We Irish have a very unique relationship with the potato. It was the focus of a very sad part of our history but it has also been present on so many wonderful occasions. Think of all the family meals, weddings and birthdays, dinner parties with friends or a meal shared with a loved one in a restaurant in some corner of our beautiful country, the potato was more than likely there with you too. As a nation it is hard to imagine life without the humble spud.
Before the potato arrived in Ireland around 1589, the parsnip would have played a more central role on the dinner plate, you can imagine the Jockser of the day walking into the local chipper and asking for a ‘fresh cod and single of parsnip chips’ or the young one asking the shopkeeper for a ‘package of cheese and onion parsnip cripps’. Parsnips aside, most peoples diets, way back then, would have consisted of oats and various milk products, like curds and whey. How glad I am times have changed.
Now enough with history and back to the present. It’s St Patricks day today and I woke with a self-inflicted sore head. While last night was enjoyable it made for a rather shaky start to the day. After proudly watching my wife and children take part in the local St Patrick’s day parade where they walked in support of our local Polish school I got down to some serious business in the veg garden. It was the job I had been putting off all weekend, digging out potato troughs.
After about two hours of digging, removing the stones and softening up the soil the seed potatoes went down. I planted 3 varieties – Sharpe’s Express(1st earlies), Maris Peer (2nd earlies) and Desiree (Main crop).
As I now have a bit of time on my hands before I will get my first home grown spuds of the year I can dream of the ways I will cook them. My favorite way to eat potatoes is roasted – boiled for 20mins, drained and shaken in the pot to rough up the edges, then sprinkled with a little salt, pepper and thyme before they are placed in a preheated baking tray with some duck or goose fat (sunflower oil will do just fine as a substitute) and cooked in the oven at 180 degrees for 30-35mins the last 5mins I usually turn up the oven to 200degrees. The result is beautiful golden crispy roast potato. I wouldn’t recommend eating these everyday of the week if you intend having a low cholesterol diet, but once a month wouldn’t do too much harm.
My wife on the other hand likes her spuds of the ‘baby’ variety, so the 1st earlies will do nicely. They will be boiled in the jackets and after they have been drained they will be just get a little salt, pepper and butter over the top. These are perfect with any meal, but we love them with a summer salad and fresh locally caught mackerel grilled or bbq’ed.
Next to be sowed will be some shallots, onions, spring onions, lettuce and other salad leaves and I might also try some of the more delicate crops in my cold frame.
That’s it for now, the day job calls in the morning so I need to get an early night after a couple of late ones over the Paddy’s day weekend.