For some reason, I picture David Shaw, the energy behind the Welsh-based Sárvári Trust, in the beret-topped garb of a WW2 resistance fighter. In David’s case, however, the enemy (and one of Goliath proportions at that) is potato blight and his weapons of choice are the Sárpo line of potatoes, bred to have high levels of natural blight resistance.
Needless to remark, David was not actually beret-clad when I met him at last week’s SPUDS.ie Tastefest (though I daresay a beret would have suited him). What he did display, though, was a resistance fighter’s spirit and determination in the face of battle on two fronts, with the ever-adapting scourge of potato blight on the one hand and the struggle to keep the Sárvári Trust funded on the other. He was eager to hear about people’s experiences with Sárpo potatoes and to share his expansive knowledge of potato blight – amassed during some 40 years of study – with all who were willing to listen.
David Shaw of the Sárvári Reseach Trust: a bona fide blight resistance fighter
In its original sense, a mojo is a small bag containing one or more magical items, traditionally made for an individual who conceals it on their person at all times in order to have some desired magical effect. For every dedicated blogger, there is almost always some occasionally mysterious and generally non-financial something – a mojo if you will – which fuels their blogging fire.
The potency of one’s blogging mojo can wax and wane of course – at its best, there is a spontaneity and a there-and-then-ness about blog posts – at other times, blog posts (as I heard them described in the National Library this week) become the homework that you didn’t do. It was that thought that reminded me of several posts that, for assorted reasons, were languishing in my undone category, including the one that now follows. And it was that thought, along with the injection of a little coffee-powered mojo, that finally spurred me to finish.
Irish-roasted coffees from Coffee Mojo
“Too many bad days at the office” is how Kevin McLoughlin of Wicklow-based Coffee Mojo sums up his motivation for going into the coffee roasting business. He believes that there is something magical – and, yes, mojo-like – about good coffee, freshly roasted and correctly brewed. He is also an immensely accommodating chap and arrived at my house one Friday morning, over a month ago now, with three of his freshly roasted coffees, several crate-loads (no, really, crate-loads) of coffee brewing gear and an immense desire to demonstrate what both he and his coffees were all about.
Today, spud duty calls – as it so often does – and I will be busy seeing and sampling all that the SPUDS.ie Tastefest has to offer. I will, in due course, report on the tuberous goings-on but, in the meantime – and lest you should find yourself feeling sad and spudless – I took the precaution of making some potato soup. This one has added beer, guaranteed to keep you cheery ’til I get back.
Potato and Beer Soup
This soup is a simple enough gathering of potatoes, onion, garlic and celery, but with beer for added body, and perked up by the addition of mustard, soy sauce and some grated cheese. It’s a recipe I did for the crew over at potato.ie and you can see what I had to say on the subject of soup – potato and otherwise – over here.
- vegetable oil for frying
- 2 large red onions (approx. 400g), finely chopped
- 4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 3 medium-sized potatoes (approx. 600g), washed, skins left on, and finely diced
- 4 large sticks of celery (approx. 200g), finely diced
- 700ml light veg stock
- 500ml red ale
- 3 tblsp soy sauce
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp dijon or other mustard
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp sherry vinegar or to taste (or use sherry or lemon juice)
- approx. 50g mature cheddar cheese, grated (or use another flavoursome hard cheese, like Gruyère or Glebe Brethan)
You’ll also need:
- A hand-held or other blender for blending the soup.
- Place a large saucepan over a medium heat. When hot add vegetable oil to coat the pan. Add the onions and fry for around 10 minutes or until softened and starting to brown a little at the edges.
- Add the garlic, stir and fry for around a minute, then add the potatoes and celery and fry for another 5 minutes more.
- Add the stock, ale, soy sauce and bay leaf. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for around 25-30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
- Remove from the heat, remove the bay leaf and blend the mixture using a handheld or other blender, leaving some chunks if you like.
- Add mustard and black pepper to taste and more soy sauce if you think it needs it. Finish with a splash of sherry vinegar – only a small amount is needed to brighten the taste so gently does it – or you can try sherry or lemon juice for different finishing effects.
- The soup will be fairly thick, so thin as desired with boiling water. To serve, ladle into bowls and sprinkle a little grated cheese on top. Some cheese toasties alongside would make it even better.
- You could, to mix a metaphor, beef this up by adding some cooked ham or bacon. You could also experiment with different beers.