St Patrick’s Day is a funny one – I love the idea of a day being set aside just for us to celebrate our Irishness (we love being Irish!) but the world’s interpretations of it and of Irishness in general often miss the mark to a large degree – Irish people are not as one-dimensional as the world would have us on St Patrick’s Day, and, unsurprisingly enough, neither is our food.
Older traditions and regional dishes are still valued here, but they’re incorporated with lighter, more modern ingredients and techniques and influences. Spiced beef is still as popular as ever, for example, but you’re now as likely to find it paired with sauerkraut in a Reuben sandwich as with boiled potatoes and white sauce. The crucial thing is that the Irish influence is discernible but subtle – the dish should fit into modern life without jarring or seeming overly quaint.
So this St Patrick’s Day layer the old with the new, the Irish with the international and try these lovely boxty pancakes for brunch, with herby baked eggs and cold slices of beautiful smoked salmon alongside. They’re the nicest way to start the day I can think of, St Patrick’s Day or not.
Co. Fermanagh, Boxty heartland
A very modern classic from Co. Cavan by way of my father, who is from Fermanagh and grew up eating the rather more austere boxty dumplings that are more widely known here. Makes around 15 pancakes.
450g raw potatoes, peeled
450g cooked potatoes, peeled
450g plain flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
Wash and peel the raw potatoes. Grate them on to a muslin cloth and wring them tightly, catching all of the liquid in a large bowl and leave to sit until the starch has sunk and the water on top is clear. Put the potatoes from the muslin into another bowl and mash the cooked potatoes over them. Pour the water off the starch and scrape the starch into the potato mixture. Mix well, then sieve the flour over this and add salt and baking soda. Mix well. Make a well in the centre and add enough buttermilk to make a batter of a dropping consistency. Beat well until mixed. Leave for a few minutes before frying.
Heat a frying pan till it’s very hot, grease with an oiled piece of kitchen paper and drop large spoonfuls onto the pan, flipping after the first side has set. Keep batches warm in the oven while you work and serve hot with butter.