I do tire of spud-bashing.
In the healthy eating context, I mean.
All too often, potatoes end up on the wrong side of the whats-good-for-you conversation, as things that we need to eat less of, or seek alternatives to. They are, perhaps, the victims of the extreme success with which they marry with butter and cheese and a great many other fats. From Joel Rubuchon’s legendary butter-laden potato purée to your everyday bag of crisps, it seems that spuds provide a highly accessible parking spot for additional calories.
But potatoes themselves are not the source of this excess and – as I may have mentioned once or twice before – they make for quite a tidy nutritional package. What’s more, they can play just as well with card-carrying super foods – unregulated as that term may be – as with those apparently fiendish fats (though the fact is that our bodies need a certain amount of those too).
To prove my point, I made some mash. And not just any old mash but one that is probably about as far away as you could get from Joel Rubuchon’s all-butter version (though it does not shun butter entirely). It’s a recipe inspired both by Extreme Greens – Sally McKenna’s wonderful guide to making the most of mineral-rich seaweed, and a book that I have been delving into a lot over the past few months – and by a presentation which Dorcas Barry made at the Savour Kilkenny Foodcamp last month on eating to stay young. That talk featured much that was raw and green and vibrant, just like this mash.
In what might just have been the ultimate way to spend a Spud Sunday, I was, this past weekend, in far West Kerry, immersed in Féile an Phráta and An Spud-Off Mór (that’s the Festival of the Potato and the Big Spud-Off for those in need of a translation).
Judging spuds: one of many Kerry spuds to come under scrutiny this weekend
A full report will follow in due course on my spud adventuring (though not before I take off again next weekend for a packed few days at the London Food Blogger Connect conference, where, the programme reminds me, that I’ll be speaking on Friday afternoon and again on Sunday morning on blogging, writing and – in all likelihood – on spuds; it’s a subject I find hard to avoid).
Indeed, were it not for my prior foreign engagement, I’d be tempted to stay in Kerry where, hot on the heels of this weekend’s festivities, are the Flavour of Kilorglin, taking place from 5th-7th July and the Kenmare Food Carnival from the 12th-14th – plenty to occupy those in a food festival frame of mind. In the meantime, while you await news of potato festival delights, herewith a little light reading on the latest bit of spud gadgetry to come my way.
Mash is like that little girl of nursery rhyme renown: when it is good, it is very, very good; when it is bad, it is horrid. A fellow festival goer this weekend reminded me of just how horrid that horrid can be, when she described the misery of her mother’s mash: overcooked, watery potatoes, added to a blender and made pourable with a large quantity of milk. A sad and sorry end for any self-respecting spud.
Spud Sunday, Mash Monday – what’s a day between friends, eh? There was far too much gallivanting going on in Spud-land to get this out on the usual Sunday schedule, so here’s your slightly-later-than-usual but, I hope, no less tasty, weekly spud installment.
If we hadn’t missed the turn, we’d have missed the cabbages.
As it was, we drove past our intended destination, through the gently undulating Comber countryside and spied the fine sweep of dark green and leafy heads, awaiting harvest in the fields. We saw them again as we figured our way back down the road to the turn for Mash Direct, an entirely modest roadside sign belying the size of the enterprise beyond.
Here I was, then, in Comber, Co. Down – a place well known for its early potatoes – invited to see, at first hand, the operations at Mash Direct, a company established nine years ago by Martin and Tracy Hamilton, as a means of addressing the increasingly small returns they were getting from their family potato farm. They started by turning their spuds into champ – a traditional Irish mash with spring onions and butter – and selling it at market stalls. They have since expanded considerably, with over 100 employees now producing a range of some 30+ mostly potato-based prepared vegetable products, which are sold in Ireland, the UK and even as far away as Dubai, while back at home, work will get underway shortly to double the size of the production space at their farm in Comber.
The Mash Direct Original: Champ