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).
Who loves ya, spud?
New was, without question, the operative word this week.
There was new beer, with Oxman, a chocolatey, treacly brown ale, brewed in England using Irish oats, by those nomadic brewers from the Brown Paper Bag Project and launched, in both bottle and cask forms, in L. Mulligan Grocer’s on Wednesday; there was the new and beautifully shot quarterly food magazine, Feast, launched by Donal Skehan, celebrating seasonal foods and sensational producers; there was the stylish new video recipe series, Forkful TV, launched by Aoife McElwain of I Can Has Cook; there was a new perspective on an old drink (not to mention an awful lot of bottles) at a gathering organised by wine writers John Wilson and Raymond Blake to celebrate World Sherry Day; there was the announcement of the first tour by new enterprise, Irish Food Tours – set up by chefs Zack Gallagher and Wendy White Kavanagh – which will give participants a real taste of Kilkenny on the weekend of July 5th (details here) with visits to local food producers and cultural sights, and bookable now at what I reckon is a very reasonable all-in cost for meets, eats and sleeps.
A lot of newness to be going on with, then.
Most notably, from my point of view though, there were new potatoes.
Country Crest new season Irish potatoes
Specifically, I had new season Irish potatoes sent my way by Dublin-based produce suppliers, Country Crest. Given the god awful slowness of the growing season this year, I have to admit surprise at local new potatoes making an appearance in May at all, even with crops grown under glass, as these first-of-the-season spuds would have been.
So, what exactly does one do with a load of Turkish pepper?
I’ve been wondering about that for past few weeks, ever since my brother, who’d been travelling in the Turkish neck of the woods, brought me a collection of randomly chosen local spices, most of which turned out to be pepper of some kind. There were small, maroon-coloured chilli flakes called isot biber or urfa biber (and not one, but two packets thereof), bright red chilli flakes labelled pul kirmizi biber, and karabiber, which I took to be ground white pepper but which I now suspect is more black peppery.
Part of my newly-acquired Turkish pepper stash