What’s that you say? Spuds in the news again? Yes indeed, the fact that we Irish are eating less of them seems to be a topic that we simply – and somewhat ironically – cannot get enough of.
This time, it was the turn of the Irish Times magazine, with potatoes front and centre in yesterday’s Paddy’s Day edition. In the magazine, Róisín Ingle got to grips with the realities of potato consumption in modern Ireland, mainly by way of an interview with Tom Keogh of Keogh’s Potatoes but, wise lady that she clearly is, she solicited my opinion too (you can read the full article at your leisure over here). The magazine also included the word on chips from Kevin Thornton and a slew of fine looking potato recipes from Domini Kemp, Kevin Dundon and Sunil Ghai, among others. Plenty to keep a spud lover engaged and happy over the national holiday, then.
Speaking of St. Patrick’s Day, it did not escape the attention of several readers that there was a distinct lack of Paddys Day Food Parade in these parts this year. While the organising of same simply got away from me this time ’round, you can trust that I did make sure to enjoy some Paddy’s Day food yesterday, not least of which were some of Keogh’s shamrock and sour cream flavoured crisps (yes, made with real shamrock), a product that is both tasty and damn clever. And, needless to remark, I couldn’t let the occasion of Paddy’s Day pass without making something green and spudworthy myself.
Herby Baked Potatoes
Róisín Ingle’s piece in the Irish Times yesterday reported – and this is especially noteworthy for those who persist in thinking that spuds are fattening – that Jackie O.’s favourite diet food was a baked potato with caviar. Now, while I’m not exactly prone to having caviar about the place, I will never be more than an hour away from the joys of a baked potato.
Here, I made a simple salsa verde – which sounds so much better than green sauce – from what fresh green herbs I had, mixed with lime juice and some lovely Derrycamma extra virgin rapeseed oil with lemon (one of the winners at the recent Irish Food Writers’ Guild awards). That, in turn, I stirred through the contents of a baked potato. Simple, tangy, tasty and green. Of course, you can replace the lemon oil with another good quality extra virgin olive or rapeseed oil and add a little lemon juice or zest.
And if you fancied going for an Irish version of the Jackie O. spud, you could (if you could get your hands on some) crown your potato with some Goatsbridge trout caviar, which has to be one of the most exciting Irish food product launches of recent times.
For the potatoes:
- 2 large potatoes (around 300-400g), preferably floury
- olive oil or other vegetable oil
- coarse salt
- butter to taste
- 1 tblsp sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds, toasted (optional)
For the salsa verde:
- approx. 5 tblsp chopped flat leaf parsley
- approx. 5 tblsp chopped fresh coriander (leaves and thin stems)
- approx. 5 tblsp chopped fennel leaves
- 1.5 tblsp freshly squeezed lime juice or more to taste
- 1.5 tblsp lemon oil (or substitute extra virgin olive oil or rapeseed oil and a dash of lemon juice to taste)
- coarse salt to taste
You’ll also need:
- A small baking tray for the spuds and a small blender for the salsa verde (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 200C
- Scrub the potatoes and dry them. Prick the skin all over using a fork or small knife, which will allow steam to escape while cooking.
- Brush the potato skin with olive oil or other vegetable oil and sprinkle with salt.
- Place the potatoes on a baking tray (or directly on an oven rack) and bake until tender, which should take somewhere between an hour and an hour and a quarter, depending on size, variety and your oven. The skin should be crisp, the flesh tender. Skewer a potato to test if you need to.
- While the potatoes are baking, whiz together the parsley, coriander, fennel, lime juice and lemon oil using a small blender – alternatively, chop the herbs very finely and mix with the juice and oil. Add coarse salt to taste.
- When the potatoes are done, split them open and scoop out the flesh. Mix with butter to taste and add the herb mixture. Adjust the seasoning to your liking and refill the baked potato shells. Top with toasted sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds if you like and enjoy on their own or perhaps with some white fish.
- Like any baked potato, the variations are endless. Vary the salsa verde to your taste and to what herbs you have – you could substitute mint for fennel, say – or perhaps add some capers.
- Baked potatoes for 2