This famous Irish traditional folk rhyme shows how boxty, a type of potato pancake, is firmly rooted in the national culture.
Boxty on the griddle,
Boxty in the pan,
If you can not make boxty,
You’ll never get a man.
Boxty on the griddle,
Boxty in the pan,
The wee one in the middle,
That’s the one for Mary Anne.
The original recipe comes from the counties of Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim and Monaghan to the north of Ireland. Boxty is still prepared and eaten for various holidays, such as Halloween that we are featuring this week on 196 flavors, and is native to the Celtic countries.
There are three kinds of boxties which differ in their cooking method: boxty that is cooked in a pan (that I chose to prepare), boiled and finally baked and shaped like breads.
According to sources, this recipe dates back to the mid-nineteenth century, at a time when Ireland was hit hard by the Great Famine between 1845 and 1852. Ironically, it is mainly because of mildew, a parasite by the scientific name of Phytophthora and that attacked crops of potatoes, that this famine occurred.
In making its appearance on the island in 1845, this mildew was responsible for a decline of 40% of the volume of production of potatoes, which at the time was the staple of the peasant class, thus generating a large-scale famine. Although no official statistics are available, the total number of deaths during this period is estimated at about 1 million. If we add to this terrible figure refugees as well as the significant part of the population that has decided to emigrate to escape certain death, it is considered that the impact on the Irish population were felt many years later, contributing to a drop of 25% of the total Irish population in just 10 years.
With the revival of traditional Irish cuisine and its promotion through the country’s restaurants that feature it, boxty has gradually come out of the family kitchen where it had a rather negative image of rustic dish unworthy of appearing on a restaurant menu to finally be celebrated.
Served with butter, sugar, honey, jam at breakfast or at tea time, these pancakes are also eaten with savory dishes such as sausages, eggs, bacon or smoked salmon and are found sometimes rolled stuffed with meat, fish or vegetables.
While the traditional recipe contains only contain a few ingredients (potato, flour, backing powder, buttermilk, salt), there are now numerous creative variations of Irish boxty available at restaurants including eggs, bacon, onions, vegetables and all kinds of herbs or spices.
Buttermilk is a very common ingredient throughout the world but it is a product that has virtually disappeared in France. Originally a product of butter, buttermilk is the sour liquid that separates from the cream in the process of churning butter. Today, it is more commonly made by adding yeast to the milk. It is praised in the Anglo-Saxon cuisine for the softness it brings to preparations such as pancakes, scones and muffins.
We tasted the sweet boxty version, hot with a knob of butter and honey. My nephew Liron who was with us for the tasting, chose to accompany his boxty with Nutella. He did not leave anything on his plate. Unanimous success for this recipe!
And for the record, I asked my family to guess the ingredients in the boxty and nobody detected the presence of potatoes. Your turn to challenge your family and friends with the game of “guess the mystery ingredient”!
Recipe of Boxty
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Ingredients (10 boxties)
- 1 lb potato
1-1/2 cup flour
1-1/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking powder
Butter for cooking
Cook half the potatoes in salted water until tender.
Peel, then mash.
Peel and grate the remaining potatoes.
Place them at the center of a clean cloth, close to the cloth like a pouch, then drain the grated potatoes through the cloth squeezing hard to extract the maximum moisture.
Stir in drained grated potato to mashed potatoes then add the flour, salt and baking powder.
Finally, add the buttermilk and mix well for 2 to 3 minutes.
Heat a frying pan and melt a little butter. Pour a ladleful of the preparation at the center of the pan and spread it out in a circle, forming a pancake with a thickness of about ½ inch.
When the first side is cooked through and golden brown, flip the boxty with a spatula to cook the other side the same way.
Repeat with the remaining batter.