The tradition of Irish potato cakes – What is Irish Boxty?

Boxty is a traditional Irish potato pancake. When I was a child growing up in Ireland boxty was called fadge and we usually had them at breakfast time on the weekends when it was time for what is known as a full Irish.  Irish boxty also goes by many regional names, including slims, fadge, potato cake, Irish potato pancakes, farls, and tattie scones in Scotland, Boxty (bacstaí in Gaelic)  poundy or poundies.

Potato Boxty with bacon, tomatoes, onions and sauce close-up on the table. Irish potato cakes topped with diced spring onions, cherry tomatoes and lean irish bacon and sides of sour cream and ketchup

In our family, we always called them Potato pancakes and it was a huge treat for Christmas breakfast served with eggs, bacon, sausage, beans and fried bread. Never mind the carb count just dig in – this is also known as a Full Irish breakfast.

Potato pancakes, draniki, deruny, potato latkes, latkas, irish cakes, raggmunk or boxties on wood plate. Fried grated vegetable pancakes or potato fritter with onion on rustic background

The Potato Farl is traditionally cut into a triangular shape before serving – hence the name as the word farl comes from the Gaelic ’fardel’ meaning four parts.

A traditional Irish rhyme goes – Boxty on the griddle, Boxty in the pan, If you can’t make boxty, You’ll never get a man. Boxty on the griddle, Boxty in the pan, The wee one in the middle, That’s the one for Mary Anne.

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Potato pancakes, not sweet, served with garlic cream sauce on rustic wooden table.

The culinary history of Irish potato cakes – Boxty

Boxty or Irish potato cake is a traditional Irish dish that is believed to have originated in the 1700s when the Irish relied upon the potato to survive. The creation of the Irish potato cake was a means to stretch out the potato harvest and ensure that everyone had something to eat.

In Ireland, boxty was and is associated with St. Brigid who is the patron saint of dairy and she is associated with milk, butter, ale, cheese and bacon. Boxty is served for St Brigid’s Day with other traditional foods like soda bread with its cross on the top.

Ireland was a poor country thanks to British politics and the Catholic Church and much of its food culture comes from what was available at the time like potatoes until the crop failed. Centuries before the Irish used what they had to hand, for example, one of the oldest foods in the world was found in Ireland. this great lump of butter was discovered in a peat bog that preserved it for hundreds of years.

Irish Soda Farls - traditional Irish flatbread served with jam

Difference between Irish boxty and potato bread

These Irish potato cakes are totally different to Potato Bread or Soda Bread as they are a sort of flat unleavened triangular or round shaped patty, they are usually made with raw grated potato and some leftover mash although some folks have been known to make them with just leftover mashed potato. Traditional Irish food like most countries has a great tradition of using whatever ingredients are to hand and available.

In our house Potato bread is a form of bread in which includes potato flour, wheat flour and leftover mashed potato. Other families consider the farls or potato pancakes as a potato bread. But we preferred our potato bread as a leavened quick bread which stayed moist and could be used for sandwiches.

Although the name farl is somewhat interchangeable with potato pancakes or boxty when I was growing up a farl was a thicker version and could be sliced to hold an Ulster fry breakfast so it could be eaten on the go.

Irish Potato cakes aka Irish Boxty

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Boxty (Irish: bacstaí) is a traditional Irish potato pancake. The boxty served at the Boxty House in Temple Bar Dublin is a traditional type found in the border counties of Leitrim, Cavan and Fermanagh. In the north midlands, north Connacht and southern Ulster, in particular, the counties of Mayo, Sligo, in Donegal it is known locally as poundy or poundies.

Irish Potato cakes aka Irish Boxty

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Irish Boxty – Irish potato pancakes

When we were in Dublin we had a fabulous lunch at The Boxty House. The place was packed out with all kinds of folks enjoying some of the restaurant treats.  We had to try out the House platter which contained boxty Fries, boxty Dumplings and some lovely Irish potato bread. All three were stellar but the fries were absolutely addictive.

Irish Potato cakes aka Irish Boxty

To go with the platter we enjoyed some deeply delicious Irish stew, packed with pieces of tender lamb that melted in your mouth. I warmed myself with a gorgeously rich Seafood Chowder served with Guinness Bread that was fresh from the oven and topped with the best Irish butter in the world.

Irish Potato cakes aka Irish Boxty

The Boxty House also sells a little box of Boxty mix that you can take with you and prepare at home it is from Padraic’s mother Anna’s recipe which he has perfected, so you can take some home as gifts.

In 1988 Padraic Og Gallagher developed the Leitrim Boxty which retains the traditional 70% potato content. The Boxty House in Temple Bar is the place where Padraic features this Boxty and it is served in a variety of ways. Boxty House makes potato dumplings, boxty chips (fries by any other name) that are simply addictive and boxty features in many of the recipes. The Boxty House restaurant serves a very thin boxty traditionally found in Leitrim and slightly different than a homemade one which is more similar to a latke or rosti but way better.

Irish Potato cakes aka Irish Boxty

In the shops look for McNiffes Boxty in the grocery stores they even make a gluten-free version.  You will probably also find a few varieties of boxty in most grocery stores.

Mc Niffe’s Bakery creates four mouth-watering varieties of Boxty- Pan boxty, Loaf Boxty, Boiled Boxty and Irish Potato Pancakes, providing an exceptionally unique taste experience.  

Irish Potato cakes aka Irish Boxty

One of the most popular versions consists of finely grated, raw potato and mashed potato with flour, buttermilk, egg and baking soda. The grated potato is strained to remove most of the starch and then fried on a griddle pan for a few minutes.

Irish Potato cakes aka Irish Boxty

Irish Boxty/Irish potato cakes Recipe click on this link and download an easy recipe

How to make Irish potato cakes

Ingredients

  • 300g Raw potatoes, peeled
  • 300g Cooked potatoes, mashed
  • 300g Flour
  • 10g Salt
  • 850ml Milk

Grate the raw potatoes into a muslin cloth and squeeze as much liquid as possible into a bowl. Let liquid stand for 20 minutes.

Gently pour off the liquid and keep the starch that settled in the bottom of the bowl.

Add grated potatoes to mashed potatoes and flour. Add starch and salt to mix.

Slowly add 3/4 milk to form a batter of pouring consistency. Depending on the potato, you may not need to use all the milk. If the batter is too heavy, add more milk. Leave the batter to rest for 30 minutes.

Drop a ladle full onto an oiled non-stick pan over medium heat and cook on the first side for 2 minutes (depends on how heavy the batter is and how much you use). Check the colour (should be a nice golden colour) on the bottom. Adjust heat if necessary. Turn and cook on the other side for 2 – 3 minutes more. Boxty pancakes are best left overnight in a fridge and reheated in a pan in good Irish butter.

Enjoy your Boxty.

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