|Alternative names||Poundy, poundies, potato bread|
|Place of origin||Ireland|
|Main ingredients||Potatoes, flour, baking soda, buttermilk; sometimes eggs|
Boxty (Irish: bacstaí) is a traditional Irish potato pancake. The dish is mostly associated with the north midlands, north Connacht and southern Ulster, in particular the counties of Mayo, Sligo, Donegal, Fermanagh, Longford, Leitrim and Cavan. There are many recipes but all contain finely grated, raw potatoes and all are served fried.
The most popular version of the dish consists of finely grated raw potato and mashed potato with flour, baking soda, buttermilk, and sometimes egg. The grated potato may be strained to remove most of the starch and water but this is not necessary. The mixture is fried on a griddle pan for a few minutes on each side, similar to a normal pancake. Traditional alternatives include using only raw potatoes, boiling it as a dumpling or baking it as a loaf. The most noticeable difference between boxty and other fried potato dishes is its smooth, fine-grained consistency.
The old Irish rhyme is: "Boxty on the griddle; boxty on the pan. If you can't make boxty, you'll never get a man!"
As the interest in Irish cuisine has increased, so the popularity of boxty has risen. It is not unusual to see boxty on the menus of restaurants outside the areas with which it is traditionally associated. Boxty may be bought in shops and supermarkets either in the dumpling form or ready cooked as pancakes. Boxty is authentically served roughly cut in thick slices or wedges, never in the thinner style of a crepe.
Method of preparation
Boxty can be made several ways. When baked in a pan it is sometimes called "Boxty bread". Potatoes are grated over cheesecloth and excess water is allowed to drain. It takes around half an hour for the starch to separate and sink to the bottom of the potato liquid. Meanwhile the grated potatoes are covered with mashed potatoes and when ready, the starch is distributed evenly over the potato mixture. The potato mixture is combined and sprinkled with flour, salt, pepper and melted butter or bacon fat. This "dough" is kneaded, shaped into cakes and scored with a cross so they divide into farls when baked.
Another method to make boxty is pan-fried like a griddle-cake. It is made the same way as boxty bread with the addition of enough milk to achieve a batter consistency. Some recipes also add egg yolk or baking soda. It is best to allow the pan boxty to cool and reheat before serving. The finished pancakes can be served with honey, butter or sprinkled with sugar. They can also be filled with vegetables, meat or cheese.
Boxty dough can also be boiled like dumplings. This requires squeezing excess moisture from the grated potato and combining with mashed potatoes and flour. The dumplings are seasoned with salt, boiled, sliced and pan-fried in butter. Modern variations can include currants and raisins, or be served with cornflour sauce like steamed pudding.
The traditional preparation known from 1854 Dublin University Magazine was made by mixing potato with either flour or oatmeal and adding animal fat or butter to form a cake. Potato graters were made from tin cans. With the addition of egg yolk, butter and milk, it is possible to roll the dough to 5/8 of an inch thick for cooking on a griddle. Boxty was most popular served with a smear of butter for tea but was also eaten for breakfast.
St. Brigid's Day
In Ireland St. Brigid is the patron saint of dairy and she is associated with milk, butter, ale, cheese and bacon. The tradition of St. Brigid may have roots in Ireland's pagan history and the pre-Christian "White Goddess" of Imbolc. Boxty is served for St Brigid's Day with other traditional foods like cross-shaped oat bread and Bride bannocks.
Likely Irish, possibly from the Irish arán bocht tí meaning "poor house bread" or bácús meaning "bakehouse".
- Asala, Joanne. Celtic Folklore Cooking. Llewelyn. p. 91.
- Friedland, Susan R. Vegetables: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cooking 2008.
- "Authentic Irish: Think inside the Boxty". The Chicago Tribune.
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- Clarkson, Janet. Food History Almanac: Over 1,300 Years of World Culinary History, Culture, and Social Influence.
- Ayto, John (2012). The diner's dictionary : word origins of food & drink (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 42. ISBN 9780199640249.