Update 3/12/09: It has been brought to my attention that Rose was rather horrified by the mention of tights in the context of this post. Fergal has admitted that he may have been deluded on this point – after all, he had never made boxty himself – and I believe that it is Rose’s view that tights would not be used in this way in modern civilised society. Apologies, Rose – the post has been amended to reflect this view.
“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.
Rose demonstrates just how boxty is done
As I boarded my
bus chariot for the evening, I realised that I might have come slightly underprepared on the food supplies front. The journey ahead would normally take an hour and a half or less, but the weather and traffic were abysmal. My chariot driver told me that the same journey the day before have taken him a ghastly 7 and a half hours. Testament to the fact that we Irish cannot handle snow at all. Anything more than a brief flurry and the country grinds to a halt.
Perhaps I should have taken one of these?
No one could possibly dispute the versatility of the spud. Whether occupying its resident spot in the meat-and-two-veg setting, operating in a soup or curry, appearing as chips, gratin, roasties or in any number of other incarnations. It can absorb and complement the flavours around it and round out that serving of dinner. However, there’s one thing, above all else, that lets the potato shine in its own right, one thing that was made to go with potatoes, to bring out its essential spudness, and that, my friends, is butter. (I can also say, without the remotest trace of bias, that, as Chef E observed lately, Ireland’s own Kerrygold really is a particularly good example of butter at its best.)
The best friend a potato could have