“Writing it has been a labour of salvage as well as one of love.”
So writes Darina Allen in her introduction to Irish Traditional Cooking. First published nearly 20 years ago, the blurb on the front cover tells you that this newly released edition includes over 100 new recipes, which is all well and good, except for the fact that, when they say new, I really rather think they mean old. For this book is all about old Irish recipes and ways with Irish food that, to a greater or lesser extent, had fallen into neglect in recent decades, as traditional cooking and true home economy had given way, first, to the lure of new-fangled shop-bought bread and later, to the convenience of a growing number of packaged and processed foods. We are learning to appreciate some of these traditional food ways again, however – “even as half the country is living on pre-cooked foods from garage foodcourts, there is a deep craving among growing numbers of people for forgotten flavours and fresh local foods,” says Darina – so a re-publication of this volume is timely.
Amongst recipes from legendary Irish cookery writers like Maura Laverty, you’ll find others in the book that have been gleaned from family recollections or from newspaper cuttings kept down through the years. The book started life when Darina wrote to regional papers looking for readers to send in their old recipes, and she travelled up and down the country in the pursuit of same. Recipes with names like protestant lemonade and cocklety soup alone make this a book worth reading, though it is a work that is much more than the sum of its collected parts. It is evocative of the landscapes and people of times past, and of a way of life and of eating that has become increasingly rare.
The chapter on potatoes – because of course, in a book like this, they warrant a chapter unto themselves – includes many variations on the classics of champ, boxty, colcannon and potato bread, as well as dishes with wonderful names like bruisy (potatoes mashed with butter and young nettles), stampy (grated potatoes mixed with flour and egg and fried), stovies (sliced potatoes, fried with onions and beef dripping), poundies (potatoes mashed with butter, salt, pepper and gravy) and pandy (potatoes mashed with lots of butter and cream). I wanted to curl up and pull them around me like a big comfort blanket. With these potato drops, that’s exactly what I did.
Potato Drops (Pancakes)
Darina Allen reports that this recipe appeared, probably in the 1970s, in Biatas magazine, which was sent to farmers growing sugar beet for the (now essentially defunct) Irish Sugar Company, and that a lady called Lizzie Dunne had cut it out and kept it.
In essence, these are yet another variation on the potato pancake – in this case, made with a simple mix of mashed potato, milk and egg – and (though I imagine it was the furthest thing from the recipe author’s mind), they are ones which have the advantage, for those who have a need or wish to avoid it, of being gluten-free.
- 450g cooked, mashed potatoes
- 150ml hot milk
- 2 medium eggs
- 2-3 tblsp freshly chopped parsley
- salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- butter for frying
You’ll also need:
- A large frying pan
- Mix together the mashed potatoes and milk. Add the parsley and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Add the eggs and mix to form a thick batter.
- Place your frying pan over a medium heat. When hot, add butter to coat the pan. Drop tablespoons of the potato batter onto the pan and spread them out with the back of a spoon. Cook until well browned on the bottom, around 5 minutes, then carefully flip them over and brown on the other side. Repeat until the batter is used up.
- Enjoy on their own or as part of a fry-up or full Irish breakfast.
- You can, of course, add whatever other fresh herbs take your fancy to the mashed potato mix – some chives perhaps, or replace the parsley with fresh coriander.
- Makes around 15 pancakes