An emphasis on local ingredients and farm-to-fork cooking define the Emerald Isle’s cuisine. From succulent shellfish and free-roaming lamb to freshly picked vegetables—not to mention the celebrated Guinness stout—Irish delicacies enliven every meal at Ashford Castle and The Lodge at Ashford Castle. Here we look at Ireland’s most stand-out local ingredients—many of which feature on the castle’s menus—and the best places to source them.
The plumpest oysters and mussels
Shellfish is revered throughout Ireland. Served simply with local herbs and a squeeze of lemon, its fresh sea-salted flavour speaks for itself. Blue mussels are an island favourite, smaller but juicier than other varieties. We source ours from the low-lying valleys of Killary Fjord. Here on the coast, the confluence of cold, fresh river streams and harbour saltwater develops a unique, sweeter taste in grown mussels.
Most famous of Irish shellfish are oysters, which come into season in September. The native west coast variety, Ostrea edulis, is the island’s showstopper. Plump and succulent, these oysters are rich with natural minerals and iron. To enjoy, add only a dash of mignonette and allow the natural tastes to sing. Our supplier, Dooncastle Oysters, nurtures theirs sustainably in small batches in wild Connemara, adding to the native species’ unique palate.
Locally smoked salmon
Smoked salmon has a long legacy as an Irish delicacy. Cold smoking is preferred in the Emerald Isle. Local Atlantic salmon is expertly cured and perfumed with oak burned gently at low temperatures to ensure the fish’s subtle flavour is preserved. The cold smoke lingers for longer on the salmon, contributing to a rich, deep flavour more in tune with its natural taste. Our choice smokehouse, Burren, has been perfecting the cold-smoking process, combining aged oak with organic salmon and nothing else, for 30 years.
The juiciest cuts
Few lamb cuts are as rich or as tender as those of Co. Mayo’s Blackface sheep. The breed came to Ireland in the 19th century and has since adapted to the mist-swept heather hills and seaweed-strewn coast of west Ireland. Our supplier, Calvey’s Achill Mountain Lamb, has been rearing its free-roaming flock for generations. Our recipes pair the meat with subtle seasoning and purées to allow the lamb’s peerless quality to speak for itself.
Only in preparing the iconic Irish Stew do we immerse our cuts. This signature dish became a staple following the introduction of potatoes from the New World in the 16th century. Available at The Dungeon, Blackface lamb neck is combined with potatoes, onions and local botanicals, and slowly simmered with pearl barley to create a rich broth ideal for raw winter days.
Freshly picked vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are Irish delicacies that feature prominently across several local recipes. Benefiting greatly from west Ireland’s rainswept peaty soil, these greens are filled with minerals from the rich earth and grow quickly in the downpours. Cauliflower in particular enjoys pride of place, especially in Irish cauliflower soup. Our recipe caramelises the vegetable and combines it with mushrooms, onions and local herbs for a finished bouillon as warming as it is light. Enjoy our unique recipe in the George V Dining Room.
Tuck into a range of Irish delicacies, from extraordinary local ingredients to cherished age-old recipes, across Ashford Castle’s collection of historic restaurants.