Filed under: dinner, local, recipe | Tags: Champ, Green Onions, Ireland, Kerr's Pink, local, mashed potatoes, Northern Ireland, potato, recipe, Scallions
When thinking of Ireland, a few things always come to mind: pints of Guinness, sheep, fields of green and, inevitably, potatoes. But visiting Ireland for me isn’t so much of a tourist thing – I do, typically, manage a few famous sites – but instead, it’s all about enjoying the daily rhythms of life in beautiful N. Ireland. There’s the multiple mugs of black tea, servings of toast and, without fail, a wonderful dinner complete with potatoes.
Potatoes are an integral component of the diet here, and they are served with almost every meal. From chips (that’s French Fries for us Americans) at lunch to heaping helpings of mashed potatoes at dinner, I can count on one hand the number of non-breakfast meals that I’ve eaten during the last three weeks without potatoes (and I cooked two of them). Breakfast typically consists of toast and cereal but, when given the chance, out comes potato bread and various other potato filled dishes.
It should come as little surprise, then, that there are – according to Darina Allen in her wonderful cookbook Irish Traditional Cooking – seven “favourite varieties of potato” to be found on the emerald isle. These include Home Guard, British Queens, Golden Wonders, Aran Banners, Records, Champions and, the current seasonal choice, Kerr’s Pink. Unlike the Yukon Gold’s of America, Kerr’s Pink come with a gentle crust of dirt and an earthy smell. Their texture is less wax and more dry, with a cream-colored flesh and somewhat mealy interior which fluffs up nicely with a bit of mashing.
Of the myriad ways of cooking them – from basic mash to fried – my favorite Irish potato dish remains Champ. A mash of hot potatoes, boiling milk, green onions and a blob of melting butter, its simplicity is the secret. Darina Allen tells us that Ulster (the northern part of Ireland) is a “particularly rich source of recipes” for Champ and I have to agree. Whether with added peas or chives, Champ seems to make a weekly appearance … and I’m glad it does.
recipe from Caroline Collins
15 potatoes, preferably “old potatoes”
4-5 sprigs scallions (green onions), finely chopped
1 cup milk (cream can be substituted for special occasions)
1 oz butter, plus more for mashing
salt and white pepper to taste
Peel the potatoes and boil until cooked through. While the potatoes cook, in a small sauce pan, add the scallions and cover with cold milk and 1 oz butter. Bring the mixture slowly to a boil, simmer for 3 – 4 minutes then remove from heat and leave to infuse.
Once the potatoes have finished cooking, mash the hot potatoes with the milk mixture and small pieces of butter to taste. Season with salt and white pepper (which mixes better with the potatoes than black pepper) and serve with a slice of butter melting in the center.
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