Boxty is a hearty pancake-like Irish food made from potatoes and flour. Credit: Credit: Courtesy of Sandy Oliver

Somewhere between a pancake and potato latke, Irish boxty is good for breakfast with sausage or bacon and eggs, or with applesauce for tea.

In the old days in Ireland when wheat flour was costly, boxty was a special treat for struggling Irish farmers. Most households depended on oats as a staple grain. Boxty, made with potatoes, stretched the flour and made a special occasion bread, sometimes served on days when farmers got together to share arduous work such as cutting turf — peat — to burn.

Starchy and cheap, potatoes are natural partners with grain; not just wheat, but also oats. And the Irish are hardly alone using potatoes with flour for bread.

Norwegians make lefse, a flat rolled-out bread of wheat flour and mashed potatoes. Plenty of Yankee recipes call for mashed potatoes in yeast breads, too, or potato flour added to wheat flour.

Because the Irish relied so much on potatoes, they cooked the vegetable, mashed and combined it with flour to form scones, griddle cakes and other flat pan breads.

Boxty uses both mashed and grated potato. From some early descriptions of boxty, I concluded that I ought to use the coarse side of the grater, not the shredding side. It took an impressive amount of effort to produce it. All that hand work added to what made boxty special.

Some older recipes caution cooks to drain the grated potatoes, allow the liquid to sit until the potato starch settles, then the clear liquid is drained off and the starch is added back to the dough. That step is omitted in the recipe below.

Essentially, cooks need roughly equal parts of cooked mashed potatoes, grated raw potatoes and flour. An egg, some milk, salt and pepper round out the recipe.

Beat the egg and some of the milk together before adding it, then observe the consistency of the batter, adding only enough more milk to make a thick but dropping consistency. Cook the pancakes on a hot griddle with plenty of olive or vegetable oil, or bacon fat.

Boxty is a hearty pancake-like Irish food made from potatoes and flour. (Courtesy of Sandy Oliver)

They are most delicious served warm.

Boxty

1 1/2 cups grated raw potatoes

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup leftover mashed potatoes

1 egg

2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup milk

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup vegetable oil

In a large bowl, mix together the grated potatoes and flour.

Stir in mashed potatoes and combine well.

In a small bowl, beat together the egg and milk and add to the potato and flour mixture.

Stir, adding only enough more milk to achieve a thick but dropping batter.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Bring a large skillet to a medium high heat with the vegetable oil.

Drop spoonsful of the boxty batter on the skillet in 2-inch-diameter cakes.

Fry until golden, about 4 minutes each side.

Drain on paper towels.

Serve warm.

Serves 4-6

Avatar photo

Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...