We will start with Drop Scones … these would be for tea … replenishing us kids after playing for hours in the garden … a filler before supper later on …
… small thickish pancakes drizzled with butter … leaving that to soak through, while keeping warm in the bottom oven of the Aga, as more layers of scones were made …
|Aga - our first one was like this ...
I don’t remember adding extras – such as bacon, or fruits, or syrup … we had that (well the golden syrup) with Cornish Cream on Scones …
Boxty brought drop scones to the front of my memory bank … as I watched a Michael Portillo Great British Journey across Ireland recently. When he attempted to make one: he made a horrible looking mess of a Boxty … ?! it is meant to be of a smooth, fine grained consistency … but his was lumpy - an appropriate descriptive name: see below.
Boxty is the traditional Irish potato pancake – which came to the fore during the potato blight of the 1800s.
|The Irish landscape of Connaght
In the 1840s the poor made up 75% of the Irish population of around nine million … and potatoes were eaten both by the Anglo-Irish gentry and the mass of the people – which was unusual … as the potato was shunned in Europe.
The potato had been introduced in the second half of the 16th C (1500s), initially as a garden crop, before it came to be the main food crop for the poor.
As a food source, the potato is extremely valuable in terms of the amount of energy produced per unit area of crop and is a good source of many vitamins and minerals, particularly Vitamin C when fresh.
Potatoes were widely cultivated, but especially by those at a subsistence level; the diet of this group in the 1840s depended mainly on potatoes supplemented with buttermilk.
|Irish Lumpers for sale in Fortnum and Masons -
not where I thought I'd find Lumpers!
This over reliance on potatoes as a staple crop meant that the people of Ireland were vulnerable to poor potato harvests. The first Great Famine of 1739 was the result of extreme cold weather …
… but the famine of 1845 to 1849 was caused by potato blight that spread throughout the Irish crop of a single variety, the Lumper. It was devastating to the population … many died.
|A sort of similar raised bed of potatoes
to be found at North Carolina State Uni
The ‘Irish Lumper’ has been characterized as a “wet, nasty, knobbly old potato” … but has recently been reintroduced to schools in Ireland – as a project of historical education - they are being cultivated in raised garden beds, just as they used to be grown.
Boxty that formed the main meal for so many Irish peasants in the mid 1800s … had various regional names eg ‘poundy’ … but it is essential that it is of a fine consistency so make sure the raw potato is grated finely ...
|Mc Niffee's Bakery ... see link
Boxty on the griddle,
Boxty on the pan,
If you don’t eat boxty,
You’ll never get a man.
|Drop scone ready for turning
… the popularity of Boxty has risen and will be seen in various guises at home or on menus … with modern flavourings to ‘tart up’ the “poor-house bread” … raising it from its early roots of necessity.
|These would suit me - Smoked Salmon
and sour cream on Boxty
So who will have a drop scone tonight, or a Boxty supper … I have to say I love both … but the Boxty I’d be happy to eat would be more like a potato cake … with some extras of choice ...
See the link to the folk rhymes here ...
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