Potatoes played a leading role in the meals of my childhood. My father’s ancestors were almost exclusively from the English Midlands, Wales, and Ireland, save only his grandmother who was German. My mother traced her roots to Malcolm III, King of Scotland, who died in 1094. Given the significance of potatoes in this part of the world it’s easy to see why we hardly ever saw anything but potatoes served with a meal. It seemed odd when rice was served.
My mother made a type of potato bread using leftover mashed potatoes, cooked in an electric skillet. For simplicity, and flavor it’s hard to do any better than farls, which cook slowly on a floured, ungreased iron skillet or griddle. This tender potato bread has a soft, moist interior with just a hint of crust on the nicely browned surface. The quarters or “farls” are traditionally served at breakfast, but are wonderful any time.
Yield 8 Farls
1 lb russets (2 good-sized starchy potatoes)
1 tsp salt
4 Tbsp butter
½ cup all-purpose flour, plus more as necessary
More flour to roll out farls and dust skillet
Although not the traditional way to cook potatoes, it’s hard not to take advantage of the microwave oven. It does so in less time, and the potatoes don’t absorb water from boiling or steaming.
Wash and dry the potatoes. Pierce in several places with a fork so they don’t explode in the microwave. Cook on the high setting until softened; about 6 minutes for 2 potatoes in my microwave. Remove to a counter and let them steam in their jackets for 3 minutes.
Peel the potatoes and mash with the back of a fork making sure there are no lumps. If you have a potato ricer, this will do the job in a jiffy. It aerates the potatoes at the same time giving them a fluffier texture.
Turn into a bowl and mix in the salt, butter, and flour. Knead this into a dough having a smooth consistency. Add additional flour one spoonful at a time until the dough is workable, and can be rolled out.
Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Lightly dust a counter with flour, and roll out the dough to an a diameter of 8 inches (20 cm) that is roughly ¼ inch thick (6 mm). Cut the dough into quarters.
Lightly flour an iron skillet or a flat griddle. Place over low heat and cook until lightly browned on both sides. Cook for 5 minutes per side. These are best served warm right off the stove, like soda bread they are meant to be eaten immediately. Pile onto a plate and cover with a towel to keep warm. Serve with fresh, sweet butter.