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Traditional Irish Boxty

Boxty is a traditional Irish food that makes good use of that most famous Irish staple: the potato. It is essentially a potato pancake that can be eaten alone or as a side dish. 

Boxty was a traditional “peasant food” since the ingredients were generally cheap and affordable in poor households. Irish peasants in the 18th and 19th century had more access to potatoes than to wheat, thus this pancake could substitute for bread and carbohydrate dishes. The Gaelic name for the dish is aran bocht ti, which translates as “poor house bread” and is the source of the unusual name.

The dish seems to be particularly associated with the Midland and Northern Counties (Cavan, Tyrone, Fermanagh and Derry) of Ireland.

Boxty can be served at any meal. It is a great way to make use of any leftover mashed potatoes. The dish is not a staple of the Irish diet these days, but remains on the menu at many Irish pubs. It is particularly tasty as a warming winter lunch or supper.

If boxty is eaten instead of bread for the evening meal, then milk and salt might be added to the mixture and it is then known as dippity.

The simple recipe for boxty makes it an excellent recipe for new bakers. Irish girls are often taught to make it as one of their first dishes, leading to a famous saying in Irish culture:

“Boxty on the griddle,

Boxty on the pan,

If you don’t eat boxty,

You’ll never get your man.”

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz. raw potatoes
  • 10 oz. cooked cold mashed potatoes (cold)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted)
  • Oil or butter (your choice.) *

Directions:

  1. Line a large bowl with cheesecloth. Using the large holes of a grater, grate the raw potatoes into a bowl. Squeeze the cloth to remove the excess moisture. Catch the liquid in another bowl. Let liquid stand for 20 minutes. This will separate into a clean liquid with the starch remaining at the bottom. Then gently pour off the liquid and keep the starch that settled in the bottom of the bowl.
  2. Mix the starch with grated raw potatoes and add the cold mashed potatoes.
  3. Sieve the dry ingredients and add to the potato mixture along with the melted butter and beaten egg.
  4. Add the milk to form a batter of pouring consistency. Depending on the potato it might not be necessary to use all the milk.  If the batter is too heavy, add more milk.
  5. Leave batter to rest for 30 minutes.
  6. Ladle the batter into a lightly oiled pan or griddle over medium heat and cook for about 5 minutes on first side (depends how heavy the batter is). Check color which should be golden color on the bottom.  Adjust heat if necessary.  (I lightly re-oil the pan for every batch.)
  7. Turn and cook on the other side.
  8. Transfer the pancakes to a baking sheet and keep warm in a 200°F oven.
  9. Serve immediately with butter or sugar.  Especially good with a dollop of sour cream topped with chives.

Some people claim that the boxty pancakes are best left overnight in the fridge and reheated in a pan with butter.

*Other variations include frying the pancake in bacon fat for a deliciously rich flavor.

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