Rinse beef and place in plastic or glass container(avoid iron). 4.Take 1 seventh of the spice/salt mixture and rub it all over the meat. Place meat back into container, cover and set out on the back porch or in a cool spot-if too warm out place in fridge. Each day for seven days rub the meat with one seventh of the mixture, turn over and re-cover. Leave the liquid that forms with the meat. At the end of seven days place meat and liquid into a big pot -add water to top up and cover the meat and boil until the meat is tender.(a fork should just barely be able to lift up strands of meat-dont over do it!) Change water adding clean water and boil for another 30 minutes. Then add veg-large carrots,onions, and potatoes- cook until almost done. Add two pints Guinness Stout and boil for another 10-20 minutes.
You can eat this hot or leave to cool overnight-place meat into colander with weight on it and plate or dish under it.
Back to the top

Irish White Pudding Sausage

Ingredients: 2 1/2 lbs. medium ground pork butt,2 1/2 lbs. fine ground pork putt, 5 cups plain bread crumbs,4,eggs lightly beaten,8 cloves pressed garlic,1 tbsp. salt,3 tsp thyme,3 tsp.basil,3 tsp marjoram, 3 tsp black pepper,2 cups ice water. Mix thoroughly keeping cold.Stuff into casings making 2 1/2 inch links or pat into small compact pattys.Referigerate over night before freezing.Fry to golden brown.
Back to the top

Irish Bangers

Ingredients: 2 tsp. ground white pepper,1 tsp ground ginger,1 tsp sage,1 tsp mace,3 oz salt,6 oz bread crumbs -plain,10 lbs. fat pork butt(if lean add 1 lb fat back,2 cups ice water. Grind meat-1/2 medium 1/2 fine add spices and mix very well.Stuff into small casing links or make into compact pattys. Leave overnight in Fridge before freezing. Fry till golden brown.
Back to the top

Dublin Coddle

Ingredients:2 lb pork sausages-bangers,seasoned flour,bacon fat,sunflower oil,2 large onions diced,2 garlic cloves,1 lb lean bacon slices or thinly sliced smoked pork or ham,4 large potatoes thickly sliced/peeled,2 carrots thickly sliced peeled,bunch of fresh herbs to taste,black pepper,hard cider,chopped parsley.
Instructions:dip sausages into seasoned flour and seal in hot bacon fat. Soften onions and garlic cloves in the oil.Put sausages bacon and onions in large sauce pan with potatoes and carrots and herbs. Cover with cider.Cook over moderate heat for at least an hour-do not boil. Garnish with parsley.Wash down with mugs of Guinness stout and soda bread serves 6.
Back to the top

Beef With Guinness

Beef With Stout The Only way to Cook Beef-sometimes add oysters!

Ingredients: 1/4 lb. Butter,1 pound beef chuck cut into 1x2 inch pieces.1 large sweet onion-sliced thin, a bouquet garni:thyme,sage,parsley,bay leaf,1/4 teaspoon salt.1/4 teaspoon black pepper,1 cup beef stock, 1 pint guinness stout,4 medium potatoes(1 lb peeled)2 tablespoons parsley,large manly sweet carrots.
Instructions:heat butter in skillet brown the beef in batches-set beef asside.2.cook onion in hot fat for 3 minutes-just soffened,return meat to pan add bouquet garni,salt,pepper,stock and stout and bring the mixture to a boil.Cook stew uncovered in preheated 350 degree oven for about one hour add potatoes and bake e for 45 minutes till all is tender.add salt and pepper to taste. Thicken sauce with butter and flour.Garnish with parsley.
Back to the top

Strawberry Scones

Ingredients: 1 cup strawberries,2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour(unsifted),3 tablespoons sugar,2 teaspoons baking powder,1/4 teaspoon salt,6 tablespoons butter or margarine,2/3 cup milk.
Directions:Preheat oven to 425 degrees Cut strawberries into 1/2 inch pieces-set asside.In large bowl mix together flour,sugar,baking powder and salt.Add butter. With pastry blender or 2 knives cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in reserved strawberries toss well to coat. Add milk all at once. With fork lightly toss together until mixture holds together. With floured hands gently form into ball. On floured board with floured pouring pin roll out dough 1/2/ inch thick.Cut dough into 2 1/2 inch circles with floured biscuit cutter.Place on greased cookie sheet.Bake until golden about 12 minutes, serve warm with whipped cream.Yield 12 scones.
Back to the top

Irish Rarebit-

A famous High Tea Savory
2 tbsps butter or margarine
2tbsps flour
1tsp Dijon mustard
1tsp honey
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup Guinnesss Stout
1 cup Cheddar cheese,grated
Salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a heavy pan and stir in flour to make a roux. Cook on a low heat for a further minute without allowing it to brown.
Remove pan from heat and gradually beat the milk into the roux.Return to heat and stir until the mixture thickens. Stir in mustard and honey and finally the Guinness. Cook this mixture fairly rapidly for 2-3 minutes then add grated cheese and stir over very low heat only until all the cheese has melted. Spread thickly on four slices of toast and brown under the grill.
Back to the top

Stuffed Marrow Squash

1 large Marrow (Giant food sells them)
6-8oz cooked lamb.
1 cup gravy or stock made with bullion cube
1 onion
1 carrot
3 large tomatoes or 7oz can of tomatoes drained
1/2 tsp. oregano plus chopped mixed garden herbs if available
1-2 cups of cooked rice according to the size of the marrow
1/2 cup grated cheese.
Instructions:Put the lamb onion and carrot through the grinder or chop in food processor. Mix in a bowl with the gravy or stock. Put tomatoes in boiling water and leave to stand for a few minutes then remove skins chop and add to the mixture. If using canned tomatoes drain off liquid chop up tomatoes and add to the mixture. Add rice and herbs and season with salt and pepper to taste. Scrub squash well.Cut in half lengthwise remove seeds and fill both halves with stuffing. Place side by side in pan with about half an inch of water in it.Cover it with foil and bake at 400 degrees for one hour.Remove from oven,take off foil, sprinkle grated cheese over squash and return to oven for a further ten minutes.
Back to the top

A Dublin Favorite!
Ingredients One fresh pigs trotter-best with bone in per-person. (there is more meat on the hind ones).
Instructions: Place the trotter in a pan with an onioin,carrot,salt and a few peppercorns, a bay leaf , some thyme and parsley. Cover with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for three hours. You may also de-bone and dip in seasoned egg and roll in bread crumbs and fry. Eat with Brown Soda Bread and Guinness
. Back to the top

Ingredients: 1 1/2 lbs. cooked potatoes, 4 oz scallions, 1/2 cup milk, salt and pepper, 4 large pats butter.

