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National Potato Day 2013

Given the image above, I may as well get straight to the point: National Potato Day is, once again, on its way.

Started as an initiative by Keogh’s, it’s two years since the inaugural National Potato Day took place and this year, for the first time, it will run with the support of Bord Bia (which, I suppose you could say, makes it official). That, in turn, means that we can expect more in the way of events in the run up to the day itself, Friday August 23rd, and greater media coverage; details of happenings will appear on the potato.ie site from this coming Monday, July 29th, with a number of events announced already, including the plan by Sam’s Potatoes to make an attempt on the record for the largest ever potato sack race at the Tullamore Show on August 11th and a 5K fun run hosted by the Meade Potato Company on National Potato Day itself.

Running and sack racing aside, I chatted to Lorcan Bourke of Bord Bia about their aims for National Potato Day. It was a conversation that had a familiar ring: counteract the perception that carbs are bad; highlight the neat nutritional package that is the potato; broaden people’s perspectives on how a potato can be prepared; bring some colour to the potato palette (***) – in other words, the kind of thing I do on a regular basis. So, with that in mind and anticipating the event to come, here’s a little colour from the warmth of the Canary Islands, where they’ve got salt and spice and aren’t afraid to use ’em.

*** This is a rare bird – a sentence where you could probably get away with using palette, palate or even, at a stretch, pallet (for those who like to think of their potatoes in bulk terms)


Canarian Salt Wrinkled Potatoes (Papas Arrugadas)

Canarian salt wrinkled potatoes

Now, I’ve never actually been to the Canary Islands, but this Canarian potato dish – a signature of the island’s cuisine – is one that has been on my spud radar for quite some time. There is nothing particularly complicated about its preparation: small, new potatoes are simply boiled in very heavily salted water (or traditionally in seawater). The skin wrinkles a little as they cook and, as they dry afterward, some of the salt recrystallizes and forms a thin film on the surface of the potatoes.

The effect as you bite in is akin to having a salty rim on your margarita glass – there’s an outer salty hit, whilst inside, the potatoes are well, but not overly, seasoned. Traditionally, these potatoes are served with a couple of sauces – a spicy red pepper sauce (mojo rojo) and a green sauce (mojo verde) made with fresh coriander (see below). They’ll go nicely with one or both, either alone or with some baked white fish or some chicken, say.

The Summary:

  • Makes around 4 servings & takes approx. 10 min to prep + 30 min to cook the potatoes

You’ll need:

  • 1kg small new potatoes
  • 250g salt

You’ll also need:

  • A medium-sized saucepan to accommodate the potatoes

The Steps:

  • Scrub the potatoes and leave them unpeeled.
  • Add about 1.5l water to your saucepan. Add the salt and stir to dissolve. Add the potatoes and set over a medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes can be easily pierced with knife, about 15-20 minutes, depending on size. You’ll see the skins of the potatoes start to wrinkle a bit towards the end of cooking.
  • Drain almost all of the water off the potatoes, leaving just barely enough to cover the base of the saucepan. Return the saucepan with the potatoes to the heat for a couple of minutes to dry off, shaking the pan periodically. You should see a white coating form on the potatoes as the salt recrystallizes.
  • Serve tapas-style with one or both of the mojo rojo and mojo verde sauces (see below) or as a side dish with some baked white fish or chicken.
R☆51

Mojo Rojo

Mojo rojo / red sauce

Never having been to the Canaries, I’ve can’t really say that I’ve eaten proper Canarian wrinkly potatoes nor had the sauces to go with them – so this recipe for mojo rojo may not necessarily be the most authentic of versions. That said, and having looked at several different versions of the recipe, I’ve based it on what seem to be the common (and very Spanish) elements – garlic, chilli, cumin, dried peppers or pepper powder, olive oil and sherry vinegar – and also on what tasted good to me.

Most versions that I’ve seen simply involve pounding the ingredients together and mixing with oil and vinegar, and those ingredients usually include a greater or lesser degree of raw garlic (like this one, with 8 cloves of the stuff). To take the raw edge off the garlic, I’ve chosen to fry it very briefly in some of the oil, and I’ve also chosen to toast the cumin seeds first. It’s worth seeking out some good quality Spanish smoked paprika (pimentón) for this, as well as a good quality olive oil.

