"Don't you serve, proper food here?" she asked
"Well, young mam, what kind of proper food do you mean, we have lots of lovely dishes for you to chose from?" replied the waiter
"Proper, food like Champ." replied my mum as if she was a worldwide authority on food.
How I loved to hear this story, of my Mum taking a waiter to task over the restaurants lack of proper food - aka Champ - potatoes mashed with butter, buttermilk, and scallions.
Growing up, we ate potatoes a lot. There wasn't a week that went by when we didn't have champ, and I adore it, and know you will too, the moment you make it.
Potatoes to the Irish, are the pastas of the Italians. They are our staple food, and a delicious one at that. Potatoes came to Europe in the 16th Century becoming the staple of the Irish diet shortly after that. They were cheap to grow, and surprising nutrious. Packed full of vitamins and minerals like - vitamin C, B1, B6, Folic Acid, potassium, magnesium, copper, zinc, and fibre. They are a healthy carbohydrate, nearly fat free and have no cholestrol. Potatoes are so good for you, that you could in fat live on a diet of virtually potatoes, and very little else, and this is what happened in Ireland. When the potato blight wiped out the crops in the 1845, the peasants and families who had relied on the potato as the primary part of their diet, began to starve. The Irish famine had begun.
Thankfully today, we are a long way from that, and potatoes regularly make a daily appearance on household tables throughout the land. There are endless varieties, depending on the season, and nearly as many ways to prepare them. For me I there are few as delicious as Champ.
The secret to champ, and as to any mashed potatoes is to use the right potatoes. Champ and mash need floury potatoes to get the right flavour, and texture. Waxy or soapy potatoes just don't cut it.
It's important to make sure that your potatoes aren't too wet after you have teemed them, the trick to drying potatoes is to place a clean linen teatowel over the teemed potatoes, and either place them back on the edge of the heat, or to leave them with the teatowel over them in the colinder.
The final secret is to whip the champ with a wooden spoon, by mixing it vigorously like you would beat butter into a risotto, after you have mashed it.
Another champ secret is to scald the scallions in milk to release their aroma and flavour.
Champ is my favourite food. Potatoes mashed into a buttery velvety oblivion. Sublime in its simplicity, it is a dish, that can be eaten, with a puddle of butter in the middle, on its own, or in any place where you would serve mash. It's brilliant with sausages and onion gravy, as a side to casseroles, stews, with gammon or ham, roast meats. In fact you can serve it with anything.
Often I make a big dish of it to be placed on the table with cold meats and salad.
Here's the recipe - enjoy.
- Small bag of floury potatoes 1.5 - 2 kilos (Maris Piper are always a good bet)
- Large bunch of scallions trimmed, and finely sliced
- Salted Butter (about 75g)
- 1/4 pint buttermilk or milk
- Salt and Pepper
- (Two cloves of garlic) this is my addition, and purists would just die
- Peel the potatoes, place in a large pan, with just enough well salted cold water to cover
- Boil the potatoes until tender, and a knife slips easily into the centre
- Teem the potatoes into a colinder, cover with a clean linen teatowel
- Put the milk into the pan used to cook the potatoes, when scalding, throw in the scallions, and stir about for a minute or so until they soften
- Put the potatoes back into the pot, add several dollaps of butter, and mash, mixing the scallions into the potatoes, so they are flecked with green
- Using a wooden spoon whip the mashed potatoes for a moment or two, to improve the texture
- Place the champ on a plate, make a dent in the top, and add a knob of butter - serve
Notes - if you are using garlic add the cloves to the pot before you bring to the boil. The garlic will soften and empart a light flavour, you can then mash this into the potatoes, or you can take the cloves out when you teem.
Champ is also delicious used on top of Shepherd's and Cottage Pies, or sprinkled with mature cheddar cheese and placed under the grill until the cheese bubbles.
Today, I have linked up with Darcy, head over to Sweet Shot Tuesday and show me your photos.
That's it for now...
Salt and Sparkle = Life Remarkable