The Daily Spud

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

Tag: cake (page 1 of 3)

Spud Sunday: Smiling Spuds

Tayto as Gaeilge

The taste of recent Irish potato history:
Tayto – the original cheese and onion crisp – which has, for the last few weeks, been available in this special edition old-school packaging with Irish language text.

Have one in your mouth, be peeling a second, have a third in your fist, and your eye on the fourth.

So went an old Irish saying, referring to a time in this country when meals for many were composed of potatoes and little else (and when five-a-day meant five kilos of potatoes, the average daily intake of an adult male in the years leading up to the Famine). The saying was recalled by Pádraic Óg Gallagher of Gallagher’s Boxty House on Bia Dúchais, a series on TG4 which explores Irish culinary heritage and whose attention, last week, focused on our relationship with the potato, from early adoption and dependency, to the blighted years of the Famine and, later, to the arrival of the Irish-Italian chipper and the modern potato crisp (five kilos a day of which, however tasty, is probably not to be recommended).

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Spud Sunday: Sassy And Serious

It’s a very flirtatious carbohydrate.

Well now, with a statement like that, you may forget all notions of humble spud-hood. The description, by food historian Regina Sexton, of the potato as a flirty little number, luxuriating in the company of fats, absorbing and carrying their flavour, must surely resonate with anyone who has ever enjoyed crisp-then-creamy deep-fried chips, the golden crunch of goose-fatted roasties, the molten glory of buttery baked potatoes, the creamy ooze of a gratin Dauphinoise or even the odd bag of Tayto.

Regina – author, among other things, of A Little History of Irish Food – was just one of the speakers at an evening dedicated to all things potato at Liss Ard Estate during the recent Taste of West Cork food festival, and she made the comment as she described some of the earliest potato recipes found in Ireland. Though potatoes as prepared by the poor had few, if any, fats to flirt with, their culinary treatment was markedly different if you were wealthy, and some of the earliest known Irish potato recipes were for sugary, buttery potato pies and puddings prepared for the gentry in their big houses. The earliest Irish potato recipe that Regina has found is for just such a pie by Dorothy Parsons, from a 1666 recipe manuscript from Birr Castle. The pie, filled, among other things, with potatoes, rosewater, currents, raisins, orange peel, cinnamon, white wine, egg yolks and sugar, treats potatoes as more fruit than vegetable. It displays, Regina says, a classic medieval palate, with a mixture of sweet, savoury and spice all rolled in one and, as you can imagine, I’d be curious to try it. At least once, anyway.

In addition to Regina’s lyrical descriptions of how we prepared and ate potatoes in times past, the Liss Ard event featured presentations which ran the gamut from pre- and post-famine history with Éanna Ní Lamhna, to advances in modern potato science with Eoin Lettice and the observations of seed saver Madeline McKeever on organic growing and blight-resistant varieties. There were, in addition, tables heaving with locally made potato dishes (though sadly nothing quite like Dorothy Parson’s pie).

Potato dishes at Liss Ard

Now that's what you'd call a feed of spuds

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Go East, Young Carrot Cake

Carrot cake

Observe closely... this is not your usual carrot cake

Sometimes it takes the merest of suggestions.

Somebody says carrot cake and, before you know it, you have a grater in one hand and a familiar orange vegetable in the other.*

Something happens along the way, though. Your cake bypasses the well-travelled walnut and cinnamon route and takes a turn eastwards, where it discovers pistachios and cardamoms and dates – oh my! In these foreign climes, the familiar cream cheese frosting seems somehow out of place, and is quickly shed in favour of a generous lime drizzle. Before you know it, a new incarnation of an old favourite is born, admired and eaten – and you can’t help but wonder if it’s a touch of eastern magic that causes it to disappear at such speed.

*I hasten to add that I don’t always respond so readily to such suggestions – just in case you were gettin’ any notions, like

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