Eating My Vegetarian Way Around Ireland –
Irish food always raises visions of Irish stew with lamb, beef and Guinness stew, corned beef and cabbage, blood pudding, breakfast sausages, and, of course, potatoes. As a vegetarian, what would I eat other than potatoes and soggy vegetables? As a precaution, I packed a bag of energy and protein bars. I returned with it unopened.
I had nothing to worry about as a vegetarian touring Ireland. As popular as vegetarianism is here in Canada now, it is equally popular in Ireland. And vegetarians love to eat out!
The baking was fabulous and tearooms abound. A particular one I enjoyed was the quirky Queen of Tarts in Dublin which served up delicious and decadent baking, scones, homemade organic soups, sandwiches on fresh bread, and, obviously, tarts. Tarts are both the dessert kind familiar to me, but also a quiche – in my case with roast vegetables and sharp cheese, with a side salad of rocket (arugula), beetroot (as it is called elsewhere), and crumbled sheep’s cheese.
Potatoes did figure large in my Irish vegetarian diet. Rather than just have them boiled or as fried “chips”, I enjoyed two national Irish side dishes featuring potatoes. Colcannon is mashed potatoes mixed with kale, leeks, and garlic. Champ is mashed potatoes combined with spring onions, butter, milk, and cheese. Both are deliciously tasty.
Ireland is in the midst of a local food re-birth. At a local country inn, they explained that the butter was churned just at the next farm, the cheese was made down the lane, most vegetables were grown either in their own garden or a neighbouring farm, and the lamb (for the non-vegetarian travelling with me) was from the flock on a nearby hill. It is popular to have cooking days at Irish restaurants, where the local markets, butchers, dairies, and gardens are visited first to gather the supplies that guests cook with the chef. All seemed to offer a vegetarian option.
The salads and vegetable dishes were fresh and inventive – not the boiled until limp veggies I was dreading.
I thought pubs would be tough but there was always a soup, Guinness bread, and salad option, in addition to several vegetarian options – always marked with a V. Burger joints had veggie burger options that were delicious, too. Like everywhere else in Europe, there were curry houses, Chinese restaurants, and pasta options at most restaurants to cater to those who don’t want meat in their meal.
Take it from me, with all the delicious fresh baking, local cheeses, and excellent vegetable dishes, you won’t go hungry as a vegetarian in Ireland.