Instructions Peel potatoes and boil the in salted water. Drain and allow them to dry out completely. Trim and wash the scallions. Slice them finely including he green parts and put them in a pan with the milk to simmer gently until soft. Drain scallions and keep the milk. Beat scallions into the potatoes then gradually add the hot milk until you have a fluffy mixture. Season with salt and pepper and make into four servings. Make a mound with a dent in the center for an ample quantity of butter. As you eat the mixture you dip it into the butter in the center. (real butter is best for this!)
Back to the top

A Savory Pie! Bacon and Egg Pie:
Eaten cold or warm at home or on country outings savory pies turn up everywhere as popular dishes.
2 cups all-purpose flour,
1 level tsp. salt
1/3 cup lard
3-4 tbsps. cold water
rashers bacon (thick sliced bacon-if you cant get Irish sliced bacon use 12-15 slices of American style bacon.)
6 eggs.
Sift flour and salt into a bowl. Cut up fats and rub them into the flour. Gradually add the water mixing it in with a knife until the mixture forms a ball and leaves the bowl clean. Lightly shape on a floured board and cut in two pieces. Grease a 10 inch pie plate, roll out half the pastry and line the plate with this. Place the rashers like the spokes of a wheel and break an egg into each space. Roll out the other half of the pastry and carefully cover the filling with this. Crimp the edges all around, lightly mark segments with a knife so that each person gets a rasher and an egg- brush the top with milk. Place in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes
Back to the top
Mackerel Rolls
The Irish love their seafood despite custom which tells them that certain sea creatures might just be- re incarnated beings! The fish must be fresh.

4 long crusty rolls or one loaf French Bread.
12 oz. skinned and filleted cooked mackerel
small carton plain yogurt
chopped waluts 1 medium apple
Split rolls or loaf lengthwise. Scoop out some of the center. Chop up bread crumbs on the breadboard with two knives. Put the bread crumbs in a bowl and mix in finely chopped herbs and some freshly ground black pepper. Peel core and quarter the apple- chop it up finely and fold it into the yogurt mixture. Fill the scooped out rolls with the mixture and either serve as open sandwiches or put tops on and wrap in foil or plastic wrap for a picnic. From my experience in Cork these are good when made small to go with a good glass of white wine.
Back to the top

Limerick Ham
A great flavor and easy to make-great for a festive meal.

One ham-cured and cooked- not a salted country ham.
1/4 cup juniper berries (if dried soak until soft)
1 1/2 cups French style mustard (country style coarse if possible)
1 cup Gin
1 cup brown sugar

Score the ham to a depth of 1/2 inch on all sides.
Rub juniper berries into the cuts all over
mix the gin,brown sugar and mustard.
cover the ham with the mixture. Bake in a hot oven covered
with foil until heated through. Remove foil and bake until
skin is crisp. From time to time baste with liquid from bottom of pan.
Back to the top

Susan Maguire's Recipe for Boiled Boxty:

Ingredients: 4 dozen pink skinned potatoes

Equipment : Muslin , drawstring bag
                     "spinner" (see below)

Take 4 dozen medium size "Clare Pinks" potatoes (or another small, dense
pink skinned potatoes). Divide them in half and boil 2 dozen in their skins until tender ...DO
NOT overcook. Remove from heat and let cool. When cool, peel the skins
off and grate the potatoes . (Susan used a Cuisanart on "grate"). It can be
hand-grated if one is a historical purist. Set this bowl of cooked,
grated potatoes aside.

Take remaining 2 dozen raw potatoes and peel them . Cut into small
pieces and puree in the Cuisnart. You will have a thick, soupy
consistency. The liquid has to be removed from this mixture. In the old
days, the mixture was poured in the muslin "Boxty bag" , tied tightly
then wrung out by hand and rolling pin until most of liquid was removed
and contents had a crumbly , chalk-like texture.
Susan Maguire uses a small electric "spinner". This is the same as the
spin cycle in a washer. and the bag with contents is spun until all
liquid drains out. (I used the spin cycle in my washer instead , which
dough will not set.

Remove the raw, dried Boxty  and place in a large mixing bowl.
Add a few pinches of salt to this mixture and then add half of the
cooked, grated potato mixture to bowl also. Begin to add flour and knead
all contents until it forms a dough that does not stick to your hands.

When the dough forms you can begin to knead it and shape in small, round
cakes about 6" in diameter and 2" thick (Kind of shaped like a hockey
puck). You should get about 6-8 cakes from mixture.

Set these aside and fill a large stock pot with water. Place a dinner
plate at the bottom of the pan to prevent the cakes from sticking to
bottom of pan.

When the water is at a full, rolling boil, slowly add the Boxty cakes to
it until all cakes are in pan. Do not cover pan. Allow to boil for 30
minutes Remove and place on waxed paper and cool at room tempature . When cool
wrap in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator and chill until the next

With the remaining 1 /2 of the cooked potatoes you have left over you
can make potato cakes. Just add one egg, 2 TB of melted butter, 1/3 cup
flour, a pinch of salt and knead into a dough, roll into ball and then
flatten out and roll with rolling pin into a round flat circle. Cut into
triangular shaped wedges and fry in butter. Serve.

