Belfast Telegraph

Frying shame: Potato bread served up cold at Labour conference

By Victoria Leonard

Potato bread has long been considered a key part of the famous Ulster Fry - but as it made its debut at a Labour Party conference, it appears no-one knew how to prepare the humble Northern Irish staple.

Delegates at the Brighton event were offered the opportunity to sample one of the highlights of Northern Ireland cuisine, but it appears that the 'fadge' had been served up cold.

The bread - which had been specially flown in from Northern Ireland - was spotted by eagle-eyed BBC NI Political Correspondent Stephen Walker, who posted a photo of a distinctly pasty pile of apparently uncooked fadge forlornly stacked on a plate.

The image caused consternation on social media, as carb-lovers flocked to protest that both the preparation and presentation didn't do justice to the appeal of the local dish.

"It shows a complete lack of respect for potato bread," joked North Coast celebrity chef Paula McIntyre.

"Potato bread has to be fried - the only exception is if you take it straight off the griddle right before you serve it, perhaps lightly buttered. You certainly don't open the packet and shove it on the plate.

"Perhaps we could unite all our politicians behind this 'Potatobreadgate," she laughed.

Thanks to its humble roots, Paula says fadge is a democratic dish, making it an ideal choice for political menus.

"It's an indigenous Northern Ireland peasant bread which was cheap to produce and easy to make.

"You just put it on a griddle, and it's convenient and full of carbs so it sustains you," she explained.

"Historically, potato bread and farls were made to use up the buttermilk.

"It was good, wholesome food which has been served in Northern Ireland for hundreds of years. It's not part of English culture, and you can't even find it if you go to the Republic.

"When I go to England and make it the people there go mad for it, even though we would take it for granted here."

She added: "Nothing beats potato bread made on a turf fire - you can't get much better than that."

Should the Labour Party's chefs contemplate serving potato bread again next year, Paula suggests cooking it from scratch by mixing 500g of mashed potato with a "nice pinch of salt", a "tiny pinch of sugar, and 200g of plain flour.

The dough can then be rolled out into squares or shapes and placed on a dry griddle or dry frying pan for two to three minutes on each side before being removed. Then, take some local dry-cured bacon, cook until crispy, remove from the pan and return the potato bread until it turns golden brown.

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