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?
I don’t know about you, but I probably ate as many childhood summer picnics sitting inside while it rained as sitting outside in the sunshine. Still, soon-to-be-soggy tomato sandwiches, tayto crisps, club orange and mikado biscuits were as much of a summer treat inside our holiday caravan as out. Eating in also meant you avoided the inevitable gobful of sand that accompanied a meal on the beach, which was a not unimportant consideration.
Fast forward an unspecified number of years and my picnics, when they happen, are more likely to consist of crusty bread, a nice block of cheese, ballymaloe relish and a more adult beverage. Throw in some potato salad, coleslaw and maybe a tossed salad or sorts and I’m more than happy. It’s simple food to which the warmth of the sun (when it’s there) always adds its own particular seasoning.
That’s not to say, however, that you can’t mix it up a little every now and then.
This month’s 5 star makeover asked us to do exactly that: take some classic picnic fare and give it a shiny new look. Armed with a stash of ingredients from my recent Lebanese travels, I thought that I would take the simple tossed salad of tomato, lettuce and onion on a journey to the Middle East. The result is a salad packed with Lebanese flavours. The preparation, though, is simple, which is a must for picnics in Ireland. Too much time spent getting ready and you might have to enjoy your picnic inside, again.
A balmy Saturday evening in London, on a post-curry walk, somewhere in the vicinity of Bayswater.
Not that it’s entirely relevant, but the curry in question was a tandoori king prawn masala, and (cue licking of lips) very nice it was too.
In addition to yours truly, we have Bethany and Mayssam, 2 ladies with Lebanese backgrounds and, I suspect, a vast amount of hummus-eating experience. This fact is significant.
It was 24 hours since the massed participants at Food Blogger Connect 2010 had descended on the Hempel Hotel.
24 hours with much discussion of bloggery. From the how-do-I-make-money-at-this talk with Jaden to the craft of writing as discussed by Jeanne, Jamie and Kerrin and the low-down on cameras, photography and styling with Hilda, Meeta and Mowie.
24 hours of eating, drinking and making sure you scored a bowl of posh-looking fish, chips and mushy peas whenever they passed your way. And no little discussion of whether that dessert was crème brulée, as advertised, or, in fact, panna cotta. Be in no doubt, this was a group of people who liked to eat and talk about food. A lot.
It was inevitable, therefore, that the conversation following that Saturday evening’s curry would involve yet more food…