To serve and eat the boiled boxty. Remove the chilled boxty from
refrigerator and slice the cakes into small oval slices. Fry in pan with butter and
one rasher(bacon ) for flavor until brown, crispy. Serve with eggs and
rashers for breakfast.

Delicious!!!And it will stick with you all day.

By the way, the chilled boxty will keep for 3-5 days in refrigerator ,
if covered with plastic wrap.-Submitted by Susan Richardson
Cloverdale, California from County Lietrim,"Sonny Ned" and Susan Maguire of Dowra
Back to the top


Mussel soup with fennel

(serves 4)

2 pints of fresh mussels
4 oz. butter
2 cups heavy cream
1 head of fennel
1 onion
½ leek
1 bay leaf
1 clove of garlic
Fresh chives
Sprig of thyme
1 pint fish stock
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 pint chicken stock
2 cups white wine

Directions: Melt butter in a pot, sweat all vegetables until soft, and remove from heat. In a
separate pot, bring wine to boil with bay leaf, thyme, fennel and any onion trimmings and
simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add mussels and continue to simmer until they open. Remove from heat
and strain through a colander, reserving the cooking liquid which will serve as the main base for
the soup. Pick out the mussel meat and reserve. Carefully pour liquid into a jug leaving any grit
or sand behind that may have come from the mussels. Add the cooking liquid to the softened
vegetables with the chicken stock. Over heat reduce the liquid by half.

  Back to the top

Mourne Mutton Broth

 (serves 4)
1 lamb shank
Salt and pepper
1 oz. barley
5 oz. carrots
6 oz. onions
5 oz. leeks
2 tablespoon celery herb or 1 celery stick
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Directions: Place the lamb/mutton in cold water and bring to the boil. Refresh under running
cold water. Replace into a clean saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and
simmer gently for 1 hour. Wash the barley and add. Cook out for a further 30 minutes. Wash
peel and rewash the vegetables. Cut into dice and add to the lamb. Simmer until all the
vegetables are tender. Remove the lamb/mutton, cut up all the lean flesh discarding any fat or
gristle. Return to the broth and season to taste. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with a
selection of Northern Ireland breads.

 Back to the top


4 or 5 large potatoes
1 chopped onion
Salt and pepper
1 yellow turnip
Pinch nutmeg
Grated cheese
Knob of butter

Directions: Boil and mash the potatoes. Add knob of butter, salt, and pepper. Boil turnip and
chopped onion until soft. Drain and mix with potato mixture (drain and add salt and pepper and
knob of butter). Scrape into pie dish and cover with grated cheese and a little parsley. Put in oven
200 degrees Celsius (392 degrees Fahrenheit) for 15 minutes or until golden brown

 Back to the top

Oatmeal and Onion Soup

½ cup Pinhead oatmeal
1 cup fresh milk
2 cups chicken stock
1 large onion (chopped)
1 large knob butter (1½ oz.)
Salt and pepper
Parsley (to garnish)

Directions: Fry onions in butter. Add oatmeal and seasoning and cook for a few minutes. Slowly
add stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for half an hour (but keep stirring every few minutes).
Add milk and garnish with parsley.

Back to the top

Salmon Steaks in Oatmeal

1 salmon steak per person
Butter for frying
Pin head oatmeal
2 beaten eggs

Directions: Place salmon steaks in beaten eggs and flip to coat. Lift out, one at a time and roll in
pin-head oatmeal. Fry in hot melted butter until cooked.

Back to the top


2 chopped onions
2 oz. butter
¾ cup pinhead oatmeal
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper
A sprinkling of thyme

Directions: Fry chopped onions in butter for a few minutes, but do not let them brown. Add pinhead
oatmeal and cook for two minutes. Add the zest of one lemon, pepper, and salt.
Back to the top

Champ potato cakes with smoked salmon

(serves 8)
8-16 slices of smoked Irish salmon
Black pepper
Lemon juice
Sour cream
Fresh chives

For the champ cakes:
900 g/ 2 lb. potatoes, peeled and halved
Glass of milk
75 g/ 3 oz. cold butter
Salt and pepper
1 bunch scallions (spring onions), finely sliced
One or two gratings of fresh nutmeg

Directions: Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until completely tender but not mushy.
Drain and steam for 5 minutes to get rid of the excess water. Heat the milk with the scallions
until hot. Once the potatoes have dried off completely, mash well with a potato masher or use a
ricer. Add back into the pot and stir in the cold butter. Put the pan over a medium heat and add
milk to loosen the mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cool then shape into small
potato cakes. Dust in flour and fry in melted butter on each side until golden brown. Serve at
once with a slice or two of smoked salmon on top. Spoon some sour cream mixed with the
chives onto the side of the plate and sprinkle over some black pepper.
Alternative: Scally is a different variation using nettles, instead of scallions.

Back to the top

Cabbage Pie with Bacon

(serves 8)
500 g/ 8 oz. puff pastry
1 cabbage, halved, stalk removed and finely sliced
8 slices streaky bacon, finely chopped
150 g/ 5 oz. butter

3 shallots, finely chopped
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
250 ml/ 8 fl. oz. whipping cream
Salt and pepper

Directions: Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit). In a large frying
pan, melt half the butter over a low heat and cook the cabbage until tender, do not allow it to
brown or it will stick to the pan. This will take about 5-8 minutes. Transfer to a dish and allow to
cool. Add the rest of the butter to the pan and sweat the shallots gently with a little salt. Add the
herbs and cook over a medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Cool and mix gently in with the ham and
cabbage. Season well. Roll out half the pastry into a circle about 36 cm in diameter and place
onto a lightly buttered baking tray or baking mat. Brush the edges lightly with some egg yolk and
then spoon the cabbage mixture onto the middle of the pastry disc. Roll the rest of the pastry into
a slightly larger circle and use it to form a lid for the pie. Crimp the edges of the pie inwards to
seal it. Cut a circle from the middle using a scone cutter but do not remove it. Brush the entire
pie with egg yolk. Bake the pie for 35-40 minutes but do not allow to brown too quickly (cover
with tin foil, if this is the case). Heat the cream gently and remove the lie from the oven. Remove
the small lid in the middle and pour in the hot cream. Return to the oven for 10 minutes. Serve in
slices with game or lamb.


