Dublin Coddle for a Cozy St. Patrick’s Night

It isn’t just corned beef and cabbage for St.Paddy’s Day, anymore. And even though an awful lot of traditional Irish cooking leans heavily on spuds, onions or leeks, and oats in various states—ground, rolled, cut—pork, ham, and sausage also graced the tables of the Auld Sod.

According to Theodora Fitzgibbon who authored one of my favorite books on Irish food traditions, A Taste of Ireland, this gentle little stew of ham or bacon and sausages with potato and onion was a Saturday night favorite; and, she reported, it dates to the 1700s and probably used oats and leeks before the potatoes and onions replaced them. Since St. Patrick’s Day occurs on a Saturday this year, you could amaze yourself and anyone else who eats with you by offering Dublin Coddle instead of c, b, and c. Ms. Fitzgibbon says to serve it with soda bread and stout or Guinness.

You can prepare this on the stove or in the oven. I presume it was “coddle” because it was covered and simmered slowly, with the goal of cooking the potatoes through without turning them into mush. The flavor of the coddle depends on the quality of the ham and sausage you use. Traditional Irish (and English) sausages usually contain breadcrumbs which gives them a very different texture from American sausages but you’ll want to use whatever is easily available. Thyme, marjoram, and black pepper commonly season sausage, so you can enhance the flavor by adding those to the coddle if your sausages are a little plain. A good smoky ham is just the ticket. Lacking ham, you can use a thick cut bacon, and a good quality, smoky one is best.

The onions in this recipe are not just for the flavor but are part of the substance of the dish. The potatoes round it out and turn the coddle into comfort food. I like more vegetables with my dinner, so added roasted carrots and rutabagas on the side, and we had salad, too. We were a little low on Guinness and stout (and besides I don’t like either one), but beer is the ticket, and I decided to make soda bread, too, because why not?

In order to coddle the mixture, it helps to cover the ingredients with a piece of parchment paper before you put a lid on the saucepan or casserole for simmering on the top of the stove or baking at a low temperature.

Dublin Coddle
Serves: 4-6
  • 8 small slices of ham cut in chunks, or ¼ inch thick bacon
  • 8 pork sausages
  • 4 cups of boiling water
  • 4 large onions sliced
  • 2 pounds of potato, peeled and sliced thickly, ½ inch
  • Salt and pepper
  • Thyme and marjoram, optional
  1. Put the ham and sausages into a large bowl and pour the boiling hot water over them and let it sit for about five minutes.
  2. Remove the meats and put them into a heavy sauce pan or baking dish, reserving the soaking liquid.
  3. Put the sliced onions and potatoes on top of the meat, add salt and pepper and the thyme and marjoram, if used.
  4. Add enough of the soaking liquid to come half-way up the meat and potatoes.
  5. Put a lid on the saucepan or casserole dish. If you cook it on the stove top, simmer at a very low temperature, or put it into the oven at 200 degrees for about an hour or until the potatoes are tender but not mushy.
  6. Serve with mustard.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.