So that was the year that was. 2008, the UN International Year of the Spud, no less, a year that was intended to underscore the “potato’s important place in the global food system”. Whatever about those worthy efforts, there’s never been any doubt about the humble spud’s importance in my own local food system. Eaten in all shapes and forms, though loved most especially when they’ve been dug straight from the back garden, steamed and served with salt and butter. That and when they’ve been converted into Tayto crisps (the snack whose failure to achieve world domination remains a source of mystery to my friend KD and others).
My favourite new way with potatoes in 2008 was crash hot potatoes, a divine cross between baked and roast spuds, which I came across on the pioneer woman cooks site. The recipe can be found in full techicolour here but it really couldn’t be simpler and can be very neatly summarised as follows:
Crash Hot Potatoes
- Enough potatoes for whoever you want to feed, helps if they’re roughly even-sized. I use roosters for this but use any nice baking potato.
- Olive oil
- Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- (Optional) herbs of your choice (parsley, chives, rosemary, …)
- Boil the potatoes in salted water in their skins until tender.
- Drain and place on an oiled roasting tin.
- Flatten the potatoes by mashing down lightly with a potato masher.
- Sprinkle liberally with salt, black pepper, herbs of your choice and drizzle with olive oil.
- Roast in a very hot oven (220C) for 20-25 minutes until crispy and sizzling.
Meanwhile, this new year, not yet 24 hours old, has already seen a new potato creation from the daily spud’s kitchen. We still have a goodly quota of Christmas visitors about, so when a troop of same descend for a lunchtime visit, what do you make for the assembled masses but a big pot of potato soup of course. The soup below is what came to mind with the ingredients that were to hand and the volume of people to be fed. It’s inspired by Indian-style dhals and went down a treat with the company present.
New Year’s Day Impromptu Potato And Lentil Soup
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 medium onion
- 2 large-ish tomatoes (about 250g)
- 3 medium potatoes (about 500-600g)
- About 280g red lentils, rinsed
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1in stick cinnamon
- About 1.2 litres water
- 1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
- About 1.5-2 tsp salt plus black pepper to taste
- Drop the tomatoes into some boiling water for about a minute or so, so that the skin comes off easily, then peel and finely chop.
- Finely chop the garlic and onion.
- Peel the potatoes and cut into small dice.
- Heat some oil in a large pot over a medium heat. Add the cinnamon stick and garlic and stir for a few seconds.
- Add the onion and stir and fry for a couple of minutes, until the onion starts to soften a little.
- Add the tomatoes and fry for another few minutes until the tomatoes start to become paste-like.
- Add the potatoes and turmeric and fry for another couple of minutes.
- Now add the lentils and the water and stir to combine.
- Allow the mixture to come to the boil and skim off any scum that has risen to the top. Then lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes and lentils are both well softened. Stir occasionally and add more water if the mixture seems too thick.
- Meanwhile, toast the cumin seeds in a dry, heavy pan over a medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes or until fragrant.
- Add the salt and a couple of twists of black pepper to the soup mixture and blend using a processor or hand blender. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. Stir in the cumin seeds and dilute the soup to the desired thickness for serving by adding boiling water.
- This fed about 8 of the assembled New Year’s Day visitors. The kids, meanwhile, had cheese toasties and some of us had both!