“You’ll need tights,” said Fergal (though, as you may have gathered, he was ultimately mistaken on this point).
“Er, ‘scuse me…?”
We were arranging a visit to Fergal’s mammy, Rose, for a boxty-making session. Fergal, as it turns out, was referring not to a dress code for the visit (phew), but to the tights one might (or, as it turns out, might not) use to squeeze grated raw potato – boxty’s principal ingredient.
It had been many months since I first heard my friend Fergal wax lyrical about his mammy’s boxty and I had been pestering him for the recipes ever since. While boxty is a very traditional Irish potato dish, it is not something that was ever made in my family, and remained a significant gap in my potato repertoire. This was my chance to get the low-down on same from a native of Leitrim, where boxty is big.
The first thing you need to know is that there are many different forms of said boxty: Rose herself makes three – boxty on the pan, boxty in the oven and boxty dumplings – and it was a delight and a privilege to watch an Irish mammy in action, making boxty on the pan just as her own mammy would have done.
I saw the potatoes being very finely grated and squeezed to remove a surprising amount of liquid (Rose keeps a small linen bag specifically for the purpose, so no need to break out the emergency supply of tights (again phew) – and I now know that Rose would have been aghast if I had done so). A little buttermilk added, then a tiny sprinkling of sugar, salt and a small scoop of flour, some bread soda mixed with a little milk, all stirred together to form a thick batter. Spoonfuls cooked up on a hot buttered pan until golden on both sides and eaten with yet more butter and, traditionally, some bacon.
It’s like a chewier version of a potato cake and is equally simple, uncomplicated fare that harks back to Rose’s early life on a farm in the 40’s and 50’s, when the spuds came from their winter store of kerr’s pinks, the buttermilk was the by-product of the butter they churned and the bacon was home-cured.
When I later made some boxty for myself, I was, of course, tempted to add in all sorts of things and I have no doubt that, in due course, I will. But for my first time out, I kept it simple and made it exactly as Rose had done. Nothing required to enjoy it other than butter, and lots of it. Simple is good. Simple with lots of butter is even better.
Boxty On The Pan
When Rose made her boxty, everything was done by eye. The measurements below are based on what I used when I got back to my own kitchen to make a batch. The amounts are approximate and the results will vary somewhat with the type of potatoes used and how much liquid you manage to extract from them.
For the amounts given, you should end up with a thick batter – one which doesn’t spread on the pan – and you shape and flatten the mixture on the pan to your desired thickness. You could also add more buttermilk and make thinner, more crepe-like boxty pancakes.
- Makes about 5 large boxty pancakes (around 12cm across) or 10 smaller ones & takes approx. 20 min to prep + (depending on the size of your pan) approx. 40 min to fry them up
- 1kg potatoes, preferably a floury variety (Rose prefers Kerr’s Pinks, though Roosters are fine too; try Russets or Yukon Golds if you’re Stateside)
- 300ml buttermilk
- 150g plain flour
- 1 tsp salt
- pinch of sugar
- 0.25 tsp bread soda
- a little milk to mix with the bread soda
- butter for frying and serving
You’ll also need:
- A grater or food processor with an attachment for doing very fine grating, plus either a few sheets of muslin, an old, clean pillow case,
a pair of clean tightsor a clean tea towel, in which to place the grated potatoes so that you can squeeze them out.
- Grate your potatoes very finely and, wrapping the grated potato in your muslin / pillow case /
tights/ tea towel, squeeze out very well, to remove as much liquid as possible.
- Place the grated potato in a large mixing bowl and pour over the buttermilk. This will help to prevent discolouration of the potatoes.
- Add the flour, salt and sugar to the bowl and stir to combine – you should end up with a very thick batter. Mix the bread soda with a little milk and stir that into the potato mixture. [Alternatively, you could whisk the flour, salt, sugar and bread soda together very well in a separate bowl and then add that in directly]
- Place a heavy frying pan over a medium high heat. Add some butter and allow to melt.
