Who would fardels bear?

I’ve never made potato farls before, but I made them yesterday and they were really successful! In fact they were so successful that we ate them all before I thought of taking a picture of them! Potato farls are made from cooked, mashed potato and flour and in some recipes and egg, in some melted butter, mixed to a light dough, shaped into a round then rolled or flattened into a circle, cut in four, and cooked either on a griddle or in the oven. They are yummy with just a blob of butter, or with a cooked breakfast. We had some with what we call brinner, – breakfast at diner time, and then some for actual breakfast with bacon.

The word farl which I don’t think is still used in England and which may have come to Ireland from Scotland, was originally an English word. In the eighteenth century they used the word fardel fourth part, from which originated from Old English fēortha which meant a fourth or quarter and  del meaning a part. Farls/fardels were originally made from oatmeal, not potatoes and I guess you might still be able to get them made in that way. There are also soda farls made in Ireland, which is soda bread, shaped into a circle and cut in four to bake in triangles.

When I was looking up this word and came across the fardel origin, I immediately thought of it used in Shakespeare, meaning a bundle, pack or burden… I wondered if that word has the same origin… The word appears in Hamlet, ‘Who would fardels bear’, and in The Winter’s Tale, ‘The fardel there, what’s i’th’ fardel?’

here is the recipe I used:

  • 4 oz flour
  • 1 oz butter
  •  1 lb potatoes
  • salt
  1. boil the potatoes, then mash with the butter, making sure there are no lumps
  2. add the flour and a pinch or two of salt and mix to a light dough
  3. knead it just enough so it holds together but gently, not like you would ordinary bread
  4. divide in two and roll out into thin circles then cut into six equal parts
  5. lightly grease a heavy frying pan or griddle – I lightly greased it with a little bacon fat, and cook slowly until both sides are browned and quite firm (you’ll have to use your judgement on whether you think they are cooked) – they can be cooked in an oven but I just used a frying pan so I could keep my eye on them

I haven’t a picture of a farl, so I’ve used a picture from Dublin instead.


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