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Spud Sunday: The Big Boxty

Too much happening and too little time to write about it – that has most definitely been the pattern in Daily Spud land of late. Among other things, your intrepid spud reporter has just spent ten days in Canada, with a great number of stories – potato and otherwise – to be related from there in due course. But first, I bring you some record breaking boxty news…

Gloriously big and gloriously bonkers.

That’s what I thought when news reached my ears last Thursday that plans were afoot in Carrick on Shannon to break the record for the world’s biggest (or rather, heaviest) potato pancake. I’ll admit that I didn’t know such a record officially existed (but, according to the Guinness Book of Records it does, covering all regional variations of potato pancake, of which there are many) and, up to last Friday at least, it had stood at a rather hefty 200kg – which is a lot of pancake in anyone’s book.

The organisers of the Carrick Carnival – and chief among them Chef Sham Hanifa of the charming Cottage Restaurant in Jamestown, Co. Leitrim – decided that they wanted to go several kilos better than that by (as you do) making a supersized batch of boxty, Leitrim’s local take on the potato pancake. Sham, in turn, enlisted the help of Mr. Leitrim Boxty himself, Pádraic Óg Gallagher of Gallagher’s Boxty House, to assist in the construction of a true boxty behemoth.

And so it was that last Friday, I took myself off to the northwest and to a covered area beside the quay in Carrick on Shannon, where potatoes were being peeled, grated, mashed and mixed on a grand scale. This is how the record attempt went down.

The boxty boys

The boxty boys: Paddy Fitzgerald, Pádraic Óg Gallagher & Sham Hamifa

Boxty ingredients

Large quantities of everything required:
140kg potatoes – half grated raw & half cooked & mashed – mixed with 100kg flour, 80l milk, 80l water and 1kg salt. Large quantities of volunteers also required for spud peeling duty.


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Spud Sunday: Spuds On The Shelf

If you want to see a man get exercised about potatoes, just suggest to Stephen Hennessy of The Boxty Bakers that his boxty slices are like a bit like potato waffles.

The poor man who said as much to Stephen at this weekend’s Taste of Christmas event didn’t realise quite the passion that Stephen has for his boxty slices, a traditional product which he would consider far superior to your typical potato waffle. It is, I would expect, unlikely that the gentleman who made the unfortunate waffle comparison came from Leitrim.

People who hail from that particular neck of the woods, including The Boxty Bakers themselves, don’t need to be told about boxty. Even as the gentleman to my right was being enlightened in the matter of boxty versus waffles, a lady to my left declared her Leitrim connections and chatted with Stephen about her own family’s traditions, which included the use of a nail to punch holes into pieces of metal which were then used to grate the raw potato needed for large boxty batches.

Boxty bakers

Not waffles but boxty

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Slow Cheese

Cheese curds

Milk curds, the stuff of cheese

“You need to be a bit mad to make cheese.”

So says Hans Wieland of The Organic Centre in Rossinver, Co. Leitrim.

I do believe that he counts himself in this. When he and his wife Gaby started making cheese from the milk of their own goats over 20 years ago, they built a kitchen for their cheese making before they built a house for themselves.

I learned this and a lot more besides when I headed to Leitrim last weekend to attend a hugely instructive cheese making course run by Hans and Gaby, during which we were taken through the processes of making both hard and soft cheeses and given an insight into the practicalities of small-scale commercial cheese production.

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