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Sustainable Irish Cuisine - The humble roots of the new Irish Kitchen

Food Cultures
Oct 17
2 mins

Ireland is a very different country to the one it was in 1852 - the final year of the Potato Famine.

Independence, wars and modern technology have all changed the culture of the country, but when it comes to the Irish kitchen, you can still feel the old ghosts of the 'Great Famine'.

During the 20th century, imported ingredients and foreign styles of cooking were preferred over classic Irish staples and local produce, because they were still tinged with the air of famine.

But over the past 40 years, Irish chefs and farmers have started to rethink the unconscious biases that grew out of the Potato blight, where British disinterest and over-reliance on a single crop led to a million deaths.

Today, Irish food producers are embracing the diversity and seasonality of what they can grow on their doorstep - Ireland's nickname 'the Natural Larder' now seeming a far cry from where the country was 170 years ago.

Chefs are sourcing from local suppliers, foraging for their own ingredients and using an ever growing menu of native grains, vegetables, meats and seafood.

One such chef is Enda McEvoy who is putting sustainability at the core of his Michelin-starred restaurant Loam in Galway city. The name Loam means ‘rich, fertile soil’ and is the inspiration for the restaurant's seasonally driven menu and they make a point to work closely with local farmers and producers to capture the character of the west of Ireland.

It has taken a long time, but Ireland's relationship with the food of the land has changed for good, thanks to the efforts of chefs who saw the beauty of what was available to them.

Throughout the Rassa course our chefs have sourced their ingredients from their local community. For example, Daniel Hannigan's Braised Pork Cheeks were sourced from JJ Young & Sons - a third generation butcher selling fresh, high quality meats. Alison Tierney in her rabbit dish uses potatoes from The Spud Shack, a corrugated iron shop created at the Ballymakenny Farm to keep selling their heirloom potatoes during the Covid pandemic.

Irish cuisine is reclaiming the earth that once brought the island to its knees - and while the Potato Famine will remain ingrained in the memory of the country, modern Ireland is experiencing a renaissance of local sustainable cooking unshackled from its culinary history.

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