Sunday, April 3, 2011

Fast and Filling - Potato Farls with Caraway Seeds

Potato Farls

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

Serves 4


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.

Buttered Potato Farls with Caraway Seeds

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!


  1. Farls! I made them once, ages ago. I just dug out my recipe and it looks like it calls for dry oats. Plus, it uses thyme instead of caraway seeds. They were pretty good if I remember correctly and I imagine yours are equally delicious. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Susan, that sounds very interesting and not to mention tempting..I will do further research to understand the different versions out there..:)..

  3. What a lovely thing it is to learn of something new and delicious. I cannot wait to try cooking up some farls.

  4. I love tatties and scones! Your farls look so good.



  5. These are what we call potatoe scones or "tattie scones. They are my all time favourite and have been known to but dozens to sit in the freezer. I used to buy them at Marks and Spencers with is now sadly gone so I love to make them whenever I have leftover potato which is often!

  6. This really looks super yummy, can`t wait to try it, love it!!

  7. These look scrumptious! I wonder if they would turn out all right with rice flour.

  8. Susan, what's the difference between caraway and regular fennel seeds? Can I just substitute it with fennel or cumin? Because I cannot find caraway here.. Thanks!

  9. It looks like today is the day of learning about new dishes. I just read a post on a Belgian soup new to me and now your farls. Where have I been all these years? I like the idea of adding caraway seeds. I am sure I can dig up some potatoes from the dark corners of my pantry.

  10. Having encountered these in Scotland I know them as potato scones but honestly I agree that everyone has their own name and version but they taste so good anyway they are served (though I found the hard way that they are too fragile to put in a pop up toaster)

  11. Parsley Sage - Thanks. Not surprised that your recipe varies from mine, yet oats are so common, too, in U.K.

    Valli - Thanks and good luck! ; }

    Hi, Now Serving. Thank you.

    Thanks, Claudia. One of the best things about blogging is the discovery.

    Rosa - Thanks. I knew you would. : }

    Val - Although farls are very easy to make, frozen ones sound as convenient for a carb rush as gyoza or perogies.

    Thanks, Jasenka. Good to see you!

    Welcome, Colleen! Thank you. I think they are worth a shot with rice flour, or oat flour if you are cooking gluten-free but not worried about field contaminants.

    Nilam - Caraway tastes very different from fennel or cumin, although caraway and fennel are related botanically.

    Simona - Same place I have been. ; } There is always a new dish waiting to be discovered. I'm not a big fan of caraway in the typical rye bread, but potatoes are just right.

    Johanna - True, especially if they are rolled thinly. My first test batch was almost too floppy to transfer from rolling board to griddle. Leftovers are best given the heat treatment in an oven.

  12. I LOVE the sprinkling of caraway seeds on top of your tattie scones. I used to live in Scotland and often eat them there. Now back at home, I'm "reduced" to making my own (to use Valli's expression :))
    But yes, definitely adding some caraway seeds next time.