Potato bread: how to make the centuries-old Irish staple

JP McMahon: We may end up eating more pasta than potatoes in the years to come

Surprisingly, we import many more potatoes than we produce in Ireland these days. Photograph: iStock

Surprisingly, we import many more potatoes than we produce in Ireland these days. Photograph: iStock

 

Potatoes are something we never seem to be short of, even though we import many more than we produce in Ireland these days. That is to say, we are a net importer of potatoes. Two-thirds of these potatoes come from the United Kingdom. Brexit may result in our descendants eating more pasta than potatoes due to the UK’s desire to “go it alone”.

Potato bread has been a staple in Ireland for centuries, not only because of the amount of potatoes we ate pre-Famine, but also because Ireland was not a great place to grow soft wheat due to the weather. Boiled potatoes can be mixed with any flour to make a rough potato patty that can be cooked in a pan or on a range.

An oven is not required for potato bread, though we bake it in an oven in the restaurant as the cooking is more consistent. I make it with white flour for a softer texture, but you can use any type of flour. Dunany Flour, based in Co Louth, produces wonderful spelt and rye flour. You can use a white gluten-free flour if necessary.

How to make potato bread

Preheat your oven to 175 degrees. Sieve 350g of white flour with a teaspoon of salt and baking powder in a bowl. Rub in 125g of cubed butter to form a sandy texture. In a separate bowl, whisk a teaspoon of milk with two eggs. Add 350g of cold cooked potato and the egg mixture to the flour mixture.

At this stage, I like to add a handful of chopped herbs, such as parsley, chives, or chervil (or a combination of all three). Combine the mixture until a dough forms. Flour the work surface and roll out the mixture. Cut into 10 rounds. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.

Serve with some nice cultured or Irish farmhouse butter, such as Cuinneog from Castlebar. If you want to char the sides of the bread, place in a hot, dry frying pan (or directly on the range) to achieve a nice flavoursome effect.

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