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Traditional Irish Boxty Recipe

Updated on June 9, 2018
Iammattdoran profile image

Matt is an avid traveller and self-confessed 'man of the world'. He is passionate about his home city, Manchester, & travelling the world.

Irish Boxty Recipe

Potatoes - the core ingredient of many Irish dishes
Potatoes - the core ingredient of many Irish dishes | Source

Origins of Boxty in England

Although this is a traditional Irish recipe, Boxty found it's way over to my home country of England during the 19th century when there was an influx of Irish migrant labour. Industry was booming in England at this time and many people made their way across the Irish sea to find work.

One of the major industrial projects of the time was the building of the Manchester Ship Canal which was designed to link the city of Manchester to the sea (roughly 58km distance) and therefore direct access to worldwide trade.

History of the Manchester Ship Canal

In 1882, a Manchester gentleman by the name of Daniel Adamson called a meeting at his house in the leafy South Manchester suburb of Didsbruy. The purpose of this meeting, held with the great and good of Manchester industry of the time, was to discuss the feasibility of building a waterway to connect Manchester to the sea.

The idea received support and Mr Adamson set about proposing a Bill to the English Parliament. Five years later and the Bill had finally been passed, allowing the construction to start in earnest.

Boxty on the griddle,

Boxty in the pan;

If you don't eat your Boxty

You'll never be a man.

— Irish Migrants working the Manchester Ship Canal

The problem was with how the scheme should be funded. Daniel Adamson, the owner of a successful engineering business asked his employees if they would be prepared to sacrifice some of the their salary to contribute towards the project. They naturally weren't happy about this but there wasn't much in the form of legal protections for workers in those days so it was a case of 'like it or lump it' as the saying goes.

Eventually, Adamson managed convince other wealthy business owners and landowners to buy into the scheme. Shares started to be sold and money was coming in and before long it was a game of one-up-man-ship where greater status was afforded to those who made the biggest contributions.

Workers on the Manchester Ship Canal

Navvies working on the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal
Navvies working on the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal | Source

The building of the Manchester Ship Canal was completed between 1887 (after 5 years of planning and receiving permission from the English Parliament) and 1894. Thousands of Irish migrants were involved in the construction of the project with many of them settling in Liverpool and Manchester once the project was complete.

Almost as soon as construction got underway the problems started to mount. There were disastrous floods; ineffective and poor quality tools and machinery; and problems with labour. These problems were acutely compounded by the lack of sufficient funds. The Council of the City of Manchester were prepared to provide the necessary finance but a condition of which would see them have the majority of the seats on the Board of the Manchester Ship Canal Company. This resulted in the industrial barons seceding control of the project to the local government authority. The Council would retain ownership of the Canal for the next one hundred years.

The Manchester Ship Canal was opened by Queen Victoria, accompanied by Princess Beatrice and Prince Henry of Battenburg (a surname later change to a less foreign sounding Mountbatten at the onset of the First World War), on 21 May 1894.

The building of the canal cost fifteen million pounds, equivalent to around £1.8 billion in today's money.

The Manchester Ship Canal Today

Part of the Manchester Ship Canal today
Part of the Manchester Ship Canal today | Source

Irish Migrants and Boxty

The Irish migrants brought with them a wealth of Irish culture, including games, recipes and, of course, an appetite for scrapping. Later, once the canal was completed they would also bring in another famous export: Guinness.

Boxty was a popular dish during the time of the Irish famine - particularly as a result of people having no choice but to get creative with the use of potatoes and stretch their use as far as they could.

The recipe generally originates from the North Midlands of the country, especially the Ulster region.

Boxty Recipe

A traditional Irish recipe inherited in England from the era of the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal. This recipe makes 12 x 3inch pancakes and takes around 15 minutes to prepare (including the time it takes to make the mash potato) and a further 6-8 minutes to cook the pancakes.

Boxty | Source

Boxty Ingredients

For this Boxty recipe you will need the following ingredients:

  • 8oz raw potato, grated
  • 8oz mashed potato
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 onion, grated
  • quarter cup of milk
  • salt and pepper for seasoning
  • oil for frying

Boxty Cooking Instruction

  1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl, until well blended.
  2. Heat the oil in the frying pan on a high heat.
  3. Drop in 3 or 4 tablespoons of the mixture.
  4. Cook each side for 3-4 minutes and flatten slightly with the back of a spoon or spatula.
  5. Pancakes will be ready when they are crispy and golden brown.

Serve immediately while hot.

This is a really tasty recipe that is made using everyday staple ingredients and takes minimal effort to prepare and cook. You can see why it was so popular during the time of the Irish famine and why it became popular when it was brought across the Irish Sea to England.

To make this into a complete I would suggest that the pancakes are served with wilted spinach or broccoli. It also works well with a variety of seasonal vegetables including asparagus.


Will you be giving this Boxty Recipe a try at home?

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    • Glenis Rix profile image


      11 months ago from UK

      It's a long time since I made these! Lost the recipe, so thanks for sharing.

    • peachpurple profile image


      11 months ago from Home Sweet Home

      I never known the history of these potatoes.

    • Iammattdoran profile imageAUTHOR

      Matt Doran 

      11 months ago from Manchester, UK

      I agree. Britain is a very diverse country and with that we have an incredibly broad culinary spectrum.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      11 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      It is interesting how much of our food have been enriched by immigrants coming to the country or colonizers in some cases and their own food in return have been enriched by the culture they are sharing it with; an exchange that needs to be celebrated.


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