All hail Irish new potatoes! The first spuds of this season have recently arrived. And contrary to the adjective often used to describe potatoes, these little darlings are not so humble! In fact, they’re absolutely singing with flavour and take pride of place in a summer feast. Nature’s treasures of the soil, just waiting to be unearthed and enjoyed.
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The End Of The Hunger Gap
The arrival of new potatoes breaks what is traditionally known as ‘the hunger gap’. This is the name for the weeks in late spring when winter’s crops are at an end and summer’s produce has not yet begun.
There’s no doubt that the appearance of new potatoes reawakens the soul. Perhaps it’s psychological, or maybe it harks back to times past in Irish history, but the sight and taste of early summer’s papery skinned spuds, hot from the pan and served with lashings of creamy Irish butter melting on top, seems to restore a sense of wellbeing and relief that there is fresh food