Prehistoric Celts lived off the land, catching fish and mammals in the forests that once covered much of Ireland. They made mead, an alcoholic drink, by fermenting honey. When domestic cultivation developed, Irish people kept cows and grew crops such as oats. Potatoes were later introduced from the Americas and by the 19th century were the staple of poorer Irish people, who could grow a plentiful crop on a small plot of land.

Traditional Irish food incorporated meat such as ham and beef that was roasted or stewed for dinner. Accompaniments were potatoes, either plain or in recipes like colcannon, which is mashed potatoes with boiled cabbage or kale. Other vegetables such as peas and carrots are common additions to a family dinner.

Pop into any café, restaurant or pub and you’ll still see traditional Irish dishes on the menu, from a side of rich, treacly (molasses) soda bread to indulgently buttery crab claws, to fashionable bacon and cabbage. Tradition is alive and well throughout the island, and in a world where food trends are becoming homogeneous, it’s good to know that you can kick back and taste Ireland’s authenticity without any effort at all.

Irish cooking is still centered largely on the potato which is used as an ingredient in stews, such as Irish stew, or made into breads or cakes, like boxy and fadge. Soda bread is the great Irish bread, traditionally baked in a covered iron pot over an open fire. While meat was fairly hard to come by in harder times, lamb, beef and pork often find their way onto the Irish table nowadays. Blood, or black, puddings continue an ancient art. Salmon, trout and lobster are also enjoyed. Dublin Bay prawns are famous. Dairy products figure large at the table. Buttermilk, cheeses are butter are taken alone, with a piece of bread or used as ingredients in dishes.

Commonly used vegetables include carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, cabbage, kale scallions and onions. Oats are used in breads and as a breakfast porridge. Barley often stretches stews, and split peas make for a tasty soup. Irish beer, particularly Guinness and Harp, are world famous. Irish pubs are now found in most major cities of the world, spreading the cheer. Irish whiskey has a similar far-flung reputation. It is known to be sweeter and clearer than its smoky Scottish cousin.