St. Patrick’s Day isn’t an official legal holiday in the United States, but don’t tell that to anyone who’ll be “wearin’ the green,” as well as drinking it (beer, that is), on March 17th.
It’s the one day of the year where everyone seems to be a “wee bit Irish,” even if only for an excuse to enjoy a pint or a corned beef dinner.
And while corned beef and cabbage (as well as Guinness) get their due attention and appreciation, one traditional, historic Irish staple gets relegated to back-of-the-dish status, and it’s about time it got its props.
How important was the Irish potato in the history of Ireland and Great Britain?
Back in the 19th century, Ireland’s poor were so dependent on potatoes as a crop and for their day-to-day sustenance that when the Irish Potato Blight (between 1845 and 1852) decimated the crops of Ireland, it caused widespread famine and completely and permanently changed the island’s demographic, political, and cultural landscape.
Over one million people died during the famine, which was about 25% of the population then.
The potato famine eventually led to Ireland’s discontent with Britain and ultimately led to Ireland’s independence many decades later.
So the potato was certainly then, and still is today, an important staple in Irish cuisine, and there are many simple recipes you can enjoy to honor the Irish culture on St. Patrick’s Day.
Here are a few.
Boxty is a very traditional Irish potato side dish. It’s basically a traditional potato pancake, with the distinction that it uses both cooked (mashed) potato and shredded raw potato in its mixture. Like most all potato cake recipes, Boxty can be enjoyed as a side dish to a main course meal or as an appetizer topped with sour cream, cheese or even salmon.
Boxty (Irish Potato Pancakes) Makes 6 to 8 Servings:
2 Lbs (3 to 4 large) Yukon Gold or Russet Potatoes
¾ Cup Half & Half (milk will also do)
1 ½ tsp Sea Salt (or Kosher Salt)
1 Extra-Large Egg
1/3 to ½ Cup All-Purpose Flour
½ tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
½ Stick Salted Butter
Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
Peel all the potatoes, cut half of the potatoes into large pieces and cook in simmering water until tender.
Drain the potatoes well.
Mash with the milk, salt and pepper.
Beat the egg and mash into the potato mixture.
Sprinkle about 1/3 cup of the flour over the mashed potato mixture and beat in. If the mixture is a bit watery, add a bit more flour.
Take the remaining raw potatoes and shred them coarsely with a box grater. Use the ¼” size hole side.
Do not rinse but rather squeeze out ALL of the resulting potato liquid. Use some paper towels to pat dry.
Add the shredded potatoes to the mashed potato mixture and stir in.
Using a non-stick fry pan, on medium-high heat, add about 1 TBSP of butter to the hot pan, swirl around to coat the bottom evenly, and then portion each potato pancake using about ¼ cup of the mashed mixture per cake.
Fry on each side about 4 or 5 minutes (or until medium brown). As each batch of cakes is done, place it on a baking sheet. When all the potatoes are finished, pop them into a 350 F. oven for about 2 to 3 minutes to reheat them, and then serve.
What is a Farl, you might ask? Actually, a Farl is a shape, generally a round that’s cut into quarters, like a small pizza might be cut. It’s also the shape of a traditional scone or soda bread.
Irish Farls are a dough-like potato bread that are pan fried. Almost like an English muffin, except Farls are softer like the Russian blinis.
Traditional Irish Potato Farls Makes about 8 Farls:
1 ¼ Lbs Peeled Idaho/Russet Potatoes
2 TBSP Melted Salted Butter
1 Cup All-Purpose Flour
½ tsp Baking Soda
To Taste Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper
As Needed Additional Flour for Kneading
As Needed Vegetable Spray Oil
Cook potatoes in simmering water until tender, and then drain well.
Mash potatoes in a medium-size bowl with melted butter, and then salt and pepper to taste.
Sprinkle baking soda and about ¾ of the flour over the potatoes and mash in.
Turn dough onto a work counter and carefully knead the remaining flour into the potato mixture until it is like a soft dough.
Heat a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat, and spray it liberally with vegetable spray. Alternately, you can use a few teaspoons of vegetable oil.
Divide dough in half, and then flatten each half piece into a round, flat pancake about ¼” thick and 6” in diameter.
Cut each round into 4 equal triangles by cutting in half through the middle, then in half again.
Place the pieces onto the hot skillet and pan fry on each side about 2 to 3 minutes or until medium brown and crispy on each side.
The last Irish potato recipe is the easiest. It’s pretty much mashed potatoes with an accent of kale and onions, but it’s VERY Irish. It’s called Colcannon.
Irish Colcannon Makes about 6 servings:
1 ½ Lbs. Idaho/Russet Potatoes, Peeled and Quartered
2 Cups Baby Kale, Chopped Coarsely
1/2 Cup Green Onions, Chopped
¼ Cup Green Onions, Minced
1 Stick Salted Butter
To Taste Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Blanch kale in simmering water for 1 minute, and then drain and place in a blender with the ½ cup of chopped green onions. Pulse ONLY, leaving mixture only partially pureed.
Simmer the potatoes in water until tender, drain, season with salt and pepper, and then mash with the salted butter and the kale mixture.
Place in a serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup green onions.
Note: Cabbage can be substituted for kale, and the green part of knob onions can be substituted for the green onions.