Sunday, September 29, 2019

Boxty – out of the laundry room and into the frying pan

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Out of the laundry room and into the frying pan
(the gorgeous bowl and jug are by my aunt, Patricia Casey, artist and potter extraordinaire)

Writing in The Medical Times and Gazette in 1865, Henry MacCormac M.D., of Belfast, mentions the preparation of Boxty or ‘poorhouse bread’.

“The country people prepare, for purposes of laundry, potato starch. Raw potatoes are peeled, grated and washed. The gratings from which the boxty cake is made remain in the colander. This boxty cake … has a peculiar but not unpleasant flavour. I remember having partaken of it… in one of the houses of the peasantry.”

Thanks Henry, I know there were particular reasons for such frugality at the time, but that sounds really, really grim. No wonder Boxty isn’t our national dish!

As if that weren’t bad enough, a traditional rhyme suggests that if you were a female at that time, and this concoction wasn’t in your repertoire, you were in big trouble: Boxty on the griddle /Boxty in the pan / If you can’t make boxty / You’ll never get a man. Yikes!

Mercifully, laundry methods, society, and potato cuisine have all moved on since the dark days of the nineteenth century. You'll find that Boxty can be a type of potato cake, a dumpling or a pancake. Today’s recipe is for the pancake. My preference is for the floury Rooster potato but any floury potato will do.




For approximately 12 boxty pancakes you will need…

350g freshly boiled and mashed potato
50g butter
250g raw potato, finely grated
250g plain flour
1 teaspoon fine table salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon bread soda
350mls buttermilk

A little sunflower oil or extra virgin olive oil for frying

Mix the butter with the freshly made mashed potato while it is still hot. Leave to cool.

Meanwhile, wring the grated potato out in a clean tea towel to extract as much liquid as possible. (Discard the liquid.)  Add the grated potato to the cooked mashed potato along with the flour, salt, baking powder and bread soda and mix to combine.

Gradually mix in the buttermilk to form a thick batter.

Now, heat a frying pan over a medium heat. Wipe the hot pan with a wad of kitchen paper dipped in sunflower oil, giving the pan the barest sheen of oil. (Keep the oily paper to wipe the frying pan between cooking each pancake.)


Fry gently until the surface of the batter has set

Scoop about 80mls of batter into the pan and quickly smooth it out to form a circle. Fry gently until the surface of the batter has set, then flip the pancake over. Continue cooking for a further 30 seconds or so, or until the pancake is golden brown. Repeat until all the batter has been used up, keeping the cooked pancakes warm in a low oven.

Serve as part of a cooked breakfast or drizzled in maple syrup.




Variation:
I make tiny versions of these as an alternative to blinis and serve with smoked salmon and crème fraiche.

First published 29 August 2013
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