- To check the mixture for salt, spoon a small amount of the mixture onto the pan, flatten into a thick-ish round (about 0.5cm thick or so) and fry for around 3-4 minutes on either side or until nicely browned. Taste the sample and add more salt to the remaining potato mixture if you wish.
- Cook the rest of the boxty in the same way, making the individual pieces large or small, as you wish.
- Serve with plenty of butter and, yeah, probably some bacon (or honey, if you’re in the humour for something sweet).
- Of course there’s plenty that you could add by way of flavouring here. I fancy substituting grated apple for some of the potato or maybe throwing in a large, non-traditional handful of grated parmesan.
Boxty In The Oven
For this version, make the potato mixture exactly as per the recipe above. Then place the mixture in a 2-pint loaf tin or cast-iron casserole / dutch oven, lined with parchment paper, and bake at 200C for about an hour, until lightly golden on top and fairly firm to the touch. This is allowed to cool, then sliced and fried in butter – my own preference is for very thin slices. This loaf should keep for 4-5 days in the fridge, during which time you can slice and fry at will. I will be making boxty this way again, of that there is no doubt.
For these, I know only that Rose uses about half and half grated raw potato and boiled mashed potato, mixed with flour and a little salt. The mixture is kneaded and shaped into large dumplings, about the size of a small saucer, and boiled for 45 minutes or so. I think I will need another session with Rose to see these boxty dumplings made at first hand, Leitrim-style.
That’s pretty neat. I learned something new today. Boxty. I’ve got to try this.
Another spud dish from Spud that I have never heard of… It am getting such a tuberiffic education from you. Thanks, GREG
Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe and post, Spud. I’m promised myself I’d try my hand at making boxty this year for St. Paddy’s day (if not before) and this is a wonderful primer. I can’t wait to try it!
Well so far everything that came to mind was said already…but I will say that I would eat as many as I could, and give her a big ‘Thank You’ as I left…I will be trying this and always add a little cookappeal twist :)
What a neat delicious new specialty to learn about! Thanks for sharing this special recipe! I know my daughter would absolutely love this, can’t wait to make it for her!
Thank goodness for your blog or I would never have know about Boxty. Is bread soda the same as baking soda?
Oh. My. Goodness. That looks absolutely amazing! I’ve never heard of this, but I swear I am going to run out right now to get some flour! This is the PERFECT way to use up my potatoes!
It looks delicious…and a great comfort food!
So you must’ve known there are 4 lone red potatoes in the fridge, and the idea of making a potato cake came to mind tonight. You must’ve known! Who told you?
jenn: funny that, even though it’s an Irish thing, it was really new for me too, at least as far as making it goes
SippitySup: I must be doing my job right, so :)
Diva: enjoy! do try making the oven / loaf version and fry up thin slices of same, my favourite way to make it so far
Chef E: of course I will be expecting your cookappeal twist on this :)
Natasha: hope she enjoys it!
Carol: yep, baking soda and bread soda are the same thing; haven’t tried making this with gluten-free flour yet, but it’s certainly on the list to try
sophia: thanks so much for dropping by and, yep, as potatoes go, it’s a pretty good way of dealing with them :)
History of Greek Food: oh comfort food, most definitely
Duo Dishes: now, about that webcam I had installed…
Wow guys, my mother (and Co. Leitrim) will be delighted with the feedback!
Dont forget to boil wash your linen “boxty Bags” without detergent so it doesnt take from the flavour
I want boxty! I was getting set to make your leek potato cake but now this bit of deliciousness comes along. Mmmmm . . . buttered and bacon’d – that would hit the spot. Many thanks to Rose for sharing her technique!
The Boxty loaf is a definite winner. I got to share in the experimental loaf and it’s great to know there is something handy in the fridge that’s quick to fix, tasty and filling. I paired it up with the traditional bacon on one occasion, with salad on another, and with goat’s cheese and cranberry sauce on yet another.
