Boxty is a traditional Irish potato pancake.

Going back to traditional roots

I am rather fond of the odd quiz, especially if it is food based (that’s why I love organising food quizzes for clients) and normally I get between 95-100 per cent in each one. Recently, I came across a quiz that asked ‘How well do you know traditional Irish food?’ – turns out, I am pretty good as I knew the difference between a coddle and an Irish stew.

It was easy as the options for the photo were boxty, champ, coddle and colcannon. I missed one question as I wasn’t aware that you get a farl with your full Irish in Ulster. The question about the coddle got me thinking how many people actually know what a boxty is or the difference between champ and colcannon (spring onions in Champ, cabbage in Colcannon).

I visited the Boxty House in Dublin’s Temple Bar a few times and loved that the restaurant was celebrating the humble spud and a traditional dish like boxty. According to resources like Mary Kinsella in ‘An Irish Farmhouse Cookbook’ from 1983, boxty was a staple in counties like Donegal, Leitrim and Cavan.

Regina Sexton writes about potato cake in her book ‘A Little History of Irish Food’ and it shows how different recipes are from region to region. In general, a mix of cooked and raw potatoes are used while Regina and other modern chefs/cooks are using only one type.

A few years back in what is today the Oyster Tavern, Seamus O’Connell of the Ivory Tower offered boxty with different fillings and it was the first time I had boxty in Ireland with a blue cheese filling.

Pádraic Óg Gallagher, owner of the Boxty House in Dublin, has closed the restaurant for the time being but it seems they are working with Just Eat and do deliveries. Have a look at the website and see what you can do with a simple potato cake. My German grandmother made potato cakes when I was growing up (no one made them better than her) while my mum bought them from the shop (one of the first frozen products that came into the house).

It is a northern German traditional dish and is served with an apple compote (I have a recipe on my website under the German files if you are interested) and was a great lunch that children loved. It was sweet due to the apple compote, cheap to make and utterly tasty. I am hopeful that we are re-discovering traditional food – just not stew (I really don’t like stews).

A lot has been written about traditional Irish Food from people like William Wilde in 1854 (he considered the Irish diet poor) and just recently JP McMahon in his latest book ‘The Irish Cookbook’. UCC is offering a diploma course on Irish Food Culture which gives a deep insight into Irish food – traditional and modern.