Sometimes Sundays should just be about potato cakes, big old fry-ups and mugs of tea. That was about where my Sunday was at today, I can tell ya.
Traditional Irish potato cakes are simplicity itself – boiled potatoes, melted butter, flour and salt, mixed together, sometimes with a little milk, shaped into wedges or patties and cooked on a griddle. Depending on which part of the country you’re in, they are referred to variously as potato cakes, potato farls, potato bread or fadge. Regardless of what they are called, they are as indispensable to an Ulster Fry as bacon and eggs, but, as Biddy-White Lennon notes in her Best of Irish Potato Recipes, they are, for reasons which escape me, not part of the classic Full Irish Breakfast lineup. No matter. They were front and centre in my breakfast lineup today and that’s what counts.
Slightly Indianised Irish Potato Cakes (or Farls)
You’ll see many slight variations on the basic spuds + flour + butter formula for potato cakes.
My Ma says she would never really have used measurements for potato cakes because the amount of flour absorbed would depend on the starchiness of the potatoes, so enough was added to make a workable dough. The amount of flour added is also a matter of taste – cakes made with less flour will be moister and probably rolled more thickly. The amount of butter is a taste thing too. You can reduce the amount used here and replace with a little milk if you like.
To spice the potato cakes, I added a little cayenne pepper and some toasted cumin seeds. For traditional potato cakes, just leave them out.
- 450g potatoes, preferably a floury variety
- approx. 100g plain flour
- 0.5 tsp salt
- 50g butter, melted
- 0.25 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
You’ll also need:
- A potato ricer is handy for mashing the spuds (and for a general low-down on mashed potatoes, see here)
- Peel your potatoes and cut into roughly even-sized slices, around 1-2cm thick. Rinse them under cold water.
- Bring about 1l of water to the boil in a saucepan, add about 1 tsp salt and the potato slices.
- Bring back to the boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer gently, covered, for around 15-20 minutes or until just fork-tender.
- While they’re simmering, place a small, heavy frying pan over a medium heat, add the cumin seeds and dry fry them for 4-5 minutes or until they have darkened slightly and are fragrant.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, the 0.5 tsp salt and cayenne pepper.
- Drain the potatoes and cover with a tea-towel for 5 minutes or more or return to the heat and stir gently for a minute or so, so that they dry out.
- If you have a potato ricer, push the potatoes through that into a large bowl, or mash gently with a masher or fork. Add the melted butter and stir to combine.
- Add the flour mixture to the potatoes and mix gently to form a soft dough.
- Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and roll to a thickness of between 0.5cm-1cm. Cut into pieces of whatever shape you wish – triangular wedges are traditional but not obligatory.
- Place a griddle or heavy frying pan over a medium heat. When hot, cook the potato cakes in batches on the ungreased pan until lightly browned, around 2-4 minutes on each side.
- Serve straight from the pan or keep warm in a low oven. Serve with a little butter and whatever other fried items you care to add.
- I would have added some chopped fresh coriander to these cakes if I’d had some. On the other hand, for a truly traditional Irish potato cake, you’d omit the cayenne and cumin and you could instead, if you like, add some chopped fresh herbs, such as thyme, chives or parsley.
- This made around 12 potato cakes, each about 7-8cm square(-ish)