by Sheila Connolly
Here's another Irish dish, in honor of St. Patrick's Day (Lá Fhéile Padraig).
Strangely enough, my search for farls began when I wanted to find a recipe for leftover mashed potatoes. Those of us with smallish families often find ourselves with those leftovers after a holiday meal, even after a couple of recycled dinners of turkey plus sides.
I had a vague memory of my mother making potato pancakes when I was young, using mashed potatoes. I wanted to recreate that recipe, but was wary because just adding flour to cold potatoes, so that you could form a patty that would hold together, isn't enough. You can end up with a lump of potato laced with uncooked flour. I needed a recipe that gave me the right proportion of potato to flour, how thick to make the patties, and how long to cook them.
So I started looking through my cookbooks and then online, and literally 90% of the recipes I found used grated or shredded raw potatoes. I have nothing against those, but that wasn't the recipe I wanted. The only one that jumped out was the farl recipe.
I'm told this dish originated in the north of Ireland. I'll choose to hope that we're not talking about the English-controlled part, or that this recipe pre-dates that partition. (My Connolly grandfather came from about as far away from that as you can get in Ireland, on the south coast.)
2 cups mashed potatoes (I hope you know how to make mashed potatoes! Please don't use the ones that come in a box.)
2 Tblsp butter
½ cup (or more) flour (you can use gluten-free flour)
1 tsp salt
Oil for frying
Add the butter, flour and salt to the mashed potatoes and mix well. Note: potatoes vary widely in texture and liquid content. What you are aiming for is a dough that will hold together enough to roll it out and transfer it to a pan or grill. Start with half a cup, and add more if needed.
Split the dough into two portions. Place each on a piece of parchment paper or a floured surface and shape into a circle. Roll until it measures about 9" across and about a half inch thick. Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, quarter the circles.
Heat a little oil in a skillet at least 9" across. (Note: this can get a little crowded, so a stovetop grill would work just as well.) If you like your farls crisp, add a little butter. Cook four farl quarters over medium-high heat, turning once. It should take about three to five minutes per side, and the farls should be lightly browned.
Salt lightly and serve! They're best served fresh.
If you want to spice them up a little, you can add garlic (sauté it first), green onions, chives, or chopped peppers.
Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!