"No, not so much," said Clodagh Mckenna, chef, restaurant owner, and cookbook author, when I asked if corned beef and cabbage are eaten on St. Patrick's Day in Ireland. "Slow-cooked beef stews or lamb stews are probably the most popular, served with colcannon, which is butter mashed potatoes with cabbage folded through, it's real Irish soul food." McKenna who grew up in Cork and now calls Dublin home, admitted she's never had green beer but would give it a try.
While St. Patrick's Day celebrations take place around the world, the festivities in Ireland tend to center around family. As a holy day, it's a day of obligation and many people begin March 17, by going to mass. After which there are of course parades, but overall it's a day spent with family and friends, cooking and enjoying big meals.
Besides the stews, other popular dishes take advantage of Ireland's culinary traditions and use seasonal ingredients. Spring lamb comes into season around St. Patrick's Day and roasts, such as a leg of lamb with rosemary, are popular as are pies. Think fish pies made with cod or haddock, shepherd's pie (meat with a potato crust) or one of McKenna's favorites Guinness and Beef Pie and chocolate butter pastry pies.
Speaking of Guinness, many Irish will have one or maybe two during the day, and maybe a whiskey or a few. And then there is soda bread, the classic Irish version doesn't include the raisins or caraway seeds that often make their way into American recipes. McKenna's favorite soda bread uses yogurt and milk giving the bread a crumbly texture. It's still formed in the traditional round with a cross cut in the center—to keep the fairies out.