Perhaps potatoes are most associated with Ireland due to the long history they share. Though the potato wasn’t native to Ireland, it became a staple in the Irish diet due to the large crops it produced. Families were sustained by the highly nutritional value that the abundant potato offered and it became a staple in Irish cuisine.
Origins Of The Irish Potato
Thanks to the vitamins and minerals that the potato provided to the Irish people, families grew healthier, infant mortality rates went down, and life expectancy rates went up when the potato was king. In fact, the Irish population nearly doubled in size from the late 1700s to the mid-1800s.
The great Potato Famine was a turning point in Ireland. Potato crops failed for 3 years in a row, causing a population drop of 25% due to the illnesses associated with famine. Many who were healthy enough to leave Ireland went in search of a better life in America and other parts of the continent. Their many uses for the potato came with them, and their potato-based meals were introduced to America and the rest of the world wherever Irish people settled.
A Hearty Addition To Any Meal
With the early abundance of potatoes available throughout Ireland, they were added to every meal in one shape or form. Some of the most popular Irish dishes involving potatoes include:
• Boxty (similar to a potato pancake)
• Champ (mashed potatoes with scallions)
• Coddle (pork, bacon, onion, and potatoes)
• Colcannon (mashed potatoes and cabbage)
• Cottage pie (similar to Sheppard’s pie)
• Irish Stew (stew with lamb or mutton, vegetables, and potatoes)
• Potato Leek Soup
Since large families were very common in Ireland, soups and stews were the ideal meal to serve. Irish soups are known to be thick, hearty, and filling with plenty of potatoes included. With scallions and leeks also producing abundant crops, they were added to many soups and potato dishes as a delicious complement.
Potato Leek Soup
Though potato leek soup originated in Ireland during the booming potato years, it can be found in both British and French cuisine. The French version is served cold as Vichyssoise, but nothing beats a warm bowl of traditional Irish potato leek soup. Served as thick and rich as it was in Ireland many years ago, it’s a way to find comfort after a long day. When the soul needs comfort, and the body needs to be nourished, traditional Irish soups and stews will always do the trick.