Boxty is a traditional Irish potato dish found in the “Border” Counties of Fermanagh, Cavan, Leitrim & Donegal. In Irish it is called "Bacstai" or "Aran bocht-ti" meaning "poor-house bread".
The main ingredient is potato and recipes can be traced back to pre-famine times when potatoes were plentiful and the main source of food.
Indeed potatoes were brought over from South America to Europe during the 16th century, and quickly took root. Potatoes came to form a massive part of the Irish diet, particularly for the country’s poor. By the early 19th century, the average adult Irishman was eating around 6kg of potatoes a day.
Because they grow in most types of soil, potatoes were an accessible crop to all. The Irish ate them every day at every meal; the more rural the family, the more they depended on the potato for sustenance: it was a true staple food.
“Boxty on the griddle; boxty on the pan. If you can’t make boxty, you’ll never get a man!”
This old rhyme shows the cultural importance of this dish.
Although mostly referred as just boxty, there are really three types of the popular Irish recipe: boiled boxty also known as boxty dumplings, pan boxty and loaf boxty.
The traditional boiled Boxty.
Boiled Boxty consists in grated raw potatoes (squeezed of their excess moisture), to which is added their remaining starch, an equal amount of mashed cooked potatoes, bound with flour, and seasoned with salt. Those balls (called "hurleys") are placed in a pot of boiling salted water, and simmered for up to 45 minutes. Initially they may sink to the bottom...but (if you have your ingredients quantities right) they rise to the surface after 5mn.
After this, boiled boxty is cooled, it is sliced, before being pan-fried in butter.
My mother in law sometimes added raisins or currants to the mixture of boxty dumplings.
Some culinary ideas
Traditionally Boxty was made to be eaten at Halloween, but nowadays it can be bought in many Fermanagh shops all the year round. You can have Boxty for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Boxty pancakes can be served with honey, butter or sprinkled with sugar. The Boxty loaf can be filled with vegetables, meat or cheese.
Belcoo woman Marian McGrath feels she has the tastiest boxty around and had the honour of providing the Irish delicacy for the G8 summit in June 2013. Marian, runs Fermanagh Boxty House between Boho and Belcoo and sells her product throughout the county, including Enniskillen, Derrygonnelly, Belleek, Garrison and of course Belcoo. She has been making the delicacy by hand for over 20 years and says demand has steadily been growing.
“It is becoming very fashionable, it is the sort of thing that can be served with any dish and is suitable for breakfast, lunch and dinner, hot or cold.
“We have noticed recently people are also using it on the barbecue and tourists coming to Fermanagh are trying it as it is so traditional and is a fresh product.
Students also love it and bring it back to university with them because it’s so tasty and so easy to cook.
“I would just cook it in the pan, but it can be incorporated into lots of different dishes.”
Marian makes three different types of boxty, but it is griddle boxty which she specialises in.
Drummully Boxty is a local business in Cavan which is, like ourselves, part of the Cuilcagh Lakelands Geopark business network.
Their products are made using traditional family recipes and the finest Irish potatoes. Their dumpling boxty and pan boxty are gluten free, dairy free and low in fat making them a popular choice at slimming groups.
Make sure to visit their website: www.drummully.com
For extra help in making boxty, follow one of the many videos posted on youtube: this is the one from Drummully Boxty.
Bon appétit !