Legendary Dishes | Potato Cakes

IRELAND (HIBERNIA | Food Travels in Ireland)

In recent years the plain potato cake of Ireland has been replaced with a machine product called hash browns.

Ever since the potato arrived in Ireland, brought by an English aristocrat called Raleigh to his estate in Youghal in the south-east and traded by Basque fishers in the west, this versatile root has become an essential ingredient in the daily diet of the people, forming numerous dishes that became traditional.

Among these are various shaped concoctions known as boxty, fadge, farl and pratie made with potato and other indigenous ingredients – bacon, butter, milk, oats.

We can see today the impact of the potato on traditional food. A protein package full of carbohydrates, vitamins B6 and C, potassium, niacin and iron, it symbolised working life by providing energy and well-being in every imaginable kind of form. The potato was baked, boiled, cooked, fried, mashed, powdered, stuffed and sautéed. It produced national dishes in many countries, and replaced standard ingredients in traditional dishes.

In Ireland it changed the culinary landscape, as we shall see.

This is our modern interpretation of the potato ‘cake’ which we present to rival the interloper.

If you don’t like the idea of using a ‘foreign’ product like semolina (albeit a product that has been part of Irish culinary life since the 1800s), replace it with oats that have been roasted, cooled and coarsely crushed.

The amount of milk will depend on the variety of potato and whether you want a fluffy cake. When the mixture is cold it be must be easily handled. Therefore this recipe requires plenty of practice!

  • 1 kg potatoes (e.g. Dunbar Standard, Rooster), peeled, cut into equal sized large pieces
  • 65 g butter
  • 50 ml fat-free milk
  • 45 g semolina, fine
  • Salt, pinch

Cook the potatoes until they are soft. Leave to cool a little, then add butter, milk and salt. Mash into a smooth thick purée. Leave to cool, keep in refrigerator for at least 8 hours.

Divide the potato purée into four equal pieces. Shape into squashed balls.

Sprinkle two tablespoons of semolina on a clean surface or board.

Preheat oven to 180ºC.

Press one of the potato balls into the semolina, flattening it a little. Carefully lift over and press down again. Turn on its side and roll in the semolina, pressing gently. The potato cake should be completely coated with the semolina. Repeat with remaining balls. Use remaining semolina as needed.

Place the cakes on a clean baking tray. Bake for 65 minutes. The cakes are ready when they have formed a hard crust that is fairly thick.

This is an edited extract from Hibernia | Food Travels in Ireland, an excursion through the present into the past to examine the changes in Irish traditional food, the revival of its indigenous produce and authentic traditional recipes, scheduled for publication later in 2021 or in 2022.

Traditional Irish Food (Working List)

Aran Sweet Beef
Ardagh Castle Goats Cheese goat’s milk
Armagh Apple Juice
Atlantic Carrageen
Atlantic Dulse
Atlantic Mackerel
Baked Crusted Salmon
Ballyhooly Blue Cheese cow’s milk
Barm Brack – Spelt
Barm Brack – Wheat
Beal Cheddar cow’s milk
Beara Blue Cheese cow’s milk
Belfast Bap
Bellingham Blue Cheese cow’s milk
Blaa Bread
Black Pudding
Bookies Sandwich rump or sirloin steak with onions in a bread roll
Boxty potato cakes / potato dumplings
Burren Smokehouse Salmon
Cais Dubh Cheese cow’s milk
Cais Rua Cheese cow’s milk
Carlow Cheese cow’s milk
Carrowholly Cheese cow’s milk
Champ / Stelk mashed potatoes and scallions
Cleire Goats Cheese goat’s milk
Coddle bacon, gammon, ham hock, onions, potatoes, sausages with kale
Colcannon buttermilk, kale and potatoes
Connemara Hill Lamb
Connemara Pies
Connemara Scones
Coolattin Cheddar Cheese cow’s milk
Cooleeney Farmhouse Cheese cow’s milk
Corleggy Cheese goat’s milk
Creeny Cheese ewe’s milk
Drumlin Cheese cow’s milk
Dexter Beef / Marshalls’ Dexter Beef
Dilliskus Cheese cow’s milk with seaweed
Dingle Smoked Mackerel Pâté
Donegal Champ
Donegal Oysters
Emerald Cheese cow’s milk
Fadge potato, bacon, eggs
Farmhouse Cultured Butter
Galway Bay Lobsters
Glebe Brethan Cheese cow’s milk
Hibernia Cheese cow’s milk
Irish Stew lamb, onion and potato
Kerry Blue Cheese cow’s milk
Killary Mussels
Kilcummin cow’s milk
Knockanore Plain Cheese cow’s milk
Knockatee Cheddar Cheese cow’s milk
Knockatee Gouda Cheese cow’s milk
Leitrim Fadge
Lough Neagh Eels
Louth Spelt Berries
Louth Spelt Flour
Maighean Cheese cow’s milk
Meatballs (with Dexter beef)
Millhouse Cheese sheep’s milk
Mount Callan Cheddar Cheese cow’s milk
Pan-Fried Mackerel
Pan-Fried Sea Trout
Pork Sausages
Porter Cake
Potato Farls
Potted Crab
Roast Meat Carvery roast beef / roast pork with potatoes, leaf and root vegetables
Rowanberry Jelly
Scones – Spelt
Scones – Wheat
Smoked Mackerel
Smoked Salmon
Soda Bread – Spelt
Soda Bread – Wheat
Spelt Bread
Steak and Chips with Crispy Onions
Steak Sausages
St Brigid Cheese cow’s milk
St Brigid Beag Cheese cow’s milk with green peppercorns
St Gall Cheese cow’s milk
Stiffner mashed potatoes with buttermilk
Sultana Scones
Tipperary Pies
Triskel Dew Drop Cheese goat’s milk
Triskel Gwenned Cheese cow’s milk
Wexford Honey Mousse
Wheaten Bread
Wild Garlic Soup
Yellowman sugar confection