Recently, I finally decided to try the famous Limerick dish called Packet and Tripe. I could not avoid the signs selling it in the windows of the many family owned butcher shops that occupy the city centre. This great presence of family owned butchers reflects the city’s past as a hub of the meat industry (that was dominated by bacon curing which gave forth to the well known Limerick Ham).
It has been called a working class dish but having spoken to a wide range of people, its mere mention gave the same mouth watering, nostalgic reaction across the social spectrum. It was very much a dish from peoples’ childhoods that their “mammy used to make”, usually of a weekend.
So, what is Packet and Tripe you ask? For those that didn’t grow up with it, it is quite a challenge to try first time but once you taste it you grow to like it. It is a sheep dish, the tripe being the sheep’s belly and the ‘packet’ being a blood pudding made from that of the sheep and its intestines forming the casing for the sausage shaped pudding. It does, to a degree sound a bit off putting to some but if you consider how widely black pudding (made from pigs’ blood) is enjoyed, the concept of the ‘packet’ doesn’t seem so bad.
Having tasted it I have to say it is rather delicious. Once you put behind you what it is, getting it down you isn’t difficult. The tripe has a unique, soft texture that when cooked right still has a small bit of bite to it. The ‘packet’ has a small bit more of an acquired flavour. It is incredibly soft and is relatively bland but has a slight metallic finish at the end. Cooking in milk and onion gives the dish a comforting taste that is certainly perfect for a cold day. The addition of breadcrumbs to thicken the sauce lends it a silky, unctuous quality that no doubt gets people salivating when they think about it.
Studying this dish has reminded me of the strength of character of regional food. When people outside of Limerick try to think of food associated with the city, Limerick Ham springs to mind. Those more familiar with the place do often times mention Packet and Tripe. Placenames can become synonymous with culinary specialities, for example Clonakilty and its Black Pudding, Clarenbridge for its Oysters and Waterford and its famous bread, the Blaa. What I am trying to stress here is the importance of keeping these regional specialities lasting well into the future. If we choose to ignore these foods, they will fade into history and the delightful diversity of Irish Cuisine will slowly diminish and give way to burgers and pizza and all those other things that we are becoming so easily accustomed to. Here’s the recipe!
Ask the butcher for Packet and Tripe (specify the amount of people you are serving)
About 2 small to medium Onions per person
Salt and Pepper
Boiled Potatoes or Crusty Bread
1. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil.
2. Wash the tripe in cold water. If it wasn’t cut by the butcher cut it into small cubes.
3. Add the tripe to the pan of water. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes.
4. While the tripe is cooking chop the onions into a medium dice.
5. Drain off the water and add enough milk to cover the tripe and add roughly one third to a half more of that if you want a generous helping of sauce. Add the onions and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
6. Halfway through the final cooking process add the breadcrumbs to thicken the sauce. Five minutes before the tripe is ready add the sliced ‘packet’ as this only needs to be warmed through.
7. Adjust the seasoning and it is now ready to serve.
8. Serve with boiled potatoes or ‘Cottage Loaf’.
*I have come across many recipes for this dish but this one proves to be the most popular. Some people suggest a much longer cooking time but both the majority and I (having tested both this and the longer cooking time version) prefer the method given here. Enjoy!