The Daily Spud

...there's both eatin' and drinkin' in it

Reconsider The Spud

Last month, I – as a blog, that is – turned seven. Fancy that.

And while seven years might suggest, oh, a certain itchiness or an extended sojourn in Tibet, in spud years, I think of it as closer to 21, a coming of age of sorts. Though it’s been quiet on these pages of late, potatophile that I am, I have remained wired in to spud channels, and let me tell you that they have been abuzz. Not least among recent events – and coincident with my birthday last month – was the launch of a three year potato promotion campaign by Bord Bia here in Ireland and the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board in the UK, sporting the tagline “Potatoes: More than a bit on the side.” It aims to encourage those who may be inclined to dismiss potatoes as old fashioned – fuddy duddy spuddies, as it were – to think again. I didn’t hesitate when asked to get involved.

Alas poor spud, we loved you well. Thing is, we seem not to love you quite as much now as we did way back when.

The situation is this: sales of fresh potatoes in these parts have been on a more or less downward trajectory for several years. Be it that they’re seen as a less than exciting, or less than convenient choice for dinner, or mistakenly perceived as fattening (when, they, personally, contain no fat to speak of) or because of general anti-carb sentiments, spuds have become a less frequent visitor to our tables. This is not news, exactly – it’s a story that has popped up regularly over the past couple of decades and, for that matter, regularly on this blog (prompting, among other things, my top ten guide to sprucing up your spuds).

Heart shaped potato

Who loves ya, spud?

It’s a pity, of course, because the modest, workaday appearance of your average spud-on-the-street belies their superspud status – an endlessly versatile ingredient that doubles as a good source of vitamin C, potassium and fibre in a very neat nutritional package, and one that (you may just have noticed) grows well on our doorsteps. It’s, y’know, the kind of thing I’ve been saying for about seven years or so.

And if you’re still having trouble picturing spuds in anything other than a meat-and-two-veg suit or as the afterthought in the “and chips” scenario, then consider, say, the good-for-you salad below – bright and zesty and simple to make – or any number of others found in the Daily Spud repertoire, with further spudly ideas to be found at both www.potato.ie and www.lovepotatoes.co.uk.

Warm Potato Salad w/ Chickpeas & Broccoli

Roasted potatoes and sunflower seeds

This is how it starts: sliced potatoes, roasted with sunflower seeds

To quote an old confectionary tagline, I think of this salad as “full of Eastern Promise” – Middle Eastern to be precise, because olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, allspice and chickpeas bring my tastebuds right back into Lebanese territory and the joy that it was to visit that country back in 2011. It is, however, considerably better for you than said confectionary – the potatoes give it substance, while the supporting cast provide brightness, colour, and contrasting textures. My sister – a seasoned sampler of spud creations over the years – said she could eat one of these every day.

Warm potato salad with chickpeas & broccoli

And if it seems like a lot of ingredients, it’s easily put together, with a lot of flexibility in its composition. Potato chunks are tossed in a little olive oil and quickly roasted in a hot oven along with some sunflower seeds, and then added to chickpeas, broccoli, feta, tomatoes and spring onions. It’s dressed with lemon juice, yoghurt and lots of parsley, along with some mustard and allspice. If you don’t have broccoli, use another crunchy green vegetable; if you don’t have feta, try goats cheese instead; no allspice? no sweat – leave it out or perhaps try another spice – some dried chilli flakes, perhaps.

As for the potatoes, use baby or new potatoes and slice each into two or three, or chop larger potatoes into bitesize chunks. The final textures will be different, depending on the relative flouriness (or dryness) of the potatoes, but should still – most importantly – taste good.

The Summary:

  • Makes 4 servings & takes approx. 30-40 min to prep + cook

You’ll need:

  • 1 tblsp olive oil
  • 450-500g potatoes, washed
  • 4-5 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 2 tblsp lemon juice
  • 4 tblsp natural yoghurt
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp coarse salt, or to taste
  • 0.5 tsp ground allspice
  • black pepper to taste
  • 200g broccoli, chopped into florets
  • 1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained
  • 125g cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 50g feta cheese, crumbled
  • handful chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 50g sunflower seeds

You’ll also need:

  • A large serving bowl and a large roasting tin

The Steps:

  • Set your oven to 220C, add the olive oil to a large roasting tray and place in the oven to heat for about 6-8 minutes. You’ll also need to boil a kettle of water.
  • Meanwhile, chop the potatoes (skin and all) into bitesize chunks or slices, about 1cm thick. Pat with kitchen towel and, once the oil is heated, toss the potatoes with the oil in the roasting tray and return to the oven.
  • Add the sliced spring onions to a large serving bowl with the lemon juice. Stir in the yoghurt, mustard, salt, allspice and black pepper.
  • Place the broccoli florets in a heatproof bowl. Cover with boiling water, allow to stand for a minute, then drain and rinse with cold water. Add the broccoli to the spring onions along with the drained chickpeas, quartered tomatoes, crumbled feta and chopped parsley. Toss to mix.
  • When the potato chunks are tender and turning golden – about 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven – scatter the sunflower seeds over them and return to the oven for 3-4 minutes until toasted. Remove from the oven and toss with the rest of the ingredients. Taste, adding more salt or lemon juice if needed, and serve.

The Variations:

  • You could add some black olives, say, or replace the broccoli with lightly steamed green beans; perhaps try using goats cheese, sundried tomatoes and basil instead of feta, cherry tomatoes and parsley; or replace the allspice with some smoked paprika and perhaps some chorizo to take it in a Spanish direction.
R☆51

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