A torch under his pillow and a copy of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit beside his bed. As I glanced around my 11 year old nephew John’s room, it was nice to see that, even in the X-box era, some things about childhood hadn’t changed
What hadn’t changed either was the fact that I had spent this past week glued to Olympic boxing coverage, just as I would have done when I was around John’s age. Not that I am a fan of boxing, but it is by far and away Ireland’s best Olympic sport and, no matter what the sport (or what my age), come the Olympics, I, like so many others, get drawn inexorably into the anguish and excitement of performance on the ultimate sporting stage, most especially when any of our own are competing. And you would have to have been living under a rock in Ireland this past week to miss the feverish excitement over golden girl Katie Taylor, not to mention our three other boxing medallists and the whole Irish boxing team.
It was also hard to miss the controversial description of Katie which appeared in a number of Australian newspapers following her gold medal win, and which drew both reaction and retraction: “Taylor is not what you’d expect in a fighting Irishwoman, nor is she surrounded by people who’d prefer a punch to a potato.”(1) Ah yes, that’s the thing about stereotypes, they’re so easily (and often lazily) applied – in this case the implication that we are a nation of rowdy spud-lovers, a portrait of the Irish painted in cartoon colours. It’s an image born, not of some Tolkienesque fantasy, but with a distorted element of truth about it, and while, in my own case, I’d never admit to general rowdiness, you all know how I feel about spuds. That, without doubt, is yet another thing that hasn’t changed.
Sage and Onion Roasted Baby Potatoes
I may love my spuds, but that doesn’t mean to say that I (or the rest of the nation, for that matter) need to stick to stereotypical methods of preparation (and regular readers will, of course, know that I am by no means short on ideas for potato-based nosh).
In some cases, it simply means a variation on a popular potato theme, as here, where baby potatoes are roasted with lots of fresh sage, garlic and onion – something which, despite my cultivation of a flourishing sage bush, I had never before thought to make. Still, there’s a first time for everything and, with some Red Duke of Yorks plucked from my modest backyard potato bags, these little babies were born.
- 800g baby potatoes (or use larger potatoes if that’s what you have)
- 1 bay leaf (optional)
- 3 tblsp olive oil (or use rapeseed oil)
- bunch of fresh sage leaves (I used around 40 small (2-3cm long) leaves)
- 6-8 small cloves garlic, whole and unpeeled
- 2 tblsp sunflower seeds
- 1 medium onion, around 150g, sliced into 2-3cm lengths
- coarse salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- grated parmesan (optional)
You’ll also need:
- One or two roasting tins, large enough to accommodate the potatoes in a single layer
- Preheat the oven to 200C
- Scrub the potatoes and, leaving the skins on, halve any larger ones so that you have roughly even-sized pieces (or just chop larger potatoes into approx. 2cm chunks). Rinse well.
- Bring a pot of around 1.5l water of the boil, add 2 tsp salt, a bay leaf (if using) and the potato chunks. Bring back to the boil and then simmer for about 6-7 minutes. Drain well and let then sit, covered by a tea-towel for around 5 minutes to absorb some steam.
- While the potatoes are drying off, add the olive oil to your roasting tin and place in the oven to heat. Remove after 3-4 minutes, and toss the heated oil with the potatoes, sage leaves, garlic cloves and sunflower seeds. Return the lot to your roasting tin and place in the oven for around 20 minutes. Toss with the sliced onion and return to the oven for a further 20 minutes or until the potatoes are golden. Sprinkle with coarse salt and black pepper to taste plus a little grated parmesan if you like and serve as a side to pork or poultry or enjoy as a warm salad along with some greens.
- Replace some of the potatoes with small chunks of butternut squash added to the tin at the start of roasting. Once cooked, toss with some blue cheese and baby spinach.
- Serves around 4 as a side dish