Irish cooking is based on meat, potatoes and vegetables, such as onions and cabbage. Potatoes are particularly important in the Irish diet. They are used to make chips, potato bread, boxty (a type of potato pancake), colcannon (mash potatoes with kale or scallions), and poitín (an alcoholic drink made from distilled potatoes).

The Irish enjoy pork, ham and bacon dishes, including black pudding and white pudding. Black pudding is made with pork, pork blood, cereals and seasoning; white pudding is similar, but without the blood. Mutton and lamb are also popular and are cooked with potatoes, onions and other vegetables to make struisín gaelach (Irish stew). Fish and seafood are abundant, including a miniature lobster known as a Dublin Bay prawn. The Irish produce excellent dairy products, including butter, buttermilk, cottage cheese, Irish cheddar and ring cheese.

The Irish have also developed unique baked goods because, in earlier centuries, the sale of yeast was banned to prevent the illegal production of whiskey. People needed another method to make bread rise, so they used soda. Soda bread is normally round, with a cross cut into the top. Barm brack is made with yeast drawn from fermenting milk.

The Irish drink tea at any time of day. They also enjoy stout, a strongly flavoured beer made from malt barley, yeast, water and hops. Guinness is one of the best-known beers of this type. Cider is made with apples, fermented in oak vats, and is served cold. Irish whiskeys and Irish liquors are highly regarded throughout the world. Uisce beatha is the Irish term for whiskey. It means "water of life."

The Irish day traditionally begins with a filling breakfast, such as eggs and bacon. The main meal of the day is served at noon and may feature a hearty soup or stew. Supper is served early in the evening and is generally lighter than the midday meal. The Irish traditionally end their day with a light snack and a cup of tea before bedtime.

   Did you know?
In 1845, before the Potato Famine, more than a third of the population relied almost exclusively on potatoes for food. The average worker ate up to 6 kilograms of potatoes a day. Even today, the Irish eat more potatoes per capita than the people of any other European country.
   Irish Stew

1.5 kg trimmed mutton neck chops
2 tbsp oil
4 medium onions
4 medium carrots (optional)
250 ml stock
4 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 tbsp chopped chives (optional)
1 tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste


Sauté the chops in the oil until browned. Cut the onions and carrots into quarters, add to the meat and cook until the onions are translucent. Add the stock and simmer gently for about 1 hour. Add the potatoes and simmer for another hour. About 15 minutes before serving, add the herbs, salt and pepper.