With its bountiful agricultural land and nurturing climate, it comes as no surprise that Ireland has a rich history in producing quality food and drink. It is renowned for the reputation of its local food producers, with many using techniques and recipes handed down through generations. In recent years, there has been a reviving of forgotten crafts, such as brewing cider and making cheese, which has complemented the traditional butchers, who often work closely with local farmers, and independent bakeries, offering speciality bread and sticky cakes, which still flourish in most towns and villages. Ireland is also home to fabulous restaurants, who take advantage of locally farmed meats, seafood from our celebrated coastline, and quality vegetables from the island, creating traditional classics, often with a modern twist. Ireland’s culinary heritage has roots in the staple diet of generations of farming families; bread and potatoes.
Characterised by filling, full-flavoured dishes using extremely fresh vegetables, fish and meats. It is closely related to Mediterranean cuisine but is completely understated when compared to the culinary delights of its near neighbours like France, Italy and Spain. None the less it is just as exciting as the more well-known dishes from these countries. The influence of Portugal’s former colonial possessions is also notable, especially in the wide variety of spices used. These spices include Piri Piri (small, fiery chilli peppers) and black pepper, as well as cinnamon, vanilla and saffron. Olive oil is one of the bases of Portuguese cuisine both for cooking and flavouring meals. Garlic is widely used, as are herbs such as coriander and parsley. Breakfast is traditionally just coffee or milk and a bread roll with butter, jam, cheese or ham. Lunch, often lasting over an hour is served between noon and 2 o’clock or between 1 and 3 o’clock, and dinner is generally served late, around or after 8 o’clock. There are three main courses, lunch and dinner usually include soup. A common soup is Caldo Verde with potato, shredded kale, and chunks of chouriço sausage. Among fish recipes, bacalhau (cod) dishes are pervasive. The most typical desserts are rice pudding (decorated with cinnamon) and caramel custard, but they also often include a variety of cheeses. The most common varieties are made from sheep or goat’s milk and include the Queijo da Serra from the region of Serra da Estrela. A popular pastry is the pastel de nata, a small custard tart sprinkled with cinnamon.
History of Bacalhau:
Bacalhau (Salt cod) has been produced for at least 500 years, since the time of the European discoveries of the New World. Before refrigeration, there was a need to preserve the codfish; drying and salting are ancient techniques to preserve nutrients and the process makes the codfish tastier.
The Portuguese tried to use this method of drying and salting on several varieties of fish from their waters, but the ideal fish came from much further north. With the “discovery” of Newfoundland in 1497, long before the Basque whalers arrived in Channel-Port aux Basques, they started fishing its cod-rich Grand Banks. Thus, Bacalhau became a staple of the Portuguese cuisine, nicknamed Fiel Amigo (faithful friend). From the 18th century, the town of Kristiansund in Norway also became an important place of purchasing bacalhau or Klippfisk (literally “cliff fish”, since the fish was dried on stone cliffs by the sea, to begin with.) Since the method was introduced by the Dutchman Jappe Ippes in about 1690, the town had produced Klippfisk and when the Portuguese merchants arrived, it became a big industry. The Bacalhau dish is sometimes said to originate from Kristiansund, where it was introduced by the Portuguese fish buyers and became very popular.
Bacalhau was a common everyday food in north-west Norway even to this day, as it was cheap to make. In later years it became more expensive and it is now eaten more at special occasions. It was also popular in Portugal and other Roman Catholic countries, because of the many days (Fridays, Lent, and other festivals) on which the Church forbade the eating of meat Bacalhau dishes were eaten instead. There are said to be 365 Portuguese Bacalhau recipes, one for every day of the year.