From the Sea

Ireland, as a country, has always offered an abundance of seafood and shellfish. At one stage seafood and shellfish was a common commodity but now on restaurant menus and supermarket shelves all over the country it is presented as a luxury.

The diet of the Vikings in medieval Dublin in the 10th and 12th centuries, as identified in archaeological excavations around that time, consisted of large amounts of seafood and shellfish.

Ireland was, and to some extent, a country with strong religious values and at one stage meat was not eaten on a Friday and in some homes this continues to the present day and fish is the main staple on that day. During Lent also, fish was a popular choice and where possible, would have been eaten twice or three times a week.

Traditional foodstuffs


In Ireland for a long number of years salmon was regarded as the king of fish. Popular Irish folklore will tell the story of the great Irish Poet, Finegas who having caught the ‘salmon of knowledge’ asked his servant Fionn to cook the salmon, without tasting it so that Finegas would inherit the salmons knowledge. Being obedient Fionn began his task. Whilst cooking the salmon he pressed it with his finger to access whether or not it was cooked and burned his finger so he placed his finger in his mouth and therefore was the first to taste the salmon and therefore gained the knowledge. Finegas was disappointed but knew that Fionn would be well respected as a great warrior among the Fianna.

Cooking methods

Seas around Ireland were always a rich source of food for people and this food was and is at its best when it is cooked simply. Fish is best cooked when it is very fresh and many fishermen would normally be caught and cooked on an open fire.

It was always simply cooked, usually cooked in a little butter on a hot pan and then a little seasoning and some lemon juice.

Smoked fish is another popular commodity in Ireland and there were different methods of smoking the fish. Fish was often dry salted or smoked with oak chips for a long number of hours to achieve the desired consistency.   Fish was often poached and used in dishes like fish cakes, fish pie or fish stew (chowder) to stretch the fish to feed large families.


Regional variations

Certain areas and regions of the country are well known for their different types of seafood and shellfish. Costal Harbour villages such as Ballyhack & Passage East near my home in Co. Wexford rely heavily on both fishing and fish production for their living and much business around these areas are fish related in some way or another. Moving up to Galway, the Galway international oyster festival is in its 57th year and is a festival that was originally started to celebrate the Oysters coming into season in September and has grown both nationally and internationally since then promoting Irish seafood and shellfish.

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