It’s years since I last made boxty (bacstaí) but I was inspired to make it again recently by a conversation with my daughter, Megan. Meg’s flatmate, Theresa, is from Northern Ireland and her homesickness is apparently controlled by regular food parcels as her mum sends her boxty in the post! I don’t know how she sends it or how it survives but I am in awe of your dedication and ingenuity Mrs Flood.
Boxty is an Irish specialty – or to be more precise is a number of Irish specialties as it comes in many forms: The classic potato cake, potato pancakes, drop scones, dumplings (bacstaí beag – little boxty) or bread (Arán bocht tí – poor house bread).
I’m going to apologise now to any purists – there are so many different boxty recipes that I am sure mine is wrong but this is how I like it. Give it a go and tweek it to suit your own taste.
250g (9 oz) mashed potato (left overs are perfect)
250g( 9oz) raw potato
125g (4 ½) plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Salt & pepper.
A knob of butter (or bacon fat)
Approximately 120 ml buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk ordinary cow’s milk will do).
Grate the raw potato into a clean tea towel (next to the sink) and then wring out as much moisture as you can.
Mix the grated potato with the mash, stir in the flour and the baking powder.
Melt the knob of butter and add it to the bowl, along with the milk and seasoning. Mix to form a thick dough (similar to a scone dough) – don’t over mix or you will make the boxty too glutinous. Some recipes use twice as much flour as this one – I think that makes for a heavy texture but if it doesn’t seem right to you try adding a little more.
Turn onto a floured work surface, knead lightly, press out to a thickness of about 2.5cm (1”) and cut out neat rounds.
Heat a frying pan and add a knob of butter and a little oil. Fry the boxty on each side until golden brown and cooked through.
If you prefer to try potato pancakes just add more milk to the mix until you get a thick batter and cook spoonfuls of the mix until browned on each side. These are lighter and thinner and I actually prefer them to the heavier potato cakes. You can treat them like American pancakes and serve them with bacon and maple syrup – not very Irish but tasty none the less.