Back to the top


Beef and Guinness Pie

(serves 5)
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 kg/ 2¼ lbs. chuck/ rump steak, cut into 2.5 cm/ 1-inch cubes
400 ml/ 14 fl. oz. Guinness
Olive oil
50 g/ 2 oz. butter
150 g/ 5 oz. streaky bacon, cut into thin lardoons
500 g/1 lb. mushrooms, sliced
25 g/ 1 oz. plain flour
300 ml/ ½ pint chicken stock
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 tablespoon apple or red currant jelly
Salt and pepper
Fresh thyme
Fresh flat leaf parsley
250 g/ 9 oz. puff pastry
1 free-range egg, beaten

Directions: Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the bacon lardons and fry until they begin to
color. Remove from the pot and set aside. Season the meat cubes well and add a little olive oil to
the pan. Fry the meat in batches so that it is all golden brown. When the last batch is ready, add
the rest of the meat and the cooked bacon back into the pot. Stir in the onions and cook for a few
minutes. Sprinkle over the flour and stir it into the meat until well mixed. Add the mushrooms
and the garlic. Pour in the Guinness and the stock. Add a little fresh thyme. Bring to the boil and
then simmer for 2 hours or until the meat is very tender. Stir in a little water, if it seems slightly

dry and then the jelly. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Stir in some finely chopped
parsley. Transfer to an over proof dish. Allow to cool. Roll the pastry out to fit the top of the
dish. Brush the sides of the dish with beaten egg. Cut a narrow rim from the pastry and press
onto the rim of the dish. Brush the pastry with egg wash. Now lay the main piece of pastry over
the dish, pressing firmly around the sides. Using a floured fork, press the pastry well into the top
of the dish. Brush the pastry with egg wash and pierce several holes in the top with a knife. (If
your dish is large and shallow, you may need to put an egg cup or something similar into the
middle of the dish to prevent the pastry from sinking in the middle and becoming soggy.) Preheat
the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Fahrenheit). Bake the pie from cold for 40-45
minutes or until the pastry is risen and golden and the meat filling is hot.


Back to the top

Irish fish chowder

(serves 4-6)
50 g/ 2 oz. butter
2 rashers of bacon, cut into small dice
1 small onion, cut into dice
25 g/ 1 oz. plain flour
600 ml/ 1 pint milk
50 ml/2 fl. oz. double cream
225 g/ 8 oz. potatoes, peeled and cut into small dice
1 small glass of white wine
1 fresh bay leaf
Salt and pepper
450 g/ 1 lb. smoked haddock or similar fish
450 g/ 1 lb. fresh mussels, preferably rope grown
450 g/ 1 lb. fresh cockles, well cleaned
Fresh flat leaf parsley
2 scallions, finely sliced

Directions: Heat half the butter in a large pot and cook the bacon until slightly crispy for 2
minutes or so. Then add the onion. Stir well and cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove from the
pan and set aside. Melt the rest of the butter and stir in the flour to form a roux. Whisk well and
then add the milk little by little removing the pot from the heat as you whisk the mixture together
to avoid lumps. Once the mixture is absolutely smooth, replace on a gentle heat and add the
potatoes dice. Simmer very gently until tender. Meanwhile, put the cockles and mussels in a
large pot with the wine and another glass of water. Put the lid on and bring to the boil. Shake the
pot every minute or so until the mussels and cockles open. Remove from the liquid and shell ¾
of the shell fish. Check the remaining shells to make sure they are free of grit. Add the cooked
bacon, onion and haddock to the potato and milk mixture. Add the wine. And simmer for 2
minutes. Add back in the shelled fish as well as some of the whole, cooked cockles and mussels.
Stir in the parsley and cream and adjust the seasoning to taste. Garnish with scallions. Serve hot
with fresh bread.


Back to the top

Soda farls:

10 oz./ 275 g soda bread flour
8-10 fl oz./ 250-300 ml buttermilk

Directions: Put the flour into a large mixing bowl, make a well in the centre and gradually add
the buttermilk. Mix to a stiff dough with a wooden spoon, turn onto a lightly floured work
surface and knead gently to form a smooth round. Roll out into a circle about 8”/ 20cm in
diameter and no more than ½ inch/ 1 cm thick. Cut into four farls. Cook on the preheated griddle
or heavy fry pan sprinkled with flour at a medium heat for 6-8 minutes on each side until light
beige in color and hollow sounding when tapped with your finger. Wrap in a clean cloth and
allow to cool before using. *To test the griddle or fry pan to see if the cooking temperature is
correct, sprinkle a little flour over the surface, when the flour begins to turn a pale golden color,
the griddle is at the correct temperature. The farls are served cut in half with butter and jam or
fried in bacon fat as part of an “Ulster Fry.”


