Posts Tagged ‘Exploring Irish Cooking’


Homemade Pan Boxty – Photo by Grey Catsidhe

It’s been awhile since I tried anything new from Irish Traditional Cooking by Darina Allen.  I made boxty pancakes before, but I decided to try making pan boxty today.  Unlike the former, pan boxty only utilizes fresh grated potatoes.  I didn’t have any mashed potatoes sitting around.

According to Allen, this dish came about in response to famine and poverty.  By grating and then squeezing the moisture out of the potatoes, our Irish ancestors were able to use potentially rotten spuds that wouldn’t work in other dishes.  Pan boxty is dense, crispy, and filling.

The traditional recipe she shared called for six “medium” potatoes.  I think the recipe was for one boxty that could be quartered…  but I was able to make three!  It didn’t specify what size of cast iron pot one should use, so you have some wiggle room when it comes to portions!  (Heck, in a recipe that calls for a “handful” of flour, you can play around…)

Despite its simplicity, boxty is not a quick meal.  You have to grate the potatoes, squeeze the moisture out, and wait for the starch and water to separate.  Each boxty cake takes about thirty minutes to cook, so if you make more than one with a small pan… be prepared to wait around a lot.

If you have the time and energy, making boxty is worth the effort!  They are very delicious, especially with some ketchup (is my mutt American upbringing showing?). The effort they take will keep us from overindulging in these thick, buttery, crispy, potato treats, but I see myself making them whenever I have more potatoes than I know what to do with!

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Everyone goes crazy for pumpkin spice everything in the autumn.  Don’t misunderstand – I enjoy pumpkins too.  I love using their innards to make an orzo dish, cookies, or pie.  Of course, I love to roast the seeds.  But if pressed to choose, my favorite autumn flavor comes from apples.

Photo Oct 18, 12 54 24 PM

These apple fritters might not look fancy, but they tasted good! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

I took some time this weekend to turn several apples my family picked into jelly.  I decided it was a perfect opportunity to try the apple fritter recipes from the book Irish Traditional Cooking by Darina Allen.  The batter is a simple mixture of flour, salt, egg, and milk.  Allen suggests using a deep fryer, but a frying pan with a layer of oil works as well – and it’s what our ancestors would have used*.  My family tries to eat healthy as much as possible, so we don’t do enough frying to validate us purchasing a deep fryer.  I used a wide frying pan.  It was definitely difficult, as the batter stuck to the bottom.  The results weren’t as pretty as they would have been in a deep fryer, but they were tasty!  I added a dusting of confectionary sugar.  The apple fritters tasted like a cross between baked apple and fried dough.  Definitely a nice treat!  As a bonus, all the cooking I did warmed the house up.  Perfect on a snowy, October day…

* The cookbook didn’t specify, but I suspect apple fritters weren’t an ancient treat…  Any thoughts?

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Butterfly Bun or Fairy Cake.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe.

Butterfly Bun or Fairy Cake. Photo by Grey Catsidhe.

It’s been awhile since I posted about my attempts to explore Irish cooking.  Since it’s Bealtaine, I figured I should take a peek at some possibilities.  I came across Queen Cakes which sounded appropriate, but the author, Dariana Allen, explained that they were usually made for Nollaig Bheag.  However, the variation with wee wings felt particularly appropriate for Bealtaine!  A look around the internet revealed that there are variations in Ireland as well as Scotland and England.  Some call them butterfly buns, and others call them fairy cakes.  I followed Allen’s recipe, which was shared online here, but made a lemon frosting.  The first few I made look kind of like sick butterflies.  I cut the tops too thin,  Really, truly cut the top off, slice it in half, and position as wings on the frosting.  Dust with confectionary sugar.  So cute and easy! I can’t wait to share some with my grovies tomorrow!

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Irish Boxty – Photo by Grey Catsidhe

Ever since I watched some random travel documentary about Ireland a few years ago, I wanted to try making boxty. I remember the host talking to some people who were making them at an outdoor market, and they looked delicious and easy. They’re essentially potato pancakes that use leftover mashed potatoes.

This morning, I finally had leftover mashed potatoes!

Following a recipe from Irish Traditional Cooking by Darina Allen, I gathered the small number of ingredients and got to work! The first three took a long time to cook, but after adjusting the temperature and amount of butter needed to lubricate the pan, the following pancakes were perfect in all but shape. I even made a small one for the Ancestors! In the spirit of Irish descendants putting an American spin on the recipes of their ancestors, my husband decided we should eat them with ketchup, which was actually wonderful.

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Vegetarian Beef and Guinness Stew Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

My protogrove’s Imbolc potluck theme was “get creative,” so I decided to do just that and play with a recipe for beef and Guiness stew in the Irish Traditional Cooking book.  To make it vegetarian, I first had to get the extra stout variety of Guinness brewed in North America.  It’s the only vegetarian variety.  Then, to be creative, I made seitan from scratch.  I used this recipe which is normally used for making vegetarian “ribs.”  The seitan comes out nice and chewy!  I chopped it into little cubes and added it to my stew of carrots, onions, and potatoes.  The book’s recipe said to serve with potatoes, so I just went ahead and made them a part of the pot.

It was a hearty dish with enough to share at a modest potluck.  I’m really happy with how it came out, but my husband, who never seems to get enough salt, felt it needed more of a savory flavor.  Definitely something to play with, but I generally try to limit the sodium we consume.

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I stumbled upon this recipe while looking at the grain section of the cookbook; it wasn’t among the other soup recipes.  I decided to experiment with this one because I already had the barley and potatoes in my cupboards.  The only ingredients I needed to stock up on were onions and turnips.

I didn’t follow this recipe exactly.  I added more barely because I wanted a thicker soup.  We also didn’t put everything in a pot of water right away.  We used butter as fat and softened the onions in that before adding water and other ingredients.  With the addition of milk towards the end, the result is a delicious but rich, creamy tasting soup.  My husband enjoyed the chunkiness, although I think I preferred the blended potato soup from last week.  All the same, we decided that this was something to make again.

As I ate, I reflected on how one of my Irish ancestors moved to Upstate NY after her family’s potato farm failed.  This is the second potato dish I’ve made, and the humble, New World veggie makes many appearances in these dishes. It’s easy to imagine how devastating the blight was…


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20150118-101633.jpg This week, as I explore Irish cooking, I decided to try another soup.  It’s been chilly, and soup has a way of comforting like no other.  I decided to give the Potato and Fresh Herb Soup recipe a try.  Again, this is from Darina Allen’s Irish Traditional Cooking.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of fresh herbs in the winter.  The grocery store only carries so many (such as the parsley I used).  I needed dried herbs for the rest.  Allen suggests just leaving dried herbs out entirely, but the dried didn’t seem to detract from it much at all.  This was a very easy recipe to make vegetarian – just use veggie broth.  The other ingredients are very simple and suitable for a winter soup – potatoes and onions.  Don’t forget a bunch of butter and cream!

The resulting soup is much thinner that I had anticipated, but if you let it settle after blending, it’s not as watery as I had feared.  I found that dropping in some hunks of toasted bread really added to the texture.  All three of us really enjoyed the soup.  The flavor is so wholesome.  Definitely a keeper!

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