It was the Markies that caught my eye.
Though there were six other varieties of potato, freshly dug and arrayed for sale at last Saturday’s potato-themed market at Kilruddery House and Gardens near Bray, Co. Wicklow, I was intrigued by these large, clay-covered Markies and wasn’t shy about getting an introduction (always keen to meet new and interesting potatoes, me). It seemed as if Marquis might perhaps be a better name for them, as these were potatoes of a noble size.
A Dutch-bred variety, they, along with the rest of the potatoes there, had been grown by Wicklow-based farmer, John Swaby-Miller. John informed me that Markies had become a much favoured option for chips and I could see why: their large size and long oval shape would make for good chip size, while their reportedly very low sugar levels would result in that sought-after pale golden colour when fried. Though classed as a dry potato, there is, as I discovered later that evening in baked potato form, a little creaminess of texture and good flavour too. If there was a competitor that could square up to Maris Piper in the chip stakes – Maris Piper being long the favoured choice of the fish and chips trade on these islands – then this spud, which was introduced to the UK in 2000, might just be it.
The Markies website (though admittedly biased in this regard) tells you that not only is feedback from the chip trade good but that growers like the potato too, as it can be grown in a wider variety of field types than Maris Piper. It sums things up thus: “Move over Maris, there’s a new chip on the block.” The message for the rest of us, meanwhile, may simply be that varieties do matter – a potato is never just a potato, nor a chip just a chip.
Markies potatoes, as grown by John Swaby-Miller.
You’ll find John’s produce at the recently established Saturday farmers’ market at the Tap Café on the N11 in Wicklow and you’ll find his many different potatoes growing right across the road from there.
And yet, and yet…
It is lucky for me that potatoes in general, and chips in particular, are such versatile creatures. Week after week, they keep me, and this Spud Sunday slot, alive with potatoey possibilities.
A side of chips: methinks every blog post should have some.
These came courtesy of Dublin's Cliff Town House.
It is also lucky for me that, through this blog, I have had the opportunity to experience all kinds of food made by all kinds of people – and not always involving spuds either. A case in point is the invitation that came my way the other day to visit the Cliff Town House – the Dublin outpost of Ardmore’s wonderful Cliff House Hotel – for a masterclass on fish with head chef Seán Smith, followed by a sampling of their new menu, one which has a decidely seafood slant. Safe, nay, smug in the knowledge that, where there was fish, there would also be chips, I packed my bloggy bag and headed along.
Those lovely Irish Blog Awards people sure like their spuds.
I mean, they must do, if (woohoo!) they’ve gone and included a certain Spud in the finalists line up for the Food and Drink category of this year’s awards. And not just this year but last year and the year before as well. And I didn’t have to grease anybody’s palms with chips this time.
I’m speechless, not to mention awash with a lot of uneaten chips.
The whole thing calls for a bit of good, old-fashioned yahooing on my part. That and some salt and vinegar.
Seriously, though, it’s an absolute privilege to be listed as a finalist alongside I Can Has Cook, Dinner du Jour, Gimme The Recipe and Like Mam Used To Bake (and if you’re not already familiar with these ladies, I do urge you to check them out). The awards themselves will be happening on Saturday March 19th in Belfast and I figure that it would be rude of me not to attend. Even ruder not to bring a few chips along. Just in case, you understand.
Now, anyone seen my deep fat fryer?