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Top Irish chef selects 5 Foods Paddys can't Live without

By niallharbison

December 20, 2016 at 12:10am


This, I'm sure, will cause much debate. At least I hope it will. I imagine there will be two or three items on my list that will make the list of most others' but I'm sure there will be some of you out there that have other ideas.

When Caroline threw the topic at me it got me thinking and it got great banter out of Netty (my wee wife). If I was to compile this list during my days living in Boston it would have comprised of 1. Mc Daid's Football Special. A gorgeous soda made in my home town of Ramelton in Co. Donegal. 2. Birdseye Potato Waffles. I can't begin to tell you how much I missed Birdseye Potato Waffles whilst living in the States. 3. Bread that didn't taste of sugar. The yanks have annoying traits, none more so than their love of putting bloody sugar in everything. I've a sweet tooth but sweet toast is bollocks. 4. Tayto Crisps. Need I explain. 5. Proper Cheese. Nowhere in the world does cheese quite like Ireland.

That brings me to the proper list and it's a fairly decent line up. One or two caused great debate here at home, others were a shoe in.


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Impossible to leave these bad boys out. Most will agree that a diet without potatoes doesn't bear thinking about. Mashed, baked, chipped, fried, roasted you name it there's a dish for you. Incredibly versatile and an Irish staple all day long.

I love them best... Twice Baked with Horseradish, Scallion & Sprinkled with Pepper

2 - Beef

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Arguably our biggest most important export. Irish grass fed Beef is loved the the world over. From fillet, sirloin, rump & brisket to skirt, feather blade & cheeks there's a cut to suit most budgets. A Sunday Lunch menu without Beef would equal an empty restaurant. A must! Look for well aged meat with plenty of marbling.

I love it best... Salt Fried Sirloin Steak with Red Onion Mustard Seed Compote & Crozier Bleu Gratin

3 - Bacon

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Everyone loves bacon. The smell wafting through any kitchen would make you hungry. It's right up there with the addictive smell of chip shops after 5-10 pints. Impossible to resist. The americans love the streaky bacon as crispy as possible whereas the Irish prefer the loin slice. For an even more addictive slice, opt for smoked. I used Whiskey Oak Smoked Chippings in Viewmount House to get the flavour I love best.

I love it... Pan fried with a little char over a boxy cake with spinach, soft poached egg and hollandaise. An Irish take on Eggs Benedict.

4 - Eggs

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This was the first one that caused debate at home. We toyed with Bread and guinness and I thought I'd incorporate the guinness into a guinness bread as I didn't want to make this post about alcohol. Then the more I thought about it the more I didn't like the idea of bread. I'm not that keen on bread and as the years go by less and less people are actually eating it so i'm going back to my original choice of eggs. Netty has said no way but she wasn't the one asked to write the list so Eggs it is.

I love them best... boiled with fine sea salt. nothing else. For the perfect half hard/half soft boiled eggs. cover with warm water, add salt and once you see it start to boil time it for 3 minutes exactly. Remove from the heat and pour cold water over them to stop the cooking process. this way the second or third egg will have the same consistency as the first. bust open and enjoy.

5 - Tea

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I actually hate tea. I hate the smell of it and the taste. The only time I ever drank tea was in my Granny Josie's house as she let me put in 10 spoons of sugar. The rest of my family are obsessed and if I stopped Netty drinking Tea she'd develop serial killer tendencies within two days. I imagine in 10 years time that this choice will change to coffee. As the years have gone by the Irish people have become more and more obsessed with coffee and with the emergence of some incredible coffee shops throughout the country its consumption will only grow. When I moved to the states in '99 coffee shops were few and far between whereas now they are everywhere. Like restaurants though some are better than others and most people have their favourites.

I love it... Used to infuse my cooking liquor for Tea & Orange Poached Duck Breast & Leg. Use 10 flavoured Tea bags to 3 litres of water. Place a duck breast and leg flesh down on top of one another. Season. Roll up in a roulade with cling film and tie. Poach in the flavoured tea and orange stock. After one and a half hours remove, take of the cling film, coat with honey and bake at 180C until crispy. Approx 10 minutes. Delicious.

So those are mine. What I'd really love to hear is what 5 foods you couldn't live without?


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