Have one in your mouth, be peeling a second, have a third in your fist, and your eye on the fourth.
So went an old Irish saying, referring to a time in this country when meals for many were composed of potatoes and little else (and when five-a-day meant five kilos of potatoes, the average daily intake of an adult male in the years leading up to the Famine). The saying was recalled by Pádraic Óg Gallagher of Gallagher’s Boxty House on Bia Dúchais, a series on TG4 which explores Irish culinary heritage and whose attention, last week, focused on our relationship with the potato, from early adoption and dependency, to the blighted years of the Famine and, later, to the arrival of the Irish-Italian chipper and the modern potato crisp (five kilos a day of which, however tasty, is probably not to be recommended).
There was talk on the programme of boxty and colcannon and of potatoes boiled in seawater – nothing better, author Máirín Uí Chómáin tells the viewers – and of our legendary love of a floury spud, whose skin, on boiling, will crack and smile that signature smile. “Is maith liomsa an fata atá éasca a chur ag gáirí,” says Máirín to camera. “Personally, I like a potato that will smile easily,” runs the subtitle underneath, and a nation nods in agreement.
Lemon & Poppy Seed Cake with Potato
Well, here is something that will, with any luck, make lots of you smile easily. Far less traditional than the modes of potato preparation discussed on the Bia Dúchais programme, this is a cake with added potato.
The addition of potato to cakes is, I hasten to add, nothing new for me – a little cooked, mashed potato can add a welcome moistness in the cake department. What’s different about this particular potato-based cake – which I have adapted slightly from Caitríona’s recipe over at Wholesome Ireland – is that the potato is raw, rather than cooked, when added to the cake mixture. It does mean that the cake takes longer to bake, but it still delivers moistness and, in the quantities used below, there’s no discernible taste of potato which, cake-wise, is a good thing. A lemon drizzle to finish adds extra moistness and zing to this, but the cake holds up well without it.
- Makes 1 cake & takes approx. 25 min to prep + 55 minutes to bake
- 125g butter, softened
- 80g caster sugar
- 2 tblsp golden syrup
- 0.5 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 unwaxed lemon, zest and juice
- 2 medium eggs
- 200g plain flour
- 1.5 tsp baking powder
- 0.25 tsp salt
- 300g potatoes, peeled, finely grated and juices retained
- 1 tblsp poppy seeds
- 50g demerara sugar
You’ll also need:
- A 2lb loaf tin – mine was approx. 23cm x 13cm and 7cm deep
- Preheat your oven to 170C. Grease and flour your tin or line with parchment paper if you prefer.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter well, then add the caster sugar and cream again until light and fluffy.
- Add the golden syrup, vanilla extract and lemon zest and mix well. Add the eggs one at a time and beat in thoroughly.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, then fold this into the butter and egg mixture.
- Stir in the grated potato and juices, along with the poppy seeds.
- Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin and place in the oven for about 55 minutes. It’s done when a skewer or cocktail stick inserted into the centre comes out fairly cleanly. If the top starts to get too brown, cover with foil.
- For the lemon drizzle, mix together the lemon juice and the demerara sugar. While the cake is still warm, pierce all over with a cocktail stick and pour over the drizzle mixture. Leave to cool in the tin before slicing and serving.
- You can flavour this differently according to your taste – I fancy adding a little chopped rosemary instead of the vanilla, perhaps along with a lime drizzle.