Dublin Coddle

by Kristin on February 28, 2013

In Ireland, people don’t say How are you?, they say, What’s the story? They say, Sit down. Have a cup of tea. Come here to me, wait till I tell you. Because people want to hear the story. There’s always a story.

Ireland is a country in love with language, with words, with writing. The Long Hall in Trinity College, built in the 1700s, is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. Before the euro, there was even a writer, James Joyce, on the £10 note. In his visit to Dublin last year for his Layover TV show, Anthony Bourdain said, ‘It seems that every great poem, every great story, every great thing ever written not by a Russian was written by an Irishman. Point is, they like books around here.’

Then there’s the slang. When I moved here, not only did I have to work hard to understand the accent, but Irish slang is like a language all its own. Fourteen years later, I’m still learning. Go away out of that. I’m as sick as the plane to Lourdes. The head on him and the price of turnips. Sure this is it. I still sometimes get that panicked, apologetic smile when I haven’t quite caught someone’s meaning or the lilt of their accent and have to lean in closer while I ask them to repeat themselves.

Roddy Doyle said, ‘Dublin is the sound of people talking. Dublin city is the sound of people who love talking, people who love words, who love taking words and playing with them, twisting and bending them, making short ones longer and the long ones shorter, people who love inventing words and giving fresh meaning to old ones.’

Take this, the capital’s namesake dish: Dublin coddle. When I asked some Irish friends if anyone actually ever eats it, a born and bred Dub compared the boiled sausages you’d commonly find in it to ‘widows’ memories’ (I’ll leave that one to your imagination). It was said to be a favourite dish of Jonathan Swift and Seán O’Casey, two more wordsmiths, and James Joyce referred to it in Finnegan’s Wake (‘to cuddle up in a coddlepot’). The name of the dish itself comes from the verb coddle, which means to gently cook in liquid just below boiling, which itself comes from the word caudle, a hot drink given to the sick in the Middle Ages.

Can an expat – a blow-in no matter how long you live here, no matter how firmly you try to put your roots down since they don’t go deep – ever really know a place? The way I finally hit on was through the lens of Ireland’s food. I may not have grown up eating Dublin coddle or soda bread or seed cake, but I’m learning to love them now. I’m still trying to make this place mine, one new dish, one new word at a time: barmbrack, boxty, colcannon, coddle.

‘If you’ve got any kind of a heart, a soul, an appreciation for your fellow man, or any kind of appreciation for the written word … then there’s no way you could avoid loving this city,’ said Anthony Bourdain. Beneath its tough, gritty, ‘dirty old town’ veneer, Dublin is all heart. And the city — this country — now has mine. Come here to me and wait till I tell you.

Dublin Coddle

Serves 4

Traditionally, Dublin coddle is made simply by throwing all the ingredients into a pot and cooking them together for hours. The result, though, isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing, or the tastiest: ‘slimy onions and slimy sausages’, as someone put it on Twitter. Even Darina Allen says in her book Irish Traditional Cooking that when cooked that way, it looks ‘distinctly unappetising (lots of chopped parsley scattered over the top would take the harm out of the sausages, which still appear to be raw)’. Like any good soup, the key to this dish is to spend a bit of time at the start by browning the sausages and onions, though apparently this step is a bit controversial. ‘The sausages are supposed to be pink and raw looking. Sorts the men from the boys,’ said Séan. ‘You browned the sausages? I heard only Protestants do that!’ said Claire. And of course, since there are so few ingredients, use the best sausages, the best bacon and the best produce you can find for some pure Dub comfort food.

olive oil or rapeseed oil
450 g (1 lb) good-quality butcher’s sausages
200 g smoked streaky bacon or rashers, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 onions, sliced
450 g (1 lb) baby potatoes, halved
500 ml (2 cups) chicken stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a small bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
good crusty bread, to serve

Heat a splash of olive or rapeseed oil in the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed pot over a medium heat. Add in the sausages and cook on all sides just until they have a nice colour. Transfer them to a plate, then add the bacon and sliced onions to the pot. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the onions have softened and have a little colour. Add in the halved baby potatoes and transfer the sausages back to the pot, then pour over the stock. Season with some salt and pepper, but go easy on the salt because the sausages, bacon and stock will already be salty. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pot and simmer for 1 hour, until the potatoes are cooked through. Stir through the chopped fresh parsley and ladle into soup bowls. Serve with plenty of crusty bread to soak up the broth.

