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Celtic Folklore Recipe: Traditional Irish Boxty



If you happened to see my Instagram stories recently, then you’ll know that I was trying to decide between four different topics as the subject of my next post. Thankfully, a fair number of people chimed in on what they wanted to see next & it couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time! Now that we are in March, people will be starting to arrange their St. Patrick’s Day festivities & what better way to celebrate than with an Irish staple, boxty!


CLOSE TO HOME

I adore potatoes. And when I say adore, I am not exaggerating. My husband has stared at me wide-eyed while I put salt & pepper on raw potato chunks & begin munching away. In fact, potatoes are their own section in my food pyramid. They are so versatile that even a fictional character, the great Samwise Gamgee, made it a point to divulge the many ways that potatoes can be used (” Boil them, mash them, stick them in a stew. Lovely big golden chips with a nice piece of fried fish.”)


While this recipe includes one of my favorite things, it’s also particularly special because it reminds me of home. My grandmother, when she was mobile enough to make her away around the kitchen, would make these for Christmas, a few times during the Lenten season, & for Easter. Thankfully, my uncle how now taken over that responsibility so that our family would not be deprived of the delicious, crispy, potatoey goodness.


In fact, while I was making Boxty for this post, I made sure to phone my phone my grandma. We talked about all the different ways you can serve boxty & she told me that even her grandmother used to make it too. Not only is it a staple at my family table, but it is extremely prevalent in the region where I grew up. I’m from a small town in Pennsylvania in what’s known as the “coal region” or “coal country.” And if there’s one thing us coal region dwellers love it’s potatoes & a good block party. Around this area there are a large amount of Eastern European & Irish immigrants. While the Irish know these potato pancakes as boxty, Eastern European families call them “bleenies.” My family is both a mix of Eastern European & Irish so we use bleenies & boxty interchangeably & they’re made the exact same way. But my point being that you’d be remiss to think that boxty isn’t served at every single fair & block party in the region. It’s just one of those comfort foods, especially in the Coal Region, that reminds you of the people you love & the place you grew up.



ARÁN BOCHT TÍ: THE HISTORY OF BOXTY


Boxty comes from the Irish phrase arán bocht tí meaning “poor-house bread.” This potato pancake became a tried & true staple of the Irish diet as early as the 1700’s. Boxty was a dish that was cheap, quick, and filled hungry bellies. Because potatoes are hearty root vegetable, they are easy to grow even in poor soil, which made them ideal, especially for the lower class Irish folk. In the 19th century, potatoes were so prevalent in the Irish diet that it was noted that an average adult Irishman consumed an average of 6 kg (13 lbs) of potatoes per day. However, with the onset of the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840’s, the blight had swept through & ravaged both the potato crop & subsequently the lives of millions of Ireland’s inhabitants. Thankfully, in the late 1850’s the potato returned to the Irish landscape & has been back ever since & with in the resurgence of traditional potato dishes, including boxty.


“BOXTY IN THE GRIDDLE”

Traditionally, there are three different ways boxty can be made: in a hot pan, baked as a loaf in the oven, or boiled & shaped like a dumpling. I personally like to use a hot skillet to make my boxty & this is the method my grandma uses, as well. Boxty when made in the traditional sense is typically made with potatoes, flour, baking soda, & milk, but many experiment with new flavors. One of the best things about boxty is that can be served as either a sweet or savory dish. I like mine with creme fraiche (or sour cream) & scallions whereas my grandma grew up eating it with Karo syrup/maple syrup.


A SAVORY BOXTY RECIPE


I chose to go with savory flavors for my boxty, so if you prefer to have them plain & add your own toppings feel free to omit the garlic & shallots


To begin making boxty, get a large pot of water to a roiling boil, making sure to add a generous amount of salt to the water. This will be for our mashed potato portion of the boxty. While waiting for the water to boil, dice 6 medium-sized, peeled potatoes & cut them into small chunks. Once the water boils, toss your potatoes in & then begin heating up a large pan or skillet. Begin finely chopping 3 shallots & 3 cloves of fresh garlic. Throw a pat of butter in the heated skillet & sauté the garlic & shallots until tender & fragrant. Once your potatoes have boiled & can be easily mashed, drain the water & put them in a large bowl to either mash them by hand with a masher or large fork OR , if you have one, you can use a Kitchen Aid mixer to mash them up. Once mashed, toss in the sauteed garlic/shallot mixture & combine thoroughly.


Set your mashed potato mixture to the side & begin grating 2 medium-sized potatoes with any regular, old grater that allows you to get bigger chunks of grated potatoes. Once grated, I like to spread the grated potatoes out over a large sheet pan & press them with paper towels to suck as much liquid out of them as I can. Once this is completed, you are ready to now combine your grated raw potatoes & mashed potato mixture.


Now that you’ve combined your potatoes, it’s time to add the rest of the ingredients! To your mixture add: 2 cups of all purpose flour, 1/2 tsp of baking soda, & 1 – 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk to the mixture & stir until a stiff batter has formed (the batter should be very thick, almost like a dough). Once the batter has been formed, flatten & form into round shapes. Heat 1 tbsp of butter in a skillet, & once hot, lay the flattened pancakes in the skillet & fry until golden brown!


Most enjoy boxty with breakfast, but they’re honestly great for any time of day. I’ll leave you with this quirky Irish rhyme which is extremely dated & by no means true: “Boxty on the griddle, boxty in the pan, if you can’t make boxty, you’ll never get a man!





Celtic Folklore Traditional Irish Boxty


Traditional Irish potato pancakes with a savory twist


Prep Time20 mins Cook Time20 mins Total Time40 mins


Course: Appetizer, Breakfast, Side Dish Keyword: irish, irish breakfast, irish pub food, potato pancakes, traditional irish food

Servings: 12 pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mashed potatoes boiled in salted water

  • 1 cup raw, grated potatoes pressed with paper towel to remove moisture

  • 3 shallots (diced)

  • 3 garlic cloves (minced)

  • 2 cups all purpose flour

  • ½ tsp baking soda

  • 1 to 1½ cups buttermilk

  • 1 tbsp butter for the skillet I use traditional Kerry Gold Irish butter

  • ½ tsp salt (or to taste)

  • 1/4 tsp pepper (or to taste)

  • sour cream or creme fraiche for topping

  • diced scallions for topping


Instructions

  • Cut 6 medium-sized potatoes into small chunks & add to boiling salted water, boil until soft

  • While potatoes are boiling, saute diced garlic & shallots in butter in a hot skillet

  • Mash the boiled potatoes in a large mixing bowl with a masher, a fork, or use a Kitchen Aid Mixer

  • Once mashed, add the sauteed garlic & shallot mixture to the mashed potatoes & combine thoroughly.

  • Cut 2 medium-sized peeled potatoes into large chunks & grate them with a cheese grater

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooled mashed potatoes & grated raw potatoes

  • Once combined, add the baking soda, flour, & salt to the potato mixture.

  • Combine the dry ingredients & the potato mixture, once thoroughly mixed, add the buttermilk until a stiff batter forms

  • Flatten & shape the pancakes into round discs

  • Add butter to a heated skillet, and once melted, lay the pancakes into the pan

  • Fry pancakes until golden brown

  • Serve potato pancakes with a dollop of creme fraiche/sour cream & sprinkle diced scallions over the top


Notes

  • To make a more traditional boxty, simply omit the garlic & shallots

  • You can also serve the more traditional boxty with sprinkled sugar or maple syrup





Until next time….









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