Comfort Me with Potatoes: Four Deeply Personal Recipes from Irish Cooks

published Mar 15, 2022
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recipes of Irish potato inspired dishes on a purple linen surface
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

For pure, delicious comfort food it’s hard to beat potatoes. The humble vegetable is inexpensive, widely available, and with very little effort can be turned into something soul-satisfying and infinitely customizable.

Beyond their tastiness, potatoes are practically Proustian. Chances are good that you have a spud-specific memory lodged in your mind that can instantly transport you to a specific place in time. Maybe it’s your grandmother’s silky mashed potatoes or Bubbe’s shatteringly crispy latkes. Or perhaps a loaded baked potato will always be tied to that first freedom of being able to go to the mall with your friends and have lunch at the food court. My point? Potatoes are personal.

And nobody knows this better than the Irish. The vegetable has been an important part of Irish food culture for centuries, with classic dishes like boxty potato pancakes and colcannon (a mix of mashed potatoes and cabbage) stretching back many generations, with every family having their way of making the dish. But those classic dishes are just the beginning. There are so many more deeply personal potato recipes to explore. With that in mind — and with St. Patrick’s Day upon us — we reached out to four cooks with Irish ties and asked them to share a potato recipe that spoke to them. What we got were four delicious recipes — and the equally comforting stories behind the dishes, too.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

The cook: Darina Allen, legendary Irish cook, cookbook author, and founder of Ballymaloe Cookery School in County Cork
The dish: Potato and Caraway Seed Cakes
The story: Darina based these butter-sizzled potato cakes on a passage from a classic Irish book of short stories. They were an instant hit and she’s been making them (and sharing the recipe) at her cooking school for the past 25 years.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

The cook: Donal Skehan, Food writer, cookbook author, and TV host based in Howth, Ireland
The dish: Irish Cheddar Potato Rolls
The story:These soft, pillowy rolls get their tenderness from the mashed potatoes in the dough and their inspiration from Theodora FitzGibbon, the great Irish food writer who left a lasting legacy on Irish home cooking as a columnist for the Irish Times.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

The cook: Ivy Manning, Irish American food writer and cookbook author based in Portland, Oregon
The dish: Twice-Baked Colcannon Potatoes
The story: Ivy started with her grandmother’s colcannon recipe, then made it her own by turning the potato-and-cabbage classic into its own hearty baked potato meal.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

The cook: Tara Holland, recipe editor, recipe developer, and frequent Kitchn contributor who grew up in London with an English mother and an Irish father
The dish: Turkey and Ham Cottage Pie
The story: Tara channeled her childhood summers in Ireland in this one-pan dish that combines two of her favorite classic Irish meals.

Try some of these recipes for your St. Patrick’s Day dinner, but don’t be surprised if they become part of your regular recipe rotation.