St Patrick’s Day is on 17th March, but the big parade is taking place in London on Sunday, 15th March this year. Floats and processions will find their way from Hyde Park Corner, down Piccadilly and Haymarket, and finally to Trafalgar Square. There, you’ll be able to enjoy the talents of Irish singers, dancers, and other performers on the stage, including food demonstrations from International Chef of the Year 2019, Anna Haugh. Family-friendly activities include arts and crafts, and of course, there will be a street food market to fill your stomach with boxty and barmbrack.
For a less crowded party, head to The Clapham Grand pub, which will feature Irish cover bands, live DJs, Irish dancing, and food stalls selling nostalgic fare. Alternatively, Borough Market will host 14 guest traders from 18th-21st March to showcase Northern Ireland’s best produce (not Ireland, but close – geographically).
What to try
The potato pancakes of Ireland are a real filler, especially if they are eaten with bacon and eggs, or smoked salmon and crème fraîche. Raw potatoes are grated and mixed with mash potato and then prepared in one of three ways: boxty on the pan (adding to a pancake-like batter before frying), boxty dumplings (mixing with flour and salt and boiling before slicing and frying in butter), or boxty in the oven (adding to a pancake-like batter before baking in a loaf tin and then slicing and frying).
A real comfort food, colcannon really reflects the history of Ireland as a nation that once relied on potatoes for sustenance. Mashed potatoes are mixed with cabbage or kale and butter or cream and then flavoured with spring onion. You’ll find it as a side dish on the menu of an Irish restaurant, but it’s also wonderfully easy to make at home.
Slow-cooked Irish stew is pure nostalgia for most Irish people who grew up with it. Traditionally, it would be made with mutton, onions, and potatoes, but these days the mutton is replaced with lamb, which is easier to come by. Stock and herbs such as thyme, bay leaves, and parsley add depth of flavour, while barley, carrots or a knob of roux are added to make sure the one-pot dish isn’t too watery. In the often still-cold March days, it’s the winter warmer.
Our personal favourite, barmbrack is a fruity tea loaf served smothered in butter with a cup of tea. We love the Halloween tradition that includes a charm in your slice which foretells the future: a ring for getting married within the next year, a pea for the opposite, a rag foreshadowing bad luck, a coin bringing wealth, and a stick predicting quarrels.
Soda bread is a variety of quick bread made using baking soda as a leavening agent instead of yeast. Buttermilk is another key ingredient, while raisins can be added to make it sweeter. The bread is a staple in Irish cuisine, with many families guarding their own recipe. Other additions to the bread might include seeds, oats, and even Guinness.