Back to the top

Potato Farls

3 large potatoes
Knot of butter (1-2 tablespoon)
Pinch of salt
Handful of soda bread flour

Directions: Boil the potatoes. Mash with knot of butter and salt. Add a handful of soda bread
flour. Dust your baking surface and roll out, about ½-inch thick. Place on heated griddle. Cook
both sides.
Alternative: Potato Oaten are made the same way, but with one handful of pin-headed oatmeal


To return to the top of this page click here

The food of a people is so intimately connected with their
agriculture, that in order to give a satisfactory account of the
former, it would be necessary to enter into some detail as to
the state of the latter. This, however, I cannot do here, and I
must content myself with referring to the subject as occasion
may arise in the following brief account of the food of the
ancient Irish.
 The ancient Irish were more a pastoral than an agricultural
 people ; every occupier of a homestead, however, ploughed
annually a certain amount of land, and sowed corn, the
general name for which was Arba, plural Orbainn. Under
this term mention is made of eight kinds of corn or seed,
 Cruittiecht, Eorna, Corca, Seoul, Ruadan, Seruan. Maetan, and
 Fidbach. Cruitnecht, one of the names of wheat, Triticum
Sativum, appears to contain the same root as the Greek K....,
barley. Tarai, sometimes written Tuirnd or Tuirnn, was
another name for wheat, which M. A. Pictet compares with
Sanskrit Trna, herb in its general sense ; he also mentions the
curious fact that the Mongolian name of wheat is Taràn. Eorna
and Corca are still the names of barley and oats respectively.
It is very difficult to determine now to what plants the remaining
names were applied. Secul is probably a loan-word from
the Latin Secale, rye ; but was it applied to the same plant in
Ireland as in Italy ? If so, what was Ruadan ? This is certainly
an older word than Secul, and if we could venture to compare
it with the Lettish Rudzi, rye, may have been the true ancient
name for that kind of corn, which in Ireland as elsewhere
seems to have been gradually displaced by wheat. If the
spelt wheat (Triticum spelta was) cultivated in Ireland, it may
have been known by either of the names in question, perhaps
by that of Secul. Seruan may not have been a variety of corn
at all. Pliny has the term Saurian for mustard, which is
very close to the Sanskrit Suri, Sinapis nigra, and may be
Celtic rather than Greek. It is, no doubt, very dangerous to
make comparisons between words merely because of similarity
of form, yet it is hardly possible to avoid doing so in this case,
especially as the only other Aryan name of corn like it with
which I am acquainted, belongs to a species which we have no
evidence for supposing was ever cultivated in Ireland, namely, /
Soru (plural Soros), the Lithuanian name of millet. Maelan
was, 1 believe, a leguminous plant, and not a cereal one, as 
is shown by the name Maelan rnilce, being applied to the
tuberous bitter vetch, Orobus tuberosus, the tuberous roots of
which were formerly much prized for making a kind of drink
by the Highlanders, and used in times of scarcity as food. The
Oiobus niger, or black bitter vetch, which is said by some
to have supported the Britons when driven into the forests and
fastnesses by the Empeior Severus, was also called Maelan.
Fidbach is literally wood-gland, bach being cognate with
Sanskrit bhag, Greek ..., and may have been applied to
the hazel nut or the acorn, both of which were used as food.
From the frequent reference to oatmeal and porridge, there
can be little doubt that the kind of corn most generally grown grown.
was oats. Barley was also cultivated, not only for making
bread, but also for making malt. Frequent  mention is also
made of wheat, but wheaten bread must have been used
almost exclusively by the higher classes. I have not met with
any direct evidence of the use of leaven or of yeast in early
times in Ireland, but I infer from incidental circumstances that
the yeast of Citirm, or beer, was used in the making of wheaten
bread. Oatmeal and barleymeal cakes appear to have

been unleavened, and to have been prepared as now by mixing
the meal with sweet milk or buttermilk, so as to make a
stiff dough, which was fashioned into flat cakes. The wheat-
meal and barley-meal cakes were baked upon a griddle, but
the oatmeal cakes, called Bocaire and Bletliacli. were always
baked by being supported in an upright position before the
fire by means of a three-pronged forked stick, still called
Maide an Bliocaire or the Bocaire stick, or the Cranachan,
which, however, included also the three-legged stool upon
which the cake was supported by the stick. From the latter
name the Bocaire is sometimes called Ciste cranachain, or the
cake of the Cranachan. The cakes of bread were called
 Bairgins, a name still preserved in the " bairn breac", or cake
spotted with currants, of confectioners in Ireland. There were
different sizes of these cakes, but three are mentioned in the
laws: the Bairgin Ferfuine and the Bairgin Banfuine, the
former double the size of the latter—the larger representing
the ration of a man, and the smaller that of a
woman; the third was called the Bairgin iudriuc or whole
cake. This was a large cake which the mistress of a house
kept whole for guests, before whom no cut-loaf should be
placed. Any whole cake was, properly speaking, a Bairgin
Iudriuc, but the term was usually restricted to such large
cakes as those which Bricriu had had made, each of which
required a quarter of a Miach. Honey was sometimes mixed

with the dough of bread, as appears from a curious account
of the " champion s share at the feast given by Briciru one
of the heroic personages contemporary with Citchulaind.
Meal prepared from highly kiln-dried oats, mixed with new
milk or sweet thick milk, or boiled with water into stirabout,
was also much used. Coarsely ground meal of this kind
was called Grus and Gruth, and the food prepared from it
Gruiten ; the second form of the words is almost identical
with the Anglo-Saxon Grut. In discussing the names of
the different kinds of com grown in Ireland in former
times, I mentioned that filberts and acorns were used as
food. These were crushed, so as to form a kind of meal
to which the name Maothal was given. In early Christian
times those who devoted themselves to a religious life, built
their cells in remote woody districts or waste lands, which
seem to have been generally covered with a scrub of hazel,
judging from the quantity of hazel twigs found in turf
bogs. Nutmeal naturally formed a valuable resource to these
early monks, so important indeed that the word Maothal came
in process of time to mean the meal taken on fast days, and
which consisted at first of nutmeal and milk, and afterwards of
oatmeal, milk, cheese, etc. Thus a Lenten dinner mentioned in
the life of St. Moling consisted of Maolhla acus Loim. The

