Keeping it real

Potatoes, lamb among authentic Irish foods

Potatoes, lamb among authentic Irish foods

March 11, 2009|By JULIE E. GREENE

It might seem anti-Irish, but for many Americans the corned beef they will eat on Tuesday in celebration of St. Patrick's Day might have originated in Texas.

And the cabbage might have come from California or New York, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service.

But the real punch line is that corned beef and cabbage isn't a traditional Irish meal. It has become a traditional Irish-American meal to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

Father Doug Kenney, at St. Ann's Catholic Church in Hagerstown, said he asked about corned beef during his trips to Ireland. Tour guides told him that corned beef was more of an American dish; residents of Ireland were more likely to dine on stew containing lamb or steak.


Tri-State-area residents who visited Ireland said menus often consisted of dishes with fish, potatoes or lamb.

"It was potatoes, potatoes and more potatoes," Kenney said.

Billy McGarity, 17, of Hagerstown, said he saw no corned beef and cabbage when he visited Ireland about four years ago.

According to The History Channel's Web site, poor Irish immigrants in America would buy the cheap cut of beef (the brisket) and brine it. A more traditional Irish meal would be Irish stew, featuring lamb or mutton.

"I saw lamb chops and lamb stew on every menu," Billy McGarity wrote to The Herald-Mail.

"Irish stew is very much like beef stew except they use lamb," said Hagerstown resident Rita Mahoney, who has visited Ireland twice.

McGarity's aunt, Mary McGarity-Lee of Waynesboro, Pa., said lamb is more readily available in Ireland than beef because much of the grazing land is used for sheep.

Irish menus had an abundance of seafood as, being an island, Ireland has plenty of access to the sea. Billy McGarity said popular dishes include fish and chips, a British dish of fried or baked fish and french fries (called "chips" by the British) served with vinegar.

"Potatoes were served for every meal - potato bread or fried potatoes with eggs for breakfast, potato salad or french fries for lunch and boiled potatoes for supper. I saw potatoes with leeks, potatoes with parsley and potatoes of every kind every day," McGarity wrote.

Soups also are popular in Ireland, where they are often thick and puréed, Mahoney said.

Leitersburg resident Judith Niedzielski said she didn't see a lot of seafood nor as much lamb as she expected to during a trip to Ireland in 2007.

But flavorful puréed soups and breads, often dark breads made with whole grains, were served with every lunch and dinner, Niedzielski said.

Niedzielski also enjoyed flavorful one-pot stews and honest-to-goodness Irish coffee. In Ireland, Niedzielski said, coffee is sipped through a layer of unhomogenized cream, which floats. In the States, cream is homogenized and mixes right in with the coffee.

And, of course, Ireland has a McDonald's, Billy McGarity said.

But that's an immigrant from America.

Irish lamb stew

2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 3/4 pounds white potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 large leeks, whites only, halved, washed and thinly sliced
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup packed fresh parsley leaves, chopped

In a 6-quart slow cooker, combine the lamb, potatoes, leeks, carrots, celery, broth, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir well. Cover the slow cooker, then cook on low until the lamb is fork-tender, about 7 to 8 hours. Stir in the parsley just before serving.

Serves 8.

Nutrition information per serving: 266 calories; 7 g fat (2 g saturated); 65 mg cholesterol; 27 g carbohydrates; 23 g protein; 4 g fiber; 427 mg sodium.

- "EatingWell Comfort Foods Made Healthy," The Countryman Press, 2009


3 to 4 small turnips (size of medium potatoes)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon butter
Dash of pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt, optional

Wash the turnips and quarter them. Peel each slice, then cut into smaller slices. The thinner the slices, the quicker they cook and the more tender they become.

Put the turnips and salt in a saucepan with about 1 quart of water. Boil rapidly uncovered for 15 minutes, then reduce heat and cover. Simmer until tender, another 15 minutes or so. Allow most of the water to boil off, but watch carefully so the turnips don't scorch.

If serving as a vegetable, you can thicken the remaining broth. You'll want to add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 1/4 cup of cold water per cup of turnip broth.

In a separate bowl, whip water and cornstarch. Then whip the cornstarch mixture into the turnip broth, as if making a gravy.

Add butter, pepper, sugar and, if desired, salt, and serve.

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