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Spud Sunday: Paddy’s Spuds

Nobody, as the Monty Python crew once memorably observed, expects the Spanish Inquisition.

Everyone, on the other hand, expects spuds on Paddy’s Day, but I’ll betcha nobody expects spudakopita (cue Python-esque diabolical laughter). You can get the low down on this potatoey St. Patrick’s Day version of spanakopita below (though there’s no need to restrict its making to one day of the year – remember that potatoes are for life, not just for Paddy’s Day).

What is special about St. Patrick’s Day when it comes to spuds, though, is that it was, and is, a traditional day for planting pototoes in Ireland. Kaethe Burt O’Dea of SPUDS.ie (who is quoted in today’s Washington Post piece on Ireland and the trialling of GM potatoes) wisely suggests that we might do well to reclaim this day as a National Potato Day and relegate the consumption of copious pints to a supporting role. I’ll plant to that.

SPUDS St Patricks 2013

Plant a spud – or several – this St. Patrick’s Day (image from the SPUDS campaign)

Meanwhile, given the season that’s in it, I have found myself awash with samples of a spudly nature generously provided to me by assorted parties who know my taste in edibles only too well.
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Spud Sunday: Rose-Tinted Spuds

And tint your potatoes blue or rose or green! How do you know that you will not like them?

MFK Fisher, from the essay “Shell-shock and Richard the Third” in Serve it Forth

It was a mildly curious coincidence that, in the week where bones found in an English car park were confirmed to be those of long-dead monarch, Richard III, I found myself reading an essay by MFK Fisher which referenced that self-same, newly identified king.

In the essay, written some 75 years or so ago, the author urges her readers to avoid indifference and monotony in their eating – as laudable an endeavour then as now. “Baked potatoes,” she says, “no matter how hot and flaky, become almost nauseating the seven-hundredth time they are served pinched open, with paprika and butter on the scar.” Well, quite so. Ardent eater of potatoes though I am, such relentless baked potato-ism might even cause me to recoil (and that’s saying something).

We should instead, she advises, forsake the mundane, and bring excitement and imagination to the dishes we create, as innovators now, and in centuries past, have done. She cites, among others, fanciful creations like the half capon, half pig cockentrice, described in 15th Century manuscripts, and which may well have graced the table of the now decidedly skeletal Richard III. It’s a somewhat extreme example and (unless you’re Heston Blumenthal, that is), you’re unlikely to be recreating such a thing in the comfort of your own kitchen anytime soon. That doesn’t mean to say that you can’t mix it up a little every now and then, though. Perhaps you will, as she suggests, tint your potatoes blue or rose or green. How do you know that you will not like them? How indeed.

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Potato Pinwheels with Goats Cheese and Hazelnuts

Potato pinwheels with goats cheese and hazelnuts

So here, then, is something a little different to do with your potatoes. They may not be tinted blue or rose or green, but these potato pinwheels will do nicely for a change nonetheless.

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Spud Sunday: The Inconvenient Spud

Pity the poor potato. Considered by some, these days, to be an inconvenient choice for dinner because you have to, y’know, peel them and they take longer to cook than your average packet of pasta or rice. Shocking though it seems to me, it appears that the slow and lumbering spud is no match for the likes of speedy spaghetti in the modern-day clash of the carbs. While I might rail against the reductive attitude to food and cooking that is implied by such thinking, I am not, I expect, going to effect any great sweeping changes in societal behaviour by doing so (well, not yet anyway). Meanwhile, it remains a very real challenge for those who grow and sell potatoes to address.

Keogh’s of North County Dublin have, for example, been tackling the issue with their ‘Easy Cook’ line of steam-in-the-bag microwaveable potatoes (though I still admit that when I first saw them, I was, in my own potato purist way, given to muttering: ‘but aren’t potatoes easy to cook anyway?’). As reported in my Sunday Times piece a few weeks back, Keogh’s Easy Cook spuds are proving a popular option for shoppers, and others in the potato industry here are getting in on the act too. Sam Dennigan’s have recently launched ‘Spuddies’ – their version of the 7-minute bag of microwaveable baby potatoes – and Sam Dennigan Jr. himself called to deliver some samples to me recently.

Sam Dennigan Spuddies

Sam Dennigan's Spuddies: one of the new breed of convenience spuds

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