The more and more we learn about food, the more we realise that Irish food done well is completely amazing. When we plan our weekly menus, we look to dishes that have been in our families for generations rather than meals that use ingredients that are out of season and loaded with food miles. We want real ingredients, cooked simply – without the additions of hydrogenated fats or preservatives we can’t pronounce. Deeply flavoured, and brimming with love the hallmarks of our Granny’s cooking methods stand as true today as they did fifty years ago.
Old-fashioned food is generous and plentiful, but it is not made from expensive cuts of meat. The flavourful note in every meal prepared by our Grandparents was that of slow, confident cooking. They used budget cuts, always in season. They had a relationship with their butcher that allowed them to plan menus weeks in advance, so as to take advantage of the freshest meat on offer. The cornerstone of frugality in the kitchen is that of thoughtful planning that minimises waste; all to benefit the pocket of the whole family.
Use Real Ingredients
Our Grannies did not have access to the over-processed glut of food that we do today. They shopped seasonally and sensibly, relying on the foods that were available to her in her locality. Often this meant growing her own herbs and even keeping a chicken or two for a constant supply of eggs. Masters at creativity, our Grandmothers often would not have had access to all ingredients in a recipe, so they learned to substitute for cheaper, more available produce with ease.
Keep It Simple
Allow the ingredients to shine for themselves. Dress fresh vegetables with a sliver of Irish butter and a sprinkling of salt. Mellow meat in stews rich with beef stock and thyme. Soups, stews and casseroles are great examples of old fashioned cooking, because they use root veg, grains and rough cuts of meat to their highest good.
Cook From Scratch
Where possible, don’t take the shortcut. When making pastry, make double or triple and freeze in batches. For healthy meals in the working week, freeze tv dinners for the family, label and defrost on the morning you want to eat them. It is cheaper and healthier, and minimises food waste.
Repeat Your Successes
Our Grannies did not have an endless repertoire of dinners to pull from. To take a leaf from her book, allow your family to look forward to Pasta Wednesdays or know that Friday is Pizza Night. There is no harm in a repetitive menu, as long as it is healthy and vegetable-filled.