There is nothing like a deadline to focus the mind.
I was reminded of this fact lately as the closing date for An Bord Bia’s new season potato recipe competition approached. The competition had been announced on the newly launched best in season website over the summer and, with a potato-based reputation to uphold, I was clearly going to have to enter. For weeks I reminded myself that I should do just that. But what new and amazing spudly morsel should I make? I pondered the possibilities.
Should it have an unexpected ingredient, like that potato salad with ground walnuts, say?
Or, given our nation’s fondness for having several kinds of potato with dinner, should it incorporate spuds cooked in more than one way?
Or should it be something classic but with a Daily Spud twist?
The more I thought about it, the less decisive I became. The deadline loomed. Oh the pressure. I even thought about, well, not actually entering…
And then, as I was packing for my Ballymaloe adventure, and with the deadline less than 24 hours away, something emerged from a head that was filled with a mish-mash of Spanish tortilla, tayto crisps and grated potato pie toppings. A hasty trial run, with an anxious wait for the chief taster to pronounce yay or nay, followed by a return to the kitchen, the emergence of a new-and-improved version and a by-George-I-think-she’s-got-it moment.
What I had produced was really just a classic cheese-potato-onion combination in a mini-pie form, but I knew that I had found something that was both endlessly variable and that I would make again and again. So pleased was I, in fact, that the entering of the competition became entirely secondary. I set off for Ballymaloe with a spring in my step and a head filled with daydreams of mini potato pies to come.
Update, 2nd Nov ’09: So, this morning the postman arrived with the reward for that harried bout of pie-making back in September: a big, fat restaurant voucher, having made the grade as a runner-up in the competition. Worth it in the end, then, even if I was beaten for top spot by a potato caesar salad…
You can see all of the winning recipes here.
Daily Spud Pies with Potato, Cheese & Onion
- 900g potatoes, preferably a waxy variety
- 300g red onion
- 3 medium eggs
- 50g mature cheddar
- 2-3 tblsp grated parmesan
- 0.5 tsp dried thyme
- 0.75 tsp salt or to taste
- freshly ground black pepper
- olive oil for frying
You’ll also need:
- You’ll also need one deep 12-piece muffin tin
- Preheat your oven to 200C and grease your muffin tin well.
- Scrub your potatoes and, if they are large, cut them in half. Aim to have roughly even-sized pieces for boiling. Slice your onions thinly.
- Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add a good pinch of salt and your potatoes. Allow the potatoes to come back to the boil and boil, covered, for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place a frying pan over a medium-high heat. When hot, add enough olive oil to coat the pan. Add the onions and thyme and sauté, stirring frequently, until the onions have softened and started to brown – about 8-10 minutes.
- Once your potatoes have been boiling for 10 minutes, remove from the heat, drain and run them under the cold tap to stop them cooking. Take your cooled potatoes and grate them into a large bowl. The skins will naturally fall away from the potatoes as you grate them.
- In another bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and add the salt and a couple of twists of black pepper. Add the egg mixture to the grated potato and stir to mix.
- Divide about 2/3rds of the potato and egg mixture among the muffin tins. Using the back of a spoon, press into the centre of each mini-pie so that you create a little well.
- Now, divide the cooked onion among the pies, placing it in the little well you created. Crumble the cheddar and divide it among the pies.
- Top the pies with the remaining potato mixture and sprinkle with the parmesan.
- Bake for about 30 minutes until golden. Remove carefully from the muffin tins and eat hot or at room temperature, on their own or with chutneys or salads or make ahead for parties or picnics.
- I reckon that there are all sorts of things that you could do with these, like substituting rosemary for the thyme or goats cheese for the cheddar or perhaps adding some cayenne or other spices to the egg mixture or adding some crispy fried bacon bits to the cheese and onion or… well you get the idea.
- Makes 12 mini-pies and you’ll probably want to eat more than one each.