use of Maotlial was not, however, confined to monks and nuns,
but formed part of the food of even the higher classes, as is
proved by the finding of tlie nutshells in the neighbourhood of
forts, and by the occurrence of the word in combination with
Cathair and Lie in topographical names, such as Cathair
Moathal, now Cathermoyle, in the county of Limerick, where
full evidence was obtained of the use of nutmeal, and Lis-
maothal now Moyhill, near Maurice's Mills, in the county
of Clare.
Oatmeal formed also an important constituent of the porridge
which was one of the chief articles of food in Ireland. When
this porridge was made with water in which meat was boiled, it
was the Bruth or broth which was distributed or served out in
Dabachs or tubs to the retainers and servants at feasts and the
eyres or circuits of kings and Flaths. The simple porridge as well
as the broth were seasoned with leeks. Large quantities of leeks
and onions were grown around the houses, and served as a substitute
for pepper and other spices, introduced at a later period
into Europe. Some other culinary vegetables were also cultivated
in the Murathaig or enclosed Gort or garden, for we find
Lns Lubgort, or garden vegetables, mentioned as part of the
 Imglaice or opsonia of the Oc Aire. The Birur or Water Cress

was also used at feasts as a salad with meat. Dulesc (i.e.,
water leaf), the Rhodymenia palmata of botanists, was gathered
on the sea shore, dried, and sold throughout the country. It is
mentioned in the Crith Gablach as an accompaniment of the
seasoned fowl to which the Aithech ar a Threba was entitled.
Sluican, sloke, or laver prepared from Porphyra laciniata and
P. vulgaris, as well as other marine vegetables, were also used
along the sea coast.
As the principal wealth of the Irish was in cattle, flesh-meat
and milk formed the most important part of the food of the
Aire class, milk, besides being taken in its natural fresh
state, and as skimmed milk, furnished butter, curds, and
cheese. Butter, while abundant in summer, was preserved Batter ;
in small firkins or barrels for winter use, and for expeditions
and feasts. Many of these vessels filled with butter are found
in peat bogs, the butter being altered into a hard crystalline
fat, free from salt. If salt was used in the curing of the original
butter, it must have been gradually removed along with the
products of the alteration of the glycerine. As butter
is still made without salt in some parts of Ireland, it is
probable that it was sometimes similarly prepared in ancient
times. The terms t-Saland, applied to salted meat and butter,
show that the method of curing provisions with salt was practised
at a comparatively early period in Ireland. The Privileges of the lower
grades of Bo Aire, as regards maintenance when wounded, absence from home attending
absence from home attending their Flath, etc., as given in the Crith Gablach, show that
the use of meat and butter was not universal. Thus the Oc
Aire, when on visitation to persons of his own rank, was
not entitled to butter; and only on stated days when on
Folach. An Aire Desa or Flath was, however, entitled
to butter at every meal in his own territory, while an Aire
Ard was not only entitled to butter at every meal for himself, but also for his Foleithe, that is, the suitors of his Court  Leet. A wounded person on Foluch, of whatever rank, appears
to have been entitled to butter only on stated days. This legal
provision was, no doubt, adopted to prevent a defendant from
being ruined by the expense of the maintenance of a complainant who was wounded. Curds was a favourite article of  food of the ancient Irish. It was made both from skimmed
milk, and Binnit, or rennet was used in its preparation. The
curds of fresh new milk was not unlike our modern cream
cheese. cheese. True cheese was also made, and seems to have formed
an important element in the food of the wealthier armers, specimens
of it from early Christian times have been found in
bogs impressed with a cross. From a passage in the tale of
the " Navigation of Maelduin's Curach, it would seem that
even different kinds of cheese were prepared, and especially a
rich kind from beestings milk.
Judging by the description of the " Champion's Share"
of Bricrius house, and other passages in Irish manuscripts, the
rearing and fattening of oxen and pigs for food was well understood
 by the ancient Irish. Beef naturally took the first place
 among the flesh meats : veal, lamb, mutton, and goat's flesh were
also eaten. Mutton was boiled, and the water in which it was
cooked constituted the basis of the Bruth or broth already
mentioned, which was so freely served out to strangers off the
road, that the word became almost synonymous with hospitality.
Part of the beef was eaten fresh, but a larger part was
cured with salt. The cattle intended for curing were fattened
in autumn, and then driven in from the Boulaglis on the approach of
winter and slaughtered. The carcass was cut up,
salted, and hung up to dry on hooks  in the smoky air of the
kitchen. Flesh-meat of all kinds was called Saill, or when
salted, Saillti, or Saill t-salnd, the Sialfaeti of the Norse. Fresh
pork was considered a great delicacy, as is evident from the
curious poem in which Midir promises Befind a banquet of
fresh pork, new milk, and ale." Young sucking pigs were
roasted and were especially esteemed. Like the beef, the
pork was first salted in a Caire, or meat vessel, which
was usually kept in the Cull Tech, or store-house, or in
some recess used for the purpose, or when there was no special
store-house in any convenient place. It was left to season for
some weeks, and then hung up in the smoke. The meat of a
Muc Forais, or house-fed pig, appears, however, to have been
specially smoke-dried in the smoke of green wood, such as
beech, ash, and white thorn. The general name for bacon was
Tini, but smoke-cured hams and flitches were called Tineiccas.
This is almost identical in form with the Gallo-Roman word
Taniaccae or Tanacae, used by Varro for hams imported from
Transalpine Gaul into Rome and other parts of Italy. 
Puddings prepared from the blood of pigs also formed  an
article of export from Gaul to Italy, as we learn from Varro,
Puddings of the same kind were also made by the Irish. The
Mucriucht, or Caelana, Tona, bottom, or belly pudding, appears
to have been a black pudding of this kind, into which a
little tansy (Tanucetum vulgare) and onions, salt, etc., were introduced
as seasoning. Moroga was another term for puddings,
and, perhaps, included those prepared with liver. Saussages
were also made of different kinds of flesh. The word Tarsun
appears to have included regular saussages and seasoned mincemeats
of all kinds, and melted lard, and in this way was sometimes
applied to seasoned fowl and other birds. The name
Drisechan caorach, or as it is called in Cork, Drisheen, given
to a kind of pudding made of sheep's blood, seems to be a corruption
of the Irish Tarsun; the pudding itself probably affords
an example of one of the ancient Irish puddings. The Cisalpine
Gallo-Roman Tuceta mentioned by Persius and other
Latin writers is perhaps a Latinized form of the Gaulish representative
of the Irish Tarsun.
 The Irish Aìre class were expert hunters, and trained several
kinds of hunting dogs, among which the wolf dog attained to
even a foreign reputation, and was much sought after. The
wild boar, the red deer, and other game must have also contributed
to the supply of animal food. I do not know whether
in early times the Irish, like the Britons, avoided eating the
hare, the goose, and the common domestic fowl. The curious
legend of Einglan, king of the birds, and Mesbuachala, the
mother of Conaire Mor, king of Eriu, shows that although birds
were killed as game, there must have been a tradition that at
some earlier period they were considered sacred. In many
of the transformations recorded in Irish legends, birds appear
to have been the favourite forms into which the personages of 
 the story were changed. Fish seems to have formed an important
article of the food of the ancient Irish. Tales and
poems are full of references to rivers abounding in fish ; and
we have distinct mention of the use of the commoner kinds of
fresh-water fish in the life of St. Brigit, and the ancient life of
St Patrick, known as the Tripartite Life. The salmon was
considered food for kings and nobles; king Cormac Mac Airt
is said to have been choked by a bone of one which he swallowed.
The ancient Britons  are also said to have had a prejudice
against eating fish, but I do not know whether in very
ancient times this was shared by the Irish. But whatever

