Origins of Traditional Irish Dishes: Boxty

Unlike Corned Beef and Cabbage, which turns out not to be as ‘traditional’ an Irish dish as many may think, Boxty is indeed authentic to Irish cuisine’s history (it’s also sometimes called ‘stamp’). In fact, there is even an old rhyme about the dish: “Boxty on the griddle, boxty on the pan; if you can't make boxty, you'll never get a man.”

Made almost entirely of potatoes, boxty was a central aspect of Irish people's’ diets starting in the 1700s. It was a cheap, hunger-satisfying dish for the poorer population, which relied completely on potatoes to survive. Boxty and other potato-based dishes such as colcannon, potato apple-cakes, and potato bread were very popular among the lower classes for more than 100 years.

However, many Irish people lost even their potatoes in 1847-1849, during the Great Famine in Ireland, which was caused by a blight that destroyed the potato crop. It was one of Ireland’s worst periods in history, where more than a million people died from starvation and another million were forced to emigrate in order to survive.

After the potato became available again in Ireland in the mid- to late-1850s and onward, boxty and other potato dishes returned as the staple Irish diet. Boxty can still be found on menus of pubs and restaurants in Ireland and also here in the States.

Traditionally, boxty is made with potatoes, flour and milk, but today’s boxty is often made with additional ingredients to enhance the flavor and texture, such as olive oil/butter, eggs and the basic spices of salt and pepper. Some people use skim milk, and others use buttermilk.

There are three common ways to prepare Traditional Irish Boxty:

  • Pan/Pancake Boxty: Cooked in a hot pan and sliced into triangles.
  • Loaf Boxty: Baked as loaves in the oven.
  • Boiled Boxty: Shaped like a dumpling and boiled to retain its shape.

At Wilde Rover, we bring a bit of Pacific Northwest flavor to our boxty… It’s served with roasted mushrooms, red onion, fennel and Chevre goat cheese on a bed of grilled pea vines and drizzled with a fresh lemon crème fraîche. You can also enjoy our boxty as a quesadilla (the tortilla is replaced with boxty, of course), with roasted chicken, cheddar, caramelized onions and peppers with a dollop of chipotle cream.

Featured photo source: Wikipedia Commons

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