Recipe: Irish Potato Bread

Tasty golden potato farls

Potato Bread! The most satisfying of foods and a combination of two of my favourite things, potatoes and bread in one beautiful carbohydrate extravaganza.

This is what I crave when I want a little slice of home.  A soft, savoury farl toasted and spread with lashings of salty butter and a big mug of tea and I could be back in my Mum’s kitchen after a big night out devouring my Great Auntie May’s homemade potato bread and catching up on all the night’s craic with my siblings and the miscellaneous friends who were always hanging out at our house.  Potato bread is perfect for soaking up the alcohol after a night on the town but equally the ideal hangover food – lightly fried and served piping hot as part of a delicious (but heart attack inducing) Ulster Fry.

Potato bread is incredibly popular in Northern Ireland and you can buy it ready-made in every bakery or corner shop, but nothing beats homemade and it is super easy to make, especially if you have leftover mash.

Potato Bread

Ingredients:

This makes four farls (i.e. one round that you cut into four) but may I suggest you double (or even triple) the recipe as I bet these will disappear pretty quickly and even if they don’t they will keep for several days in the fridge or you can pop them in the freezer.

250g potatoes

50g plain flour (plus a bit extra for rolling out)

25g butter

generous pinch of salt

2 tbsp of milk

Peel your potatoes and cut into big chunks and put into a pan of boiling water.  Boil the potatoes for 15 minutes (or until they are soft through).  You want your potatoes to be soft so you can mash them easily but not too soft as they will have absorbed lots of water and this will make the mixture very loose, sticky and difficult to work with.  Once the potatoes are cooked drain them and then pop them back in the pan over the heat for thirty seconds or so just to dry them off.  You really want the potatoes to be nice and dry and floury.

Mash the potatoes until smooth and then transfer to a mixing bowl and add in the salt and butter.  Continue mashing until smooth.  You will probably be hungry by now but try to hold off scoffing the buttery mash.

Stir in the flour until it is really well mixed.  You may need a couple of tablespoons of milk to loosen the mixture, although I find I usually don’t need the milk.  Once you have mixed it altogether you should have a nice smooth dough.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it out in a circle until it is about 1cm thick.  Cut the dough into quarters (to make farls).

Now the dough is ready for cooking.  For this I use an old fashioned griddle (or girdle as they are confusingly called in Scotland), which is what an Irish mammy would have traditionally used to cook the potato farls over the fire.  Unless you have one of these bad boys lurking about at the back of your kitchen cupboard I suggest you use a heavy non-stick frying pan, which works just as well, perhaps even better.  I’m sure the Irish mammies would have been delighted to have been given a non-stick frying pan.

Heat up your griddle or non-stick frying pan until it is quite hot and then lightly flour the surface and quickly get the farls on to cook.  Cook for two to three minutes or until the farls are golden brown and them flip them over to cook the other side.  You don’t need any oil.  Potato farls should be dry fried, although if you are using a cast iron griddle like me you may want to season the pan by swiping on a layer of oil with a bit of kitchen roll before heating it up to season the pan.  As your pan heats up, especially if you are doing several batches, you will probably find the farls cook more quickly so keep an eye on them.  Once they are golden brown on both sides take the bread off the heat and place on a wire cooling rack.

Hurrah!  Your potato farls are ready to eat.  Pop them in the toaster and spread with butter and a grind of black pepper, and if you are feeling indulgent some thin slices of mature cheddar or smoked salmon.  In my opinion a perfect snack.  Alternatively you can fry them in butter or oil (or as my Mum does a combination of both) and serve them for breakfast with bacon, eggs and the other accompaniments of an Ulster Fry.  I’ll have to do a post on that soon.

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