use the Irish may have made of game, fish, etc., the chief part Erin rich in
of their animal food was obtained from their cattle ; and
there can be little doubt that Caesar's observations regarding
the Britons, that they possessed " pecoris magnus nu-
rnerus might be equally well applied to the Irish.
The chief intoxicating drink of the ancient Irish, as of all
northern European peoples, was beer, which was called in old
Irish Cuirm, genitive Chorma, as in the Crith Gablach, where
we are told that the Brnghfer has always two vats in his
house—Ian Ais ocus Ian Chorma,—a vat of new milk and a vat
of beer. The Irish genitive is almost identical with ..... The name
the form of the word in Athenaeus, as amended by Casaubon. kno«m to
As Athenaeus quotes Posidonios, we may look upon the Greek
Korma as a pre-Christian, and, no doubt, genitive form of the
Celtic name of beer, corresponding to the Irish Chorma.
Dioscorides has the form .......The banqueting hall of
the Rig Tuatha, in which the Sabaid or councillors sat, was
called the Citirmtech or Ale house, which corresponded to a
certain extent to the Tech Midchuarda of the Ard Righ
Erind. In the fragment of the ancient tale of Tocmarc Emere,
or Courtship of Emer by Cuchulaind, preserved in the vellum
manuscript Lebor na h-Uidhri, beer is called ol n-guala. The
passage is as follows: "One time as the Ultonians were with
Conchabar in Emain Macha drinking in the Iernguali, one
hundred Brotha of ale used to be put into it for each evening.
This was the ol n-guala, which used to test the Ultonians, all
sitting on the one bank"  The " one bank" here spoken of is evidently the long bank
near the fire, which was called by the Norse the Brugge. In

the words  ol n-guala the ol is evidently the same as the Old
Norse ol, Anglo-Saxon Ealu, modern English Ale. Ol and
Cuirm were probably synonymous, the former being perhaps
a borrowed name Possibly ol was a simple fermented, slightly
sour decoction of malt, as it is said to have been in England
before the introduction of hops, and that the wort of the Cuirm
was boiled with some bitter aromatic herbs.
The second part of the name has been explained in different ways.
According to one gloss, the word Guala is the genitive
case of Gual, that is, coal,—ól n-Guala, or "ale of the
coal ", and was so called because the wort was boiled over a
charcoal fire :and Conchabar Mac Nessa and his warriors sat
around the fire and quaffed their ale.  Another gloss derived
the name from the pot itself; and a third from the son of the
first owner of the boiler. It must have been a difficult task
in those early times to procure a boiler sufficiently large to
make the ale necessary to regale the household of a king.
Even the Norse gods were on one occasion in the unhappy
plight of not having enough of ale, and to prevent so great a
misfortune in future, it is mentioned that Thor carried off the
 giant Hymir's big boiler Conchabar Mac Nessa also went on an
expedition the secret motive of which may have been a great bronze boiler which a petty chieftain named Gerg possessed. He succeeded in carrying off the pot and killing Gercf himself.  Conchabar had a celebrated brewing vat, the proportions of

which befitted his wort-boiler. This brewing-vat was called
Daradach because it was made of oak, that is, of oak staves
bound by great hoops. The vat, or Dabach, appears to have
been always placed in the principal hall, which was hence
called the ale house or Cuinn Tech. The ale was doubtless
drunk fresh from the vat as in the old breweries of Germany.
The word Lin is sometimes used for ale, but it is rather a
general term for liquor than a special name for beer. Barley beer,
appears to have been the grain chiefly used for preparing the
malt for beer in Ireland, though there is reason to believe that
spelt wheat was also cultivated in Ireland, and also used for the
same purpose. As oats was the corn crop most usually grown,
it also must have been frequently used for malting, at least in
the more mountainous districts not adapted for barley. The Malt.
Irish name of malt was Brack, genitive Braich, or Bracha, corresponding
to the Welsh and Cornish Brag, whence Welsh
Bragaud, Old English Bragot, modern English Bracket, a kind
of sweetened ale. These words contain the same root as
the Anglo-Saxon Breovan, Gothic Briggvan, Old Norse
Brugga, Old High German Bracvan, whence modern German
Brauen, English Brew. As in other northern countries,
beer at first consisted of a simple fermented infusion of the
malt. Before the introduction of hops, attempts were made used.
to flavour the beer with aromatic and bitter astringent
plants — oak bark, it is said, among other things, having
been employed for this purpose. The Cimbri used the
Tamarix Germanica, the old Scandinavians the fruit of
the sweet gale, Myrica gale, the Cauchi the Iruit and twigs of
the chaste tree, Vitex agnus castus. In Iceland, where hops
do not grow, the yarrow, Achillea millefolium, was used for
this purpose, and was even called Valhumall, or field hops.