If you don’t want to make Dublin coddle yourself, you can find it on the menu at these Dublin restaurants: The Gravediggers pub (aka John Kavanagh’s) in Glasnevin, Gallagher’s Boxty House in Temple Bar or The Bakehouse on Bachelor’s Walk or in the IFSC.

 

 

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Adrienne February 28, 2013 at 12:05 pm

My favourite Irish saying is ‘He’d eat an apple through a letterbox’ said about a person with large teeth. I haven’t tried coddle since I was a child and I begged my mother not to make it again because of the ‘raw’ looking sausages. I really want to try it again now and make it for my husband, who’s also an expat and still getting to grips with the Irish slang. He didn’t even know what a slice pan was when he moved here!

Reply

Kristin March 1, 2013 at 1:02 pm

*whispers* I didn’t know what a sliced pan was either! Or batch loaf, or doorstep sandwiches, or any of the other things you call bread. Back home, bread is just bread.

Reply

Edna February 28, 2013 at 1:12 pm

I love this post. I love the way you wrote this — especially that first line, ” Because people want to hear the story. There’s always a story.” That video also reminded me of the time I had an Irish boyfriend and it took me weeks to figure out “C’mere to me” and “Your wan over there” (‘my one? I don’t know that man’) and for ages after I would say deadly, savage, and grand (all in an Irish accent). I’ve known for years that one day I will live in Ireland, and this only makes me want to get there faster so I can soak in all those words and accent and slang. Thanks, Kristin.

Reply

Kristin March 1, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Yes, it’s all “yer wan” and “yer man”! I’ll say “deadly” now and then, but I just can’t bring myself to say “grand:. My husband though, who is also American, picks up all the slang. I draw the line though when he says “ye” – it’s just too wrong for a Michigan boy to be saying “ye”!

Reply

Sharon Ní Chonchúir February 28, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Kristin,
This is a beautifully written post that captures one of the more positive sides of the Irish character.
I love the slang video although I’m still not convinced about coddle. I’m sure browning the sausages and onions helps a lot though. :)

Reply

Kristin March 1, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Thanks, Sharon! You’ve got to give the coddle a try. The trick is all in the browning. It really is delicious, I promise!

Reply

brenda February 28, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Hi Kristin, I am Irish expat in Boston who dearly misses the story ! On a recent visit to Dublin I loved sitting up front in the taxi, chatting with the drivers….the greatest storytellers of all ! Sometimes I forget myself and something rolls off the tongue that makes everyone stop talking …I said ‘get it in ta’ ya’ Cynthia’ the other day in front of my children’s friends and they howled with laughter !

Reply

Kristin March 1, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Hi Brenda, I follow your blog too, delighted that you stopped by here! The Dublin taxi drivers are legendary. The only American slang my Irish kids seem to have picked up, Yank accent and all, is “Oh, man!” I guess I say it a lot and don’t even realise it.

Reply

la domestique February 28, 2013 at 4:11 pm

The husband and I are moving to Ireland in three weeks and I’m so excited plus a bit nervous. He was born and raised there, so I’ve picked up a few Irish-isms. One of my favorites is his way of saying, “Ahh go on go on go on go on.” The words all run together. :) The Dublin Coddle looks comforting and satisfying.

