Movie Bites St Patrick's Day special: The Quiet Man: Boxty
Barry Fitzgerald speaks to Maureen O’Hara in a scene from the film The Quiet Man, 1952. Photograph: Republic/Getty Images
Michaleen Flynn [looking thirsty]:
“I don’t suppose there’s a drop of anything wet in the house?”
Red Will Danaher: “Help yourself to the buttermilk.”
Michaleen Flynn: Buttermilk! [shudders and in sotto voce] The Borgias would do better."
In one of the early scenes featuring our fiery red-headed heroine, Mary Kate’s reluctant subservience to her brother is evident as she serves him and a bunch of his unruly mates around their large dining table. She walks around them in a circle, unceremoniously plonking huge spuds on their plates, skins and all. The men presumably slathered the floury beauties in butter before getting stuck in.
The town of Inisfree in The Quiet Man is fictional but the name is a reference to the island on Lough Gill on the Sligo-Leitrim border that inspired WB Yeats’s wistful poem Lake Isle of Inisfree . Boxty too has inspired a poem, albeit one that would probably have drawn a giant eye-roll from Mary Kate:
Boxty on the griddle, boxty in the pan/ If you can’t make boxty, you’ll never get your man.
It’s highly likely that Mary Kate Danaher would have used the leftover spuds she served to the men to make boxty for the next morning’s breakfast. These crispy, spudtastic pancakes are best made with yesterday’s mashed potatoes as the dryness of day-old spuds helps them keep their shape. Originally it was all about making the best of your leftovers; it was a happy coincidence that boxty turned out to be so darned delicious that people go to the trouble of boiling spuds specially to make these starchy treats.
INGREDIENTS (serves six)
(Feel free to play around with the flavours by adding things such as cheese or rosemary to the potato mixture.)
yyy 4 large flour potatoes
yyy 100g plain flour
yyy Salt and pepper
yyy 150ml buttermilk
yyy 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda
Peel two of your spuds and cut into chunks. Add to a pot of cold, salted water and bring to the boil. Boil until tender. Drain and mash well. Leave to cool and dry out. (A night in the fridge will help these spuds get to their optimum boxty texture.)
Peel the other two spuds and roughly grate them into a large bowl. Wrap the grated potatoes in a clean tea towel and squeeze the excess moisture out of them.
Return them to the bowl and mix in the mashed potatoes and plain flour. Season generously with salt and pepper. (At this point you can add extra flavours such as cheese, bacon, rosemary or spring onions.) Mix the buttermilk and bicarbonate of soda together before adding to the potato mixture to create your boxty batter.
Heat some butter in a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add a dollop of your boxty mixture to make pancake-sized potato cakes. Fry for about five minutes on either side or until beautifully golden. Keep them warm in the oven while you cook through the batter and find yourself with a mountain of boxty. Serve with bacon, roasted tomatoes and fried eggs on the side and wash down with a good, strong mug of tae.