I doubt that I will ever become a true locavore.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for the principles of eating (and drinking) locally, when and where possible, but I am ever appreciative of the ease with which we can import that which is neither cultivated nor produced here. Potato-heavy though my diet (naturally) is, I think that I would find it impossible to confine myself solely to the food and drink which emanates from within our Irish borders. Or would I?
For starters, wine would be a no-no. Especially the far away new world kind.
Take these limited edition South African World Cup wines from Nederburg that came my way recently. While I won’t be overly concerned with the World Cup itself (the less said about us not being in it, the better), I am nevertheless thankful for the opportunity to indulge in the associated wines.
And what about this little lot, eh?
Salts and spices from no less that 4 different continents – from delicately pink and flaky Murray River salt crystals to small, dense crystals of black lava salt from Hawaii – all very kindly sent to me by Chef E. I’m quite sure that I could survive (and well) without any of these things, but I love the foreign accent that they bring to our native staples. Like the African potato stew I made yesterday. The vegetables are decidedly local (the chard, from my own garden, especially so) but not one of the spices used originates here. Could I give up the flavours that they bring? Yes. Would I want to? No, not ever.
African Potato Stew
After a little blast of sunshine and warmth last week, yesterday was dull and wet and much more appropriate to this kind of wintry fare. Welcome to the Irish summer.
This stew is based on a recipe found in The Potato: Around The World In 200 recipes, which was published in 2008 as an initiative to promote the then United Nations Year of the Potato. The recipes were collected by Florence Lebras.
The original uses potato, sweet potato and cauliflower, whereas I’ve used my tricolour of chard, potatoes and carrots, and have also added allspice berries to the original spice mix.
As for the raisins or sultanas, when it comes to using dried fruit in a stew, I reckon that you either love it or hate it. If you are in the love it camp, then add them in, but if it’s not your thing, then by all means leave them out.
- 750g potato (3-4 medium sized potatoes)
- 250g carrot (2 large-ish carrots)
- 300g swiss chard (or substitute spinach)
- 1 tblsp coriander seeds
- 4 cloves
- 6 allspice berries
- 2 tblsp olive oil
- 300g onion (2 medium onions), finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 3cm piece root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 2 tsp poppy seeds
- 1.5 tsp fine salt
- 3-4 tblsp raisins or sultanas (optional)
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tblsp cider vinegar
- Spice grinder or mortar and pestle for grinding spices.
- Scrub the potatoes and, leaving the skin on, chop into 1cm cubes. Peel and slice the carrots, around 0.5cm thick or less.
- Wash the swiss chard and separate the thick centre veins and stalks from the green leafy parts. Slice the leaves into 0.5cm strips, chop the stalks into approx 0.5cm dice.
- Place a small frying pan over a medium heat. When hot, add the coriander seeds, cloves and allspice berries and toast, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and then grind in a spice grinder or using a mortar and pestle.
- Place a large heavy saucepan over a medium heat. When hot, add the oil, followed by the onion and garlic. Stir and fry for about 5 minutes or until the onion has softened.
- Add the chopped ginger, mustard seeds, poppy seeds and ground spices to the saucepan and stir briefly.
- Add the potatoes, carrots and chard stalks, stir to mix and then add the salt and about 750ml water (enough to barely cover the vegetables). Bring to the boil, then cover, reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Add the chard greens and raisins (if using), stir to incorporate, return to a simmer and simmer for about another 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
- Stir in the cider vinegar, ladle into bowls and serve on its own or with some crusty bread.
- I would certainly consider adding chickpeas to this next time round, and, if so, would use the chickpea cooking liquid in place of the water.
- About 4-5 helpings