The Daily Spud

...there's both eatin' and drinkin' in it

Spud Sunday: Still Full And Plenty

“Will I bring you Mum’s copy of Full and Plenty?” big sis #1 had asked.

There was only one possible answer to that question, and that was a resounding yes please.

Maura Laverty’s book, a classic of Irish cooking, was one I remembered clearly from childhood, both at home in my mother’s kitchen and, later, in my sister’s house, the book having been passed on to her when she got married.

Full and Plenty

My Ma's well-worn copy of Maura Laverty's Full and Plenty

As a child, I has read and re-read the book. Maura Laverty prefaced each chapter with wonderfully written stories from her home place of Ballyderrig that revolved around food, cooking and its place in the lives of her family and community. Whether it was the story of Statia Dunne’s “monarch among stews” that had won her a husband (and – take note ladies – “at an age when she had almost given up hope”) or the love of cowslips that allowed the author to become acquainted with Mrs. McKey’s fruit roll, I drank it all in. I also exercised my early baking muscles on the book’s substantial store of recipes.

Originally published in 1960, the inscription on the inside of the book’s front cover shows that my mother received it as a present from her parents in the Christmas of that year. Now, over 50 years later, it is well-thumbed, liberally sellotaped and mine.

Full and plenty inscription

The inscription reads: To Dearest Angela, from Daddy & Mammy, Xmas 1960

With copious recipes either pasted in or hand-written onto the available blank pages, having the book is a wonderful record of some of the food that my mother cooked over the years. More than that, though, it’s also a window onto what Ireland, in general, was eating 50 years ago and a reflection of our attitudes to food at the time.

The book undoubtedly has a plain, wholesome feel to it, and there is a greater consciousness of thrift, with recipes for both “everyday” and “Sunday” gingerbread (the latter calling for more sugar, an extra egg and butter instead of margarine). It also displays a matter-of-factness about nose-to-tail eating, with recipes included for everything from boiled ox tongue and baked sheep’s heart to fried tripe, something you’re much less likely to find in more modern cookbooks. The author also shows, however, that there are some things about the quality of ingredients produced in this country that, thankfully, haven’t changed: “…we enjoy better-flavoured meat, … creamier milk, richer butter and cheese …” – words we would do well to remember.

Potato Drop Scones

Potato pancakes

As I leafed through Full And Plenty once again (parts of which were, by the by, re-issued as a slimmer volume a couple of years ago), I was drawn to the recipe for drop scones, because it was something I remember my mother making from time to time.

Sweet, squat and cooked on a well-worn cast-iron frying pan, the drop scones were really just a kind of thick pancake – a treat that could be made without having to turn on the oven. The book includes a variation which adds grated potato to the basic drop scone recipe and that, of course, is the version I include below. I didn’t feel the need to mess with the recipe particularly – sometimes you just want the comfort of the plain, the simple and the straightforward. The recipe is easily halved if you don’t feel the need to make such a big batch.

You’ll need:

  • 350g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 425ml milk
  • 50g butter, melted
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes, approx. 400g
  • butter for frying

You’ll also need:

  • A heavy frying pan or griddle

The Steps:

  • Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  • Beat the egg well and combine with the milk.
  • Add the egg and milk mixture to the flour and whisk together until you have a smooth, fairly thick batter, then stir in the melted butter.
  • You can use the batter straight away if need be or, better still, refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes or leave it overnight if you like.
  • When you’re ready to cook, place your pan over a medium-high heat. If you want to keep your pancakes warm while you cook the full batch, turn your oven onto a low heat, around 120C.
  • Peel and grate the potato. At this point I wrap the grated potato in a tea-towel and squeeze out most of the excess liquid, the only change I make to the original recipe. Stir the grated potato into your batter.
  • Add some butter to your hot pan and, once melted, drop heaped tablespoonfuls of batter onto the pan. Spread the batter a little using the back of a spoon so that you have squat, thick-ish pancakes, around 7-8cm across.
  • Cook until bubbles appear on the surface and burst (around 3-4 minutes), then turn and cook on the other side for another 3 minutes or so, until golden. Repeat until the batter is used up, either serving the pancakes as you go or keeping them hot in the oven until you’re done.
  • As with any plain potato pancakes, you can serve these equally well with sweet or savoury accompaniments – they go just as well with some butter and honey or golden syrup as with a fried egg and bacon.

The Variations:

  • Endless variations are possible here – you could add some cooked onion to the mix and whatever herbs or spices take your fancy, or leave out the potato, reduce the salt and add a little sugar for simple sweet drop scones.

The Results:

  • This makes around 30 drop scones / pancakes, enough for 4-6 people, depending entirely, of course, on what else you’re having to eat with them.

14 Comments

  1. Oh, I just love cookbooks w/a history–w/writing&notes&and doodles! And Full and Plenty? What a great title! Plus, I’m really glad that Statia finally managed to bag a man! ;)

    If more of us practiced nose-to-tail eating, we’d all be in better shape (waste-wise, anyway, if not WAIST-wise)!

    Love the homey-thick pancakes; how fun to make a dish that you remember from your childhood, DS!

  2. Daily Spud

    Sunday, July 24, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    Hey Jenni – was thinking that the the no-waste aspect of nose-to-tail eating is pretty timely, given your current Four Pounds of Cheese project! And I have no doubt you’d love reading Statia’s story as well as the others, many of which also resulted in the bagging of some man or other :D As for the pancakes, I don’t know if my mother ever made these with potato, but we certainly had a sweet version, and that’s the way I mostly ate these too.

  3. The Slimmer and newer version of Full and Plenty is only 160 pages of the original 500 and appears to be missing a lot of quite interesting recipes including things like Risotto!

  4. I just bought that new edition a month or so ago – only to realise when it arrived in the post that it was the much-abridged version of the original, drat. Your copy is a real treasure.

  5. Daily Spud

    Sunday, July 24, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Deirdre, Kristin: I had noticed on the shelves that the re-issue was, indeed, a much slimmer volume. Seeing as they said (or at least I read somewhere) that it was a ‘nostalgic’ re-issue, I wonder why they didn’t just do a re-print. Only having 160 of the original 500 pages is missing out on an awful lot of the book – not just the fried tripe!

  6. How lovely to have a cookbook full of such memories!

  7. Daily Spud

    Monday, July 25, 2011 at 11:07 am

    It truly is, Kavey – it’s a lot more than just a cookbook, really

  8. My mum has this cookbook, which used to be her mums! I love reading the stories too & have been begging her for years to pass in on to me!

  9. Daily Spud

    Monday, July 25, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    Sounds like your mum is keen to hang on to it herself, Sarah :) I’m sure you’ll treasure it whenever it is passed on to you, though.

  10. So cool that the book is being passed down through the family – love the inscription! Will keep these wee drop scones in mind for a Sunday brunch soon.

  11. Daily Spud

    Monday, July 25, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    I love the inscription too Aoife – it makes it sound like my Ma was a little girl, though she was married with several kids at the time she got the book

  12. Such a neat cookbook and the potato drop scones sound yummy. I would love to try those with sugar sprinkled on top :)

  13. What a fantastic piece of your family history. While not the scone I’m familiar with I could definitely get used to these!

  14. Daily Spud

    Sunday, July 31, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    5 Star Foodie: definitely good with sugar sprinkled on top, Natasha :)

    Lori: I’ve no doubt you could get used to these – I know I certainly could!

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