Reply

Kristin March 1, 2013 at 1:09 pm

What a great time of year to be moving to Ireland, at the start of spring – one of the prettiest times of year here. The “aw go on go on go on” is classic – you can even buy a poster of it! http://www.ilovemayo.com/# Good luck with your move!

Reply

la domestique March 2, 2013 at 4:22 am

I showed the husband that poster and we had a good laugh- how funny! Thanks for the well-wishes regarding our move!

Reply

elizabeth holder February 28, 2013 at 8:25 pm

Kristin – It’s been a week since Hubby and I and our 3 kitties landed – and I intend to make this place “my own” – even though there are huge differences between here and the US – I think I will settle in just fine – by the way I loved Anthony Bourdain’s Layover episode on Dublin too!!

Reply

Kristin March 1, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Elizabeth, great to hear from you again – you made it! Hope you’re settling in well and enjoying the sunny days.

Reply

elizabeth holder March 4, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Thanks Kristin
trying to settle in and figure this all out –
and converting irish measurements to my american measuring cups!! ;)

Reply

Kristin March 4, 2013 at 8:51 pm

I’ve been living here for 14 years and I still need to double check oven temperatures when converting from Fahrenheit to Celsius! Have you got a scale yet? It’s a must for your Irish kitchen.

Reply

Elizabeth holder March 5, 2013 at 10:17 pm

No Kristen I hadn’t thought of a scale but guess I will pick one up this weekend – oh and I never realized the extent of the varieties of Irish potatoes!

Alison February 28, 2013 at 8:29 pm

Very well written, you captured the essence of Dublin/Ireland beautifully. I am less convinced about the coddle though!

Reply

Kristin March 1, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Thanks, Alison! Do try the coddle though. The secret is all in the browning. If you like sausages, I promise you’ll like this.

Reply

Liana February 28, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Such a beautiful text, well done you! ;)

Reply

Kristin March 1, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Thanks so much, Liana!

Reply

Aoife @ The Daily Spud March 1, 2013 at 1:04 am

C’mere to me now ’til I tell ya… You don’t have to come from very far away to get that blow-in feeling. I’ve lived in Dublin for half my life, know parts of it very well and others, it seems, not at all – and I only come from the next county over! When all’s said & done, I’m still a culchie (which is really code for ‘not from Dublin’) – I had never, for example, heard “I’m as sick as the plane to Lourdes” until now and as for coddle, nope, I’ve never had that either…

Reply

Kristin March 1, 2013 at 1:16 pm

I’m just waiting now for an excuse to say “I’m as sick as the plane to Lourdes”. I didn’t know the Luas had been nicknamed the Daniel Day either, but I’m not surprised – I know just about everything has a nickname in Dublin. Actually, I have to admit that a lot of the slang in that video was new to me! I love it though.

Reply

Caitriona March 1, 2013 at 7:54 am

There you are now. Sure isn’t it grand for ya to be making such a loverly bit a’ coddle. I’ve never seen it looking so good!
I’m a Dub born & bred, and all of the sayings are making me really smile. Hubby cannot stand coddle for some mad reason as he is a fan of boiled sausages. I have to say coddle made with bratwurst (the heresy of the idea) works very well if you’re trying again.

Reply

Kristin March 1, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Bratwurst is really popular where I grew up, I will definitely give that a try next time! My kind of fusion food. ;)

Reply

Colette March 1, 2013 at 1:49 pm

I’m a first generation Dubliner, but it was never eaten in our family! Unless you ate it as a child, it would take an awful lot of convincing for me to even try it. Nonetheless yours, Kristin, looks very appetising :)

Reply

Kristin March 4, 2013 at 8:50 pm

I’ve been so surprised at how resistant people are to the idea of coddle – sausages, rashers, spuds, what’s not to like? (Though after searching for photos of Dublin coddle on the web, I can clearly see why the dish puts people off!) It’s been a great conversation starter!

