1. Armagh Bramley Apples
What is it? The Armagh Bramley apple is a cooking apple, and so is naturally bitter in flavour. This tangy taste makes it a very important culinary apple, as it keeps its flavour and texture when cooked.
What’s the story? Hailing from the Orchard County – so-called due to its long history of apple-growing – the Bramley Apple has PGI status, meaning it’s recognised as being unique to a specific geographical region. In fact, St Patrick is said to have planted a number of apple trees in Ireland, including one at Ceangoba, a settlement close to where Armagh is now situated. William of Orange is also said to have quenched the thirst of his troops with Armagh cider on his way to the Battle of the Boyne.
Where to try it? Take aim for the Embers Coffee House and Grill Bar on Market Street in Armagh city, for a taste of its Traditional Deep Dish Apple Pie; or take a tipple of Armagh Cider’s finest Carsons Crisp and Maddens Mellow.
2. Dublin coddle
What is it? Made to use up leftovers, there’s no specific recipe. However, it usually contains layers of roughly sliced sausages and bacon, with chunky potatoes, sliced onion, salt, pepper and herbs. You can add a drop of Guinness in for good measure, too.
What’s the story? Native to Dublin, coddle dates back to the 1700s when families would use up any leftover meat on a Thursday, as they couldn’t eat meat on Fridays. Author Jonathan Swift loved it, and James Joyce made many references to it in his work.
Where to try it? The Hairy Lemon is recommended by James Fenton from LovinDublin: “the recipe was an original from the grandmother of one of the staff who developed it in Sheriff Street and Finglas, accounting for the true authenticity of it.” And The Gravediggers’ chef, Ciarán Kavanagh, has featured on numerous travel shows with his coddle recipe.
3. Connemara Hill Lamb
What is it? This is extra special lamb that boasts a taste, quality and flavour unique to the fresh herbs, heathers and grasses of Connemara.
What’s the story? Raised on the hills of Connemara since the 1800s, the Connemara Black-faced Horned Ewe matures at a slower rate, resulting in meat that is succulent and flavoursome – and definitely one to order off the menu. Such is its unique flavour, it’s even been designated with European Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) Status! So no imitations allowed.
Where to try it? Clifden, the capital of Connemara is a good place to start. Try the racks of lamb in the Ardagh Restaurant or Rosleague Manor Hotel.
4. Northern Ireland’s soda farl
What is it? A soda farl is a soda bread that is soft and dense, and is best eaten still warm with an Ulster Fry or butter and jam.
What’s the story? The word ‘farl’ is derived from the Gaelic ‘fardel’, meaning ‘four parts’. – it's made in large circles and then cut into fours. Soda farls use a soft wheat instead of yeast, as this grew best in Ireland’s climate. When mixed like a traditional dough it doesn’t form any gluten, making it unique, and they’re typically cooked by frying in a pan.
Where to try it? You’ve got to try it as part of a delicious Ulster Fry at George’s Of the Market in St George’s Market, Belfast.
5. Waterford blaa
What is it? A blaa is a doughy white bread bun that has a slightly sweet, malt flavour, which is light but firm in texture.
What’s the story? Native to County Waterford, blaas have also got PGI status. They’re said to have been made from leftover pieces of French-style bread, which had been introduced by the French Huguenots who'd arrived in Waterford in the 1700s. In 1802, the founder of the Christian Brothers began making it for the kids attending his school on Barrack Street. From then on, the blaa became a staple part of the city’s culinary story and is now made in Waterford’s four old-style bakeries.
Where to try it? The Granary Café on Waterford’s Hanover Street serves up a delicious bacon and relish blaa, while No 9 Café’s BBQ pulled pork and ham, mustard, pickles and melted cheddar in a blaa has been called ‘epic’ by visitors.
6. The Irish coffee – an original from Foynes, County Limerick
What is it? Ah, the Irish coffee – hot coffee, Irish whiskey and golden sugar, stirred and topped with thick cream.
What’s the story? Creative ownership goes to chef Joe Sheridan, who worked at Foynes Airport in County Limerick. In 1942, he saw a group of American passengers shivering while they waited for their plane to depart. Sheridan added a drop of whiskey to the coffee he served and, when asked if it was a Brazilian coffee, Sheridan told them, “no, that’s Irish coffee”. And the Irish Coffee was born.
Where to try it? It’s got to be the Foynes Irish Coffee Centre at Foynes Flying Boat and Maritime Museum, where it all began!