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Celtic Cookery : Potato Farls

Irish potato cakes are traditional and come under various names: fadge, potato farls, tattie bread, tattie scones or simply “that splodge that I came up with from the leftovers”. Today I share with you this cute review called
"Couldn't Be easer or more traditional- Potato Farls", excerpted from Dublin University Magazine - 1854 . Compiled by Conrad Bladey. Posted by kind permission of Conrad Bladey . All rights reserved by the author.

A centerpiece of the Ulster Fry but also very close to Boxty and known as Potato Bread. Boxty is more of a batter and made with raw as well as cooked potatoes. Interesting that these can be given a sweet content generally apples prepared as apple pie filling with brown sugar etc...pre cooked or raw. Apple potato cakes are associated with the eve of St. Brigid's day (February 1) so they are on my mind.

We recently tried many recipes. The one below was found to be the best. It is interesting that one should not totally mash the potatoes. The potatoes should be well cooked till soft then dried a bit by putting in colander over hot dry pot for a few minutes. The mashing done by hand with other ingredients should not have any hard lumps- hence the well cooked instruction but lumps can be the size of peas or smaller and be ok.

The question of texture and durability is up to the cook. Try less flour first- as in the recipe- handful....if you like the texture leave it that way or add more flour and more hand mixing till you get a more durable cake. Cook till brown on both sides on dry griddle then fry in bacon fat (about 1/2 inch in pan) till crispy on each side.

More durable cakes with more flour are heavier but they will stand up better to a fruit filling. While the potato tastes surprisingly well with the fruit as it is I would add a little sugar-tablespoon or two to the recipe and maybe some spices to the potato. Simply put cake on pan
in raw state. Cook till skins over on bottom put in fruit and fold over on itself. Cook on dry pan till potato is solid then fry in butter.

Here is the basic recipe:
Potato Farls (Rev. J. Mattison,Ulster)

3 large potatoes
Knot of butter (1-2 tablespoon)
Pinch of salt
Handful of soda bread flour

Directions: Boil the potatoes. Mash with knot of butter and salt. Add a
handful of soda bread flour. Dust your baking surface and roll out, about ½-inch thick. Place
on heated griddle. Cook both sides.

Alternative: Potato Oaten are made the same way, but with one handful of pin-headed or ordinary oatmeal
We have reserved to the last the potato-cake, made by bruising, with the bottom of a tin porringer, two cold, well-boiled potatoes, and mixing therewith a pound of the finest Flour, the
yolk of a fresh egg, a print of butter, and a sup of new-milk, the whole being well kneaded, then pounded with a rolling-pin, made into a cake five-eighths of an inch thick, cut into squares and diamonds, baked on a griddle, and, when properly browned and mottled, each piece torn asunder
like a muffin, and a bit of butter slipt in to melt in the interior, and then eaten at tea or breakfast, but particularly at the former, it is because it was the most widely disseminated and universally-
admired form of potato-eating known to all tea-drinkers and cup-toss-ers from Cape Clear to the Causeway.

What do you think? What is your tradition? Great for breakfast and this is an ancient thing that goes way back.


Kate said...

Elisio, I'd love to make this but I'm not sure what soda bread flour is. Would it be the same as self-raising flour, which is flour with baking soda added?

PS. I'm tempted to stay on your site all afternoon just to listen to the music!

Eliseo Mauas Pinto said...

Yes that's correct kind Kate...."baking soda" " (sodium bicarbonate)"
Potato farls are square slices (usually around 0.5-1cm in thickness) of soft potato bread, lightly powdered with flour and are common in Ulster, especially Northern Ireland. They are traditionally used as one of the distinguishing items of food in an Ulster Fry, where they are shallow-fried on both sides for a short time and served with Soda farls cooked in the same way. They can also be grilled and buttered, or eaten with a variety of toppings.
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