Author takes heft out of high-calorie traditional dishes

Anyone who loves the traditional food of Ireland won’t want to pass up a stick-to-the-ribs Irish stew, corned beef and cabbage or the famous soda bread with the X on the top.


And you don’t have to be Irish to participate in St. Patrick’s Day. Fortunately, the food associated with the flavourful feast is also substantial at a time of year when comfort and warmth are still appreciated in most parts of Canada.


But this food can also be high in calories and fat.


“You kind of get the sense when you talk to people who have had Irish food that there is a lot of fat floating around,” says home economist and cookbook author Emily Richards, who has been a groundbreaker in renovating high-fat and calorie recipes so that the centuries-old tradition isn’t lost but the heft is.


The Guelph, Ont., woman took on the challenge of slimming down some of Ireland’s most loved dishes.

“I looked at different Irish recipes that don’t contain specific amounts,” Richards says. “The Dublin Coddle was a great example.”

A coddle is a rich economical stew very popular in Dublin that is typically made by putting sausage in a pot with water and onions and bringing it to a boil.

“You are expecting all the fat to come from the meat, which is very flavourful and that’s what creates the stew,” she adds.

“Then you have carrots and potatoes, which gives you that other nutrient background, but there was no flavouring of herbs, which I think we can rely on for seasoning enhancement more than the fat.”

So instead of higher-fat meats, Richards replaces sausage and pork bacon with chicken or turkey sausage and bacon.

Darina Allen, who owns the world-renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School in County Cork, Ireland, and who has a passion for preserving the traditions of Irish cooking, writes this about the dish in her cookbook, Irish Traditional Cooking:

”For years I was intrigued by Dublin Coddle. It sounded utterly revolting and when I attempted to make it from the recipes I could find, it looked and tasted revolting, too.”

Allen adds that every time she travelled to Dublin she would sound out a taxi driver about coddle.

“Most of them grew instantly nostalgic. Some talked of sneaking home to ‘the Mammy’s’ for a feed of coddle. So there’s no question that traditional Dublin coddle is alive and well and still being made on a regular basis in Dublin.”

In her research, Richards says, ”You see a lot of onions, potatoes, carrots and leeks throughout Irish cooking and they are all very flavourful. But there is also a lot of higher-fat meat.”

So she started looking at meat that is much leaner and found that turkey and chicken are fairly equivalent to pork in terms of fat.

”And we are seeing people leaning to chicken and turkey and now there are those options like turkey sausage and bacon, which are low in fat and have got that necessary smokiness that is easier to substitute.”

In a dish calling for lamb, a staple of Ireland, Richards prefers to use tougher cuts like shoulder and shank.

”Shoulder is more flavourful and I like the texture after it has been cooked in the slow cooker,” she says. ”The less expensive cuts of meat have more flavour and they go the distance.”

Dublin Coddle

Time: 60 min, Serves 4 to 6

In many homes in Ireland, it is recommended that steak sauce be served alongside lots of stout ale and biscuits to sop up the juices. You can substitute hard apple cider for the apple cider, if desired, for an added punch of flavour.


  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) canola oil

  • 6 slices turkey or chicken bacon

  • 500 g (1 lb) turkey or chicken sausages (about 6 sausages)

  • 2 large onions, coarsely chopped

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 ml (1/2 tsp) dried thyme or savory

  • 750 g (1 1/2 lb) potatoes, peeled and cubed

  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut in chunks

  • 500 ml (2 cups) water

  • 375 ml (1 1/2 cups) apple cider

  • 2 ml (1/2 tsp) freshly ground black pepper

  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) chopped fresh parsley


  1. In a large shallow Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat and cook bacon for about 2 minutes, turning once or until browned. Remove to a plate. Brown sausages on all sides and remove to plate.

  2. Add onions, garlic and thyme to Dutch oven and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes or until golden.

  3. Add potatoes, carrots, sausages and bacon and stir to coat. Add water, cider and pepper; bring to a boil.

  4. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes or until potatoes are very tender and sausage is not pink inside. Stir in parsley and serve.

Slow Cooker Lamb with Leeks and Potatoes

Makes 8 servings


  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) all-purpose flour

  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) minced fresh parsley

  • 5 ml (1 tsp) dried thyme

  • 1 ml (1/4 tsp) each salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 45 ml (3 tbsp) canola oil

  • 8 lean lamb shoulder chops (about 1.5 kg/3 lb total)

  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced

  • 1 large onion, chopped

  • 1 kg (2 lb) potatoes, peeled and cubed

  • 3 carrots, cut in chunks

  • 1 can (540 ml/19 oz) stewed tomatoes

  • 250 ml (1 cup) beef stock

  • 250 ml (1 cup) Irish lager, such as Harp's, or Guinness stout


  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) all-purpose flour

  • 45 ml (3 tbsp) water


  1. In a shallow dish, combine flour, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper. Trim any visible fat from chops and dredge in flour mixture. Reserve any remaining flour mixture.

  2. Heat 30 ml (2 tbsp) of the oil in a non-stick skillet, brown lamb chops on both sides and place in slow cooker stoneware. Add remaining oil to skillet and return to medium heat. Cook leeks and onion for about 5 minutes or until browned. Scrape into slow cooker.

  3. Add potatoes, carrots and tomatoes to slow cooker. Pour stock and beer over; cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or until lamb and potatoes are very tender.


  • Using a slotted spoon, remove lamb and vegetables to a large serving dish and keep warm. In a small bowl, whisk together flour and water and stir into remaining juices in slow cooker. Turn slow cooker up to high and cook for about 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Pour over lamb and vegetables and serve.

Match with Irish Guinness or Harp's lager.