Sure it never rains but it pours. And while that old adage could be applied, literally, to the winter we’ve just had, over the past week, it has also been true of life in the spud lane.
It includes the clip above, for a program which will see me passing across the nation’s TV screens on Mon. Feb 24th (and more of that anon), but it started last Tuesday, with the I.F.A.’s National Potato Conference, and continued with a flurry of media reportage over the following days. Though, sadly, I could not attend the conference myself – there was the small matter of the day job, which keeps me in the spuds to which I have become accustomed – I think that the essence of what was said at the conference echoed the same event two years ago : we need to tackle falling levels of spud consumption and do what we can to promote the potato (because, y’know, it’s a damn fine thing to eat, as things to eat go).
The latest development in this respect is a commitment made by various interested parties – the Irish Potato Federation , the Irish Farmer’s Association  and Bord Bia  – to prepare an application for EU co-funding to support a €1M potato promotion campaign over the next three years, which will reflect the potato’s versatility and health benefits and, if all goes according to plan, stimulate long term consumer demand for spuds.***
Media reports following the conference, such as this one in the Indo , latched on to the predicted 40% drop in our potato consumption over the next ten years, as quoted by Bord Bia’s potato specialist, Lorcan Bourke, and on Thursday I was quizzed on the matter myself on Radio Kerry’s Kerry Today  program with Jerry O’Sullivan (the summary of what I said? no, this is not a new story and yes, spuds are great).
As alluded to earlier, I have also, somewhat coincidentally, been appearing in a spud (and Kerry) capacity on Irish tellyboxes over the past week or so. An episode of a new series, Gliondar , which airs this Monday evening, Feb. 24th, at 7.30pm on RTÉ1, follows the fortunes of three of the competitors in last year’s Spud Off Mór in West Kerry. In my capacity as judge at the event, I was called upon to say a few words on screen, which featured in this promo for the series (and no, there are no prizes for guessing which one is me).
The promo for the Spud Off episode shown at the top of the post, meanwhile, gives you some idea of just how seriously this potato judging business is taken (and you can read all about my own adventures at the glorious Spud Off here ).
Potatoes With A Black Bean & Tomato Sauce
One of the points made in my I-love-spuds spiel on Radio Kerry last week was that – controversial though it might seem to say it – we Irish do not, in fact, have the monopoly on potatoes (you would, at times, be forgiven for thinking otherwise). Spuds are grown and eaten throughout the world, and there’s no reason why we can’t borrow a few ideas here and flavours there when it comes to spicing up our own potato repertoires (potato promoters take note). This recipe is a case in point.
It’s a kind of cross between patatas bravas  and heuvos rancheros, with Indian spicing (so it’s either terribly International or terribly confused). The potatoes are simply roasted whole (if small) or in large chunks and the accompanying sauce is made with black beans – the South American kind – as well as tomatoes, onions and ginger. The same sauce works well made with chickpeas instead of black beans, and the whole thing works well when served with a fried egg. And if you should – shock, horror – feel the need to forego the potatoes, the sauce can also be eaten with your choice of rice, naan breads and either corn or wheat tortillas.
Using tinned beans or chickpeas, of course, makes this very convenient. If you prefer to use dried beans or chickpeas, you’ll need about 100g and they should be soaked and cooked first (as per this black bean recipe  or this chickpea recipe , respectively). If doing so, reserve some of the cooking liquid to use here.
- Makes 3-4 servings & takes approx. 15 min to prep + 45 min to cook
- vegetable oil for roasting & frying
- approx. 800g potatoes (either baby potatoes or larger, preferably floury potatoes cut into approx. 2cm chunks)
- 1 large onion (approx. 200g), finely chopped
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
- 3 cm piece root ginger, grated
- 1 tsp gnd cumin
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 0.5 tsp gnd coriander
- 0.25 tsp gnd cinnamon
- 0.25 tsp gnd cardamom
- 1 x 400g tin tomatoes, chopped
- 1 x 400g tin black turtle beans (or chickpeas), drained
- 200ml water or liquid from cooking dried beans
- 1 tsp salt
- 2-3 tblsp chopped fresh coriander (optional)
You’ll also need:
- A large roasting tin for the potatoes.
- Preheat the oven to 200C.
- Add 1.5 tblsp oil to your roasting tin and place in the oven to heat.
- Scrub the baby potatoes (if using) and leave whole and unpeeled or cut larger potatoes into approx. 2cm chunks, rinse in water to remove excess starch and pat dry.
- Remove the preheated tin from the oven, toss the potatoes in the oil and return to the oven for approx. 45 min. or until browned and can be pierced easily with a knife. While the potatoes are roasting, prepare the beans:
- Place a medium-sized saucepan over a medium heat. Add oil to coat the pan.
- Take around ¼ of your onion, chop very finely, toss with the lemon juice and set aside. When your pan is hot, add the remaining ¾ of your chopped onion, stir and fry for around 7-8 minutes until well softened.
- Add the chopped garlic and grated ginger, stir and fry for a minute or so, then add the ground spices – cumin, garam masala, coriander, cinnamon and cardamom – to the pan. Stir briefly, then add the tinned tomatoes, the beans or chickpeas, the water or cooking liquid from beans and the salt. Stir and bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the reserved onion and lemon juice, along with the chopped fresh coriander (if using). Taste and add more salt and/or lemon juice if you like. Serve hot with the potatoes, once they’re cooked – a fried egg makes it even better.
- You could certainly heat this up by adding a touch of cayenne pepper or some fresh green or other chilli.