The Summary:

  • Makes around 60 ml of sauce & takes approx. 10 min to put together

You’ll need:

  • 0.5 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 fresh red chilli (mild or hot, according to preference), finely chopped and seeds retained
  • 0.5 tsp sweet smoked paprika (pimentón)
  • 0.25 tsp salt
  • 2 tblsp olive oil, divided
  • 0.5 tsp sherry vinegar
  • water to thin

You’ll also need:

  • A small frying pan and a mortar and pestle

The Steps:

  • Place a small frying pan over a medium heat. When hot, add the cumin seeds and toast, shaking the pan periodically, for 3-4 minutes or until fragrant.
  • Meanwhile, in a mortar and pestle, pound together the garlic, fresh chilli (with seeds, if desired), smoked paprika and salt.
  • When the cumin seeds are ready, add a tblsp of the olive oil to the pan, along with the garlic and chilli mixture. Fry for about 30 seconds only, then remove from the heat and place in the small bowl.
  • Add the remaining olive oil to the mixture, along with the sherry vinegar and whisk together well. Taste for salt and vinegar and add more if desired. Add about 2 tblsp of water to thin, mix well and serve.

The Variations:

  • You could use a hot smoked paprika to add more chilli heat to this or add a green element to the sauce with some chopped flat leaf parsley.

Mojo Verde

Mojo verde / green sauce

As with the mojo rojo above – and for the same reason – I can’t, strictly speaking, vouch for the absolute authenticity of the version you see here. However, garlic, cumin and lots of fresh coriander seem to be common mojo verde themes, along with olive oil and sherry vinegar, and this version has a balance of those ingredients that I like. As for the mojo rojo above, I’ve chosen to fry the garlic very briefly to soften its raw edge, but you can use it raw if you like.

The Summary:

  • Makes around 75 ml of sauce & takes approx. 10 min to put together

You’ll need:

  • 0.25 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tblsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 0.5 tsp sherry vinegar
  • 0.25 tsp salt
  • 6-8 tblsp fresh coriander leaves, very finely chopped
  • water to thin

You’ll also need:

  • A small frying pan

The Steps:

  • Place a small frying pan over a medium heat. When hot, add the cumin seeds and toast, shaking the pan periodically, for 3-4 minutes or until fragrant.
  • Add a tblsp of the olive oil to the pan, along with the crushed garlic. Fry for about 30 seconds only, then remove from the heat and place in the small bowl.
  • Add the remaining olive oil to the mixture, along with the sherry vinegar and salt and whisk together well. Mix in the chopped coriander, taste for salt and vinegar and add more if desired. Add about 2 tblsp of water to thin, mix well and serve.

The Variations:

  • I imagine that a few capers might work well in this sauce, even if not a necessarily authentic addition.

10 Comments

  1. twas the night before potato day when all threw the house
    not a person was sleeping not even my spouse.
    The peelers were washed by the strainers with care,
    with all Aoife’s spud recipes we had nothing to fear.

    On Rooster, On Golden, On Cultra and Home Guard,
    On Kerrs Pink, on Orla, on Queenies, and Lumper.
    Fresh from the soil to fresh on my plate
    now dash away, dash away before its too late.

    Boiled and steamed, fried crispy in oil
    creamed and spiced sometimes baked in some foil,
    with potato dreams fresh in my mind I could hear
    “Happy potato day to all, can’t wait till next year.”

    Cheers,
    Brian.

  2. Daily Spud

    Monday, July 29, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    Another great addition to the canon of potato poetry Brian – clearly, you are a man who is very well versed!

  3. Anyone heard or seen any updates or news about events for this years National Potato Day this coming friday?

  4. Daily Spud

    Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    Well, Restaurants Cork, if you have a look at potato.ie you should find some information on National Potato Day events there or on twitter, search for the #MadAboutSpuds hashtag or follow the @BordBia or @potato_ie twitter accounts. Hope that helps.

  5. I have been to the Canary Islands and loved these!! We were only served green sauce with potatoes, red with pork dishes. I asked a chef for the green sauce recipe. He spoke no English and provided only ingredients. There was no cumin

  6. Ah, thanks so much for that Elizabeth, always interesting to hear the experience of someone who’s been to the place in question (and also that it was the green sauce that was served with potatoes, and red with pork).

    From what I’m told, many places on the Canary Islands will have their own versions of the sauces, so it’s no real surprise that, as you found, some will come without the cumin – though it is a nice addition!

  7. OMG I feel like I’m on my Holiday that was sooooooooooo yummy now all I need is a bit of sun & a sexy waiter to serve me, Thank you x

  8. Thanks so much for posting this recipe! I bought a jar in Gran Canaria and now I will have authentic salty potatoes to go with it! I now don’t have to worry about the jar running out either as can now make my own! Delish!

  9. We have just returned from Tenerife. We love papas arugardas.
    In fact we have brought a bag of the potatoes home to replicate properly. Might even try growing some in our allotment. We think hey have a different flavour to normal UK new potatoes aside from being salty.
    Served in our hotel restaurant with Mojo Rojo and Mojo Verde and with meat and fish dishes. Just lovely on their own with the sauces.
    Will be making our own sauces to go with hem :)

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