They are nothing fancy. There are no swirls of frosting nor complex foldings-in of ingredients. In fact, I can nearly guarantee you have the two ingredients on hand; if not, you can lay your hands on them at your local market without any special trips to tony shops that smell of moldy cheeses and truffles. They are the stuff of farm families and famine, frugal dining, and fry breakfasts.
They are also the stuff of a good, old-fashioned food fight, the kind where the verbal fisticuffs of national pride, ownership, and culinary adaptation can ruin a perfectly good digestion if it wasn't for the fact that farls, simple, unleavened griddle breads of potato mash and flour, can soothe even the most bellicose of bellies. Known in Scotland as tattie scones, and derived from the Gaelic root word for "fourths," farls are a cornerstone of the big, greasy Northern Irish breakfast, as well as a stouthearted staple of a tea table for those who do not primp with cucumber sandwiches and petits fours.
Complicating matters further, not all farls are made with potatoes; some are akin to Irish soda bread, and still others are known as fadge. And if you throw an egg or oats or other leavenings into the mix, you might just as well throw your hands up in the air. There is a name for each of these depending on who does the cooking and where. Follow me? Well, I'm not surprised. I researched this "simple" fare all day, and I am no closer to clearing my confusion than when I began. Alas, I am also at the very precipice of falling into the fray myself. After hours of tinkering, my farls have far more flour in them than the typical recipe, given my personal preference for a firmer, drier texture. I have also ultimately dispensed mixing in the butter, saving it to melt into all the little surface nicks and crevices. You can hotly debate my methods all you like, but you know it's not polite to talk with your mouth full.
Potato Farls with Caraway Seeds
2 cups warm, but not steamy, mashed potatoes. (Do not add milk, butter, or cream to them. Use the oldest, hardest, driest baking potato variety you can find; waxy Yukon Gold, for instance, is not the best choice.)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting surface, hands, and rolling pin (You may need more if the dough is very sticky.)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter for frying, although you can use a dry, seasoned griddle, as long as your farls are well floured.
1 generous tablespoon caraway seeds
Additional butter for slathering
Extra salt (optional)
In a large bowl, stir flour into potatoes. Turn out mixture onto well-floured surface. Dust hands with flour, then quickly and lightly "squish" the dough with your fingers to incorporate all the flour. If the dough is very soft and sticky, add small incremental amounts of extra flour until you can briefly knead it into a sturdy, yet flexible mass that will hold its shape once you roll it into a circle. I prefer a 1/2-inch thickness for a substantial cake, but you can roll it thinner. Cut the circle into fourths. Warm butter in a large heavy-duty skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Add caraway seeds. Lay farls in skillet without overcrowding. (Fry up a second batch if you must, depending on the size of your skillet.) Brown undersides (about 3-4 minutes; the thicker the farls, the more time they will need to heat through), then flip with a turner to brown other sides. Slather with butter and season will additional salt. Serve immediately.
This is my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging #277, hosted by yours truly. Please tune in again tomorrow, Monday, April 4. I will have the round-up online as early in the evening (New York time) as possible. Thanks so much for your contributions. I am still sorting through them and will comment on all of your wonderful recipes before I retire tonight. Until very soon, best wishes!