“Boxty on the griddle, boxty in the pan, If you can’t make boxty, you’ll never get your man”.
Fergal: ah, yes, that needs to go under the ‘caring for your boxty bag’ section – could be a whole book in this!
Tangled Noodle: am very grateful to Rose myself – expect to hear more about boxty in the future…
Ange: did you miss trying it with just butter and honey? that was also fab
Berna: so that’s where I’ve been going wrong all these years? I have a lot of boxty-making to catch up on, so :D
This looks good! I’d love a version with apples just cuz. Yum.
I love boxty and cannot wait to make some soon – I hope. Unfortunately or fortunately we’re moving soon, so my cooking will be severely limited the next few weeks. Luckily we’re going to end up on Clement St closer to a lot of my favortie restaurants. Your recipe looks divine.
kickpleat: a version with apple in next on my list!
OysterCulture: good luck with moving and hope that you will be in a position to make boxty soon :)
To meet fellow boxty lovers check out the boxty appreciation club on Facebook :-)
Ah, I didn’t know about the boxty appreciation club Lorna, thanks for letting me know!
How interesting. I had not heard of it yet – feel such a fool. I just loved that you put the 3 different ways here. I have a constant excess of potatoes in my pantry. I have got some ideas now.If i were to make too much of the mixture and if I were unable to use it all up on the same day, would it be ok to keep it in the fridge till next day? Might sound a silly question.
Hey Valentina – don’t feel a fool at all – there are many people in Ireland who have never had boxty! And your question is not a bit silly. I think the batter is probably better used when it is fairly fresh, rather than being kept overnight. If you do make a lot of batter then you could try making the pancakes and then freezing the excess once they’ve cooled. You could also bake the batter as a loaf in the oven, which should then keep in the fridge for around 5 days, or you could slice it up and try freezing the slices.
HRH is digging into boxty for starters up in the Aras at lunchtime. Any they didnt even ask us…..
Ah jaysus Fergal, that was a bit of a slip up on their part, wha’? We could have discussed the whole tights issue and everything, real bit of cultural insight for HRH :D
I gotto make Boxty For 100 people next week, we used t make it by grateing large peeled raw potatoes with graters made from old bean cans and holed by 4 inch nails,rub the spuds over the rough side and try not to add too much blood off your knuckles, to the pulp add salt and plain flour, nothing else; fry in a hot pan with bacon lard for 2 mins each side then add knob butter, good t go. nowadays i cheat and use a liquidiser to pulp the spuds, much easier. x
i buy my Boxty from a local butcher who makes it in a roll, and then slices it off for you.
One inch thick,, i fry it low temp,on the pan or griddle for about 10 minutes
Good stuff, great to have a local butcher who does that for you Gordy
thanks fergal.great tips im from cavan grew up on boxty dumplings mum made it at Halloween
Hi, thanks for the recipe. Curious about the batter, how long would it be usable if stores in the fridge and would it be OK to maybe half cook some boxty then freeze it?
Hi Paul, thanks for the enquiry! I’d be inclined not to store the batter for too long in the fridge – I would tend to cook it on the day its made (I suspect that it could start to ferment if left for too long).
What you can do, for example though, is to cook the batter as a loaf (the ‘Boxty in the Oven’) described above. Once cooled, that loaf can be stored in the fridge for 4-5 days, and you can cut slices from it and fry them up as needed. Alternatively, you could try baking the loaf and then, once completely cooled, cut into slices and freeze – then remove from the freezer as needed and fry (I haven’t tried this with boxty loaf, but I have frozen uncooked potato cakes, and that worked pretty well, so I think it’s worth a try).
Hope that helps!
Just returned from holiday in Ireland, made 5 trips there and first time having Boxty ( Bricían restaurant & Boxty House in Killarney) Couldn’t wait to come home & try it myself. Thanks for this great recipe/lesson #notightsinboxty