Reply

Caroline@Bibliocook March 6, 2013 at 2:53 pm

You had me at “widow’s memories” – my computer was nearly christened with a mouthful of coffee as I exploded with laughter. Despite living in Dublin for 10 years, I never tasted coddle but you make it look and sound rather appetising.

Reply

Kristin March 6, 2013 at 3:15 pm

You have Rosanne to thank for that particular description! ;)

Reply

Cheryl March 17, 2013 at 6:50 pm

I love this description of Ireland. Before I visited I asked people what they liked, they all said, “the pubs”, I thought, ” I don’t like bars, this may be my worst trip.” But it was my best and I would love to live there. Why? Because the pub is just shorthand for the story, the love of people and poetry that permeates Ireland, but especially Dublin. Thank you for describing this so well. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Reply

Kristin March 17, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Absolutely. In a good Irish pub, conversation will be the most important thing. Add in a roaring turf fire, a nice drink and a great atmosphere, and what more could you want? Happy St Patrick’s Day to you too!

Reply

Caoilfhionn September 14, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Lovely blog. I’m 8th gen Dublin living in UK so grew up on the stuff. But I don’t brown them but do through a tin a Campbell’s chicken soup on top for flavour. My kids love it. I served it to my UK mates daughter and she refused to eat it. After a time of watching us scoff it down she gave in a tried a bit. Ended up clearing three bowlfuls.

Reply

Kristin September 15, 2013 at 10:17 am

I know it’s not traditional to brown the sausages, but I can’t resist doing it just to give them a bit of colour. I don’t know why so many people turn their noses up at this dish – what’s not to love about sausages, bacon, spuds and a bit of stock?

Reply

Catherine October 20, 2013 at 8:54 am

My Nan was a Dub and coddle was a staple in our home, I used to love walking down the drive on a cold day and realising from the smell that coddle was on the menu… My heart would sing with joy. I’m in my thirtys now and no nanny to make coddle for me anymore but the minute the weather turns to autum I get out the big pot and make coddle for everyone I know…. All my Non-Irish friends devour it… And I don’t brown my sausages!! Mind, mine will never be as good or as comforting as my Nan’s.

Reply

Paul Byrne November 20, 2013 at 2:06 am

Hi all, Im of Irish decent and was born and raised in the UK. I was born of two Dublin parents who brought us up with traditional Irish recepies including the Dublin Coddle. I remember the dish from my youth and haven’t had it for years but I use to love it. My mum is now nearly 78 years old and I will be asking her to cook it again the way she did in the 70′s and 80′s for me again. It was a cheep meal in my days as a kid but Ive grown up to remember that it wasn’t easy back then to feed a family of 6. Good on the ole Irish dishes.

Reply

Tara March 5, 2014 at 2:20 am

This was wonderful! So delicious with just a handful of ingredients.

Reply

Ann April 8, 2014 at 9:50 am

Kirstin, as a Dub through and through Coddle was for us a traditional breakfast..yes breakfast!! The reason for this and, for the lack of browning of the sausages was that most of Dubliners lived in tenement houses with only an open fire to cook. As a result of this, most Dublin people lived on boiled stuff…no fancy ovens. My Granda was a painter and most people of trades had coddle to sustain them from the cold and it was a great filler along with a slice of whatever bread you had, and the best bread was from St Catherines Bakery on Thomas Court where you queued up for crusty turnovers or batch loafs. Alas gone, but still lovely bakers around to get the traditional stuff and gur cake to help you stodge up for the day…

Reply

Kristin April 9, 2014 at 10:02 am

That is fascinating – I could never understand why the sausages weren’t browned first, and now I know why. Thank you so much for sharing that, Ann!

Reply

Kristin March 6, 2013 at 11:48 am

I felt like I was earning my citizenship when I started to go out of my way to go to the local farm shop to get Maris Piper potatoes when the supermarket doesn’t have them in stock, which is often, because I think they make the best mash potatoes!

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: