15 Sep 2010

Boxty on the griddle

Boxty in the Pan

If you can’t make Boxty

You’ll never get a man

-Traditional Irish Rhyme

Boxty, occasionally spelled “boxdy”, is basically a potato cake, eaten mostly in the north of Ireland, especially in counties Cavan, Fermanagh, Derry and Tyrone. Boxty vies with champ and colcannon as Ireland’s best-known potato dish. It may have originated in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when potato harvests began to fail, as a way of using poor quality potatoes which were useless for boiling. The potato pulp was shaped into cakes and baked on heated flagstone or a griddle.

I find the vast amount of Irish potato creations and descriptive words that go along with them absolutely delightful. I once actually considered doing a documentary called “Práta” which is the Irish (Gaelic) translation of the word potato. The idea washed over me as I sat at a wedding listening to all of my table mates once again carrying on about the texture of our freshly delivered steamy-hot potatoes. Never in my life had I spoken or overheard potatoes discussed in such great detail or at such length. This “práta-talk” is truly a unique Irish endowment. So, here’s the inside scoop: terms such as floury, soapy, fluffy can definitely be chalked up to being “favourable” potato textures, whereas watery, hairy and waxy are no good to you at all. If you are planning a trip to Ireland see if you can tell the difference!

Back to the Boxty. Definitely not for the weight watchers, but a special treat indeed. There are many different variations of this fried potato bliss throughout the world. In America and Eastern Europe, you will find “potato pancakes” which would be made with an egg and possible minced onion or garlic. Crunchy potato “latkes” are traditional in Jewish populations throughout the world. In Switzerland and Germany, the “Rosti” made with the Rosti potato is a commonly served dish. The Swedes have an amazing “Raggmunk”, a thin potato pancake served with Lingonberry jam. I have to admit, I love them all.

Give Boxty a try on a cool autumn evening…I find them lovely with a bit of crème fraiche and/or stewed apple. I used this recipe and made individual cakes instead of one large cake cut into farls.

Pan Boxty

(from Granny Toye of Clones, Co Monaghan)

Serves 4

6 medium potatoes

a handful of white flour



fresh herbs

Peel the potatoes. Line a bowl with a cloth. Grate potatoes into it then squeeze out the liquid into the bowl and put dry grated potato in another bowl. Let the liquid sit for 10 minutes until the starch settles. Drain off the water and leave the starch on the bottom of the bowl. Add grated potato and a handful of white flour and some salt.

Melt a nice bit of butter or oil on a heavy iron pan and pour in the potato mixture. It should be ¾ to 1 inch thick. Cook on medium heat. Let it brown nicely on one side before flipping, about 30 minutes depending on the heat. It’s much better to cook more slowly rather than too fast. It should be crisp and golden on the outside. Cut boxty into 4 farls and serve.

Granny Toye says that pan boxty may be eaten hot or cold and may be reheated.

Slan Abhaile,


Photo by Imen McDonnell. Assisted by Master Geoffrey McDonnell

Recipe from “Irish Traditional Cooking” by Darina Allen

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Irish Farmhouse Salad

11 Aug 2010

I’ll never forget the first time I visited the farm and met my future Irish family. R and I had planned a spectacular trip to the Amalfi Coast and decided it would be perfect to meet everyone before we took off on our holiday. I would fly into Ireland first and we would head to Italy from here.

After the grand introductions and formal-ish conversation in the sitting room, I was politely asked if I would like a bite to eat, and despite the fact that I was completely famished, I eloquently replied, “Sure, just a little something would be nice, thank you”.  We made our way into the kitchen where Peggy presented me with a traditional plate of cold salad like the one pictured above.  While I found this to be a slightly unusual offering, it was very charming and welcoming just the same. Since it was about six o’clock in the evening and therefore their traditional “tea” time, it meant that a cold salad or something similar would be entirely apropos on an Irish farm.

This comforting country plate consists of mashed potato salad, egg mayonnaise, sliced boiled ham, vine ripened tomatoes and perhaps a piece or two of warm brown soda bread *. We nibbled away while swapping sentimental stories and having a good laugh or two. Afterward, we shared a warm cup of tea and then retired for the night…the jet lag had prevailed.

*There are variations to this dish. Many people will add spring onion, cucumber, cole slaw or perhaps a bit of freshly sliced fruit.


Slan Abhaile,


Photo by Imen McDonnell. Assisted by Master Geoffrey McDonnell

Mashed Potato Salad


6 white potatoes

1  cup mayonnaise

1 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon green onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh chives finely chopped

1 tsp flat leaf parsely, finely chopped

salt and pepper to taste


Place peeled and sliced potatoes in a large pot and boil for 20 minutes, or until tender. When potatoes are cooked, drain and let sit for 5-10 minutes to cool. Once cooled, add in mayonnaise, sour cream, green onion, chives, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Egg Mayonnaise

For the egg filling:

3 eggs

4 tbsp mayonnaise

1 tsp lemon juice

Freshly milled pepper

cayenne pepper

For the mayonnaise:

2 whole egg yolks

1 tsp Dijon mustard or mustard powder

280 ml ground nut oil or vegetable oil

salt pepper

2 tsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar


Method for the mayonnaise 1. In a bowl whisk the egg yolks and mustard

2. Start to gradually pour in the oil a drip at a time very gradually, whisking after each go until it becomes think and emulsifies

3. Check the seasoning and add a spoon of lemon juice or white wine vinegar if needed. Method for the egg mayonaise 1. Boil the eggs for 7 minutes in boiling water

2. Remove form the pan refresh allow to cool and peel

3. Lay on a plate and pour over the mayonnaise

4. Finish with a sprinkle of cayenne pepper

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