Most Irish foods are perfect for scratchin’. The recipes are generally simple, relying on quality ingredients, rather than complexity, for their delicious taste. Now, we don’t remember having boxty during our (all-too-short) trips to the Emerald Isle, but we have had it at some of those “Irish pubs” that dot the landscape here in the US. While it’s always nice to get a pint or two, those “pubs” are often nothing like an authentic Irish pub. Sure, there are a few that even go to the trouble of having the pub shipped from Ireland, thinking that will somehow replicate the experience. Suffice it to say, it doesn’t. Ah, but enough of that; let’s make some boxty.
Now, the boxty we’ve had in the US is more like a thin potato pancake or crêpe, often wrapped around some item and covered in a sauce of some sort. Kind of like a mashup between an enchilada and perhaps a Shepard’s pie. Now, it could be that dishes like that are typical, but we tend to doubt it. We think that it makes far more sense that true boxty is more a filling, thick, and nourishing, potato pancake. So, if you’re looking for something more like the enchilada, because that is what you had in some “Irish pub,” keep looking.
We did modify this recipe from that we found in Real Irish Food, by David Bowers, mainly by cutting back on the amount of butter.
Makes 4 large boxty
Unfortunately, potatoes are one of the dirty dozen when it comes to pesticide use, so, unless you buy organic potatoes, we’d suggest peeling them. It can’t hurt; plus, we think the boxty looks a bit nicer without the peels in them.
Procedure in detail:
Pour a pint. Just to help you get in the mood for Irish food. You won’t need any of it for the recipe, so, now, you’ll just have to figure out another use for it.
Grate potato. Get out a medium-size bowl and grate the potato into it. Watch your fingers, especially if you followed the previous instruction.
Squeeze out liquid. Now, we didn’t get a lot of liquid, but we did pick up and squeeze fistfuls of potato shreds. It was at most 1/4 cup of liquid that drained into the bowl. Let it sit for a minute or two, then pour off the watery part, retaining the thicker starchy sediments. Put the grated potato back in the bowl.
Add dry ingredients. Here we consider mashed potatoes dry, so just dump in your cup of leftover mashed potatoes — we love mashed potatoes so much we almost never have leftovers. To make this boxty, we made mashed potatoes, took out the cup of leftovers first, then ate the rest. Add the flour, the salt, and the baking powder.
Stir. Now, mix everything around until the shreds are well-coated and the mashed potatoes are broken up. This mixing makes sure the salt and baking powder are evenly distributed.
Add liquids. Now’s the time to add the butter and the milk. Once added, stir and see if it forms a dough. If you need to, add a bit more milk. Once you have a dough, turn it out onto the counter and knead it a few times. Maybe five to ten, or until everything seems mixed in. Divide into four pieces.
Flatten. Take a piece of dough, shape it into a ball, and flatten it on a lightly-floured counter. We flattened ours to somewhere between 1/4- and 1/2-inch thick, and these seemed to turn out well.
Fry. Heat a cast-iron skillet with a bit of oil over medium heat until the oil is hot. Transfer your pancake to the pan. You might need to lift it with a spatula, depending on how sturdy your dough is. Fry for 5 to 6 minutes on a side, or until browned and crispy, adding small amounts of oil as necessary. Repeat with remaining dough.
Serve. We ate these pancakes as they came out of the pan. Since there are two of us, we just cut each cake in half and ate it while the next was frying. If you want, you could keep your boxty warm in a 200°F oven while you finish frying. Traditionally served with butter, we think that boxty in Irish homes is probably topped with whatever’s handy and tastes good.
As we said above, these were not at all like the boxty we’ve had here. These are really more of a cross between a quick potato bread and a pancake, which really opens up the possibilities. Yes, you could have them with butter, or you could be a bit more adventuresome, like us, and try them with a Thai chili sauce, or apricot preserves — both of which worked very well. Four stars.