Even as late as the last century, the yarrow was still used
for giving a bitter flavour to beer in a district of Sweden65'
From the large quantities of the pressed and exhausted leaves
and stems of the marsh plant, the buck-bean, Menyanthes
trifoliata, which have been found in the neighbourhood of some
Raths, that plant was probably used in Ireland at an early
period to flavour beer. That some plant was used by the
 ancient Irish to flavour beer, there can be no doubt. In a
 curious legendary life of prince Cano, son of Gartnan, and
Ireland. grand-nephew of the celebrated Oedan Mac Gabhrain, king of
the Gaedhelic kingdom of Scotland, to escape whose hostility
Cano fled into Ireland, there is a poem in praise of the various
celebrated ales of Ircland. We have no means of fixing the

exact date at which the poem was composed. According to
Tighernachi Cano was killed A.D. 687, and the manuscript in
which the poem is found was compiled about the year 1390.
That the compiler of the manuscript was not the author of the
poem is certain ; and judging by the language, and by the general
character of the contents of the book, the poem in its present
form belongs to a period anterior to the twelfth century, and
the original materials out of which the tale was worked up, to a
period three or four centuries earlier. We may safely assume that
in the twelfth century at least, there were many places in Ireland
which enjoyed the reputation of making good ales, some, if
not all, of which were red, or " red like wine". Most of those
places have long since ceased to brew beer, but Caatlebelling-
ham still maintains the reputation of the ales of Muirthemne,
and until within the last few years beer of some local reputation
was brewed in Bray, which may have been the seat of the original breweries of Cualawi, or of one of them. Among the ales mentioned in the poem is " the Saxon ale of bitterness".
which deserves some attention, because it proves that England
had begun to make bitter beer at a much earlier period than is
usually supposed. Was the " ale of bitterness" flavoured with
hops? and if not, what was the flavouring plant? These are
questions which the poem of Cano Mac Gartnain does not help
us to solve, but it certainly suggests a doubt as to the correctness
of the date, 1524, assigned by Beckmann, Houghton,
Anderson, and indeed most wiiters on the subject, as that of
the introduction of hops into England.  The ancient Gauls and Germans, as Weinhold tells us,
mixed honey with the wort from which they brewed their beer.
The ancient Irish also mixed honey with their Cuirm, or ale,
and with other drinks included under the term Lin ; but I.
cannot say whether it was before or after the fermentation. If
added before, it would make the beer stronger and more intoxicating
 The brewing of beer appears to have been the privilege of
 Flaths. The Fer Fothlai, or wealthy middleman who had
Ceiles to whom he gave cattle, received his rent in corn, " for
he is not entitled to malt until he is a Flath". The Brughfer
must have had the privilege of brewing, in virtue of his
functions as public hospitaller, as he was bound to have a vat
of ale always ready for the refreshment of a Rig, a bishop, a
poet, a judge, or other person, and their respective suites entitled »
mi in to public entertainment. In Germany also the brewing of beer
 appears to have been in the middle ages a privilege of the

nobility, and in some parts this privilege came down to
comparatively modern times.
Another drink of the ancient Irish, which was only second
in importance to, though perhaps considered a nobler drink
than, Cuirm or beer, was Mede, or metheglin, the Metu of the
Germans, the Medu or Meodu of the Anglo-Saxons, and the
Mjoor (?) of the Norwegians. The great banqueting hall of
Tara was called the Tech Mid ckuarda, or " mead circling
house". The great attention paid to the culture of bees, as is
proved by the numerous laws and legal decisions concerning
them which have come down to us, and the large quantities
of honey supplied as rents and tributes to the Kings and
other Flaths, show that mead was a general and favourite
drink of the ancient Irish; for although, as we have seen
from the account of the " champion's share " of Bricrius
house, honey was sometimes used in the making of sweet
cakes, there can be little doubt that the greater part of the
honey produced in ancient times was fermented into mead.
This drink is perhaps older than beer ; but, so far as I know, not
there is no evidence that at any time in Ireland it was the
exclusive intoxicating drink of the Irish, or that it was
generally used as beer. As in the older songs of the Edda
from the Niebelungen Saga, so in all the older Irish poems and
tales, the heroes drink beer. Metheglin was probably made by
the ancient Irish by simply dissolving honey in water, as the
Romans did, but in medieval times aromatic plants seem to
have been added, as in France,and perhaps in Germany also.
The brewing of mctheglin in the south of Ireland came down to
within my own memory, but is, I believe, now extinct there.
It was as much esteemed in Ireland as wine, and was considered
as the especial drink of women.

 The ancient Irish also made a kind of cider called Nenadmim 
 from the wild or crab apple—numbers of apple-trees  being planted in hedge-rows and greatly prized. A drink
bearing the same name is mentioned as being made from
the "woodberry", probably the Vaccinum myrtillus, and
uliginosum, called in Irish Fraocháin, or Fraoclioga, and commonly
called " Frochans",popularly known in Cork and in
the west of England as Whorts. This liquor seems to have
been the same as that known in later times as " bogberry wine."
The name Bear Lochlanach, or " Norse beer", or more popularly "
Danish beer", given to it, shows that the Norsemen,
like the modern Icelanders, made a similar drink. According
to Herr Weinhold, a berry wine or acid drink is also still made
beer" of - Heather in the German Alps in Carinthia. The " heather beer"
 which the Danes arc supposed to have made from the common heath, is a myth.
 The only way in which heath could be used for making beer would be as a substitute for hops, but
even for this use of it there is no evidence whatever.


-Source: On the Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish, O'Curry, Eugene, 1873
To return to the top of this page click here

.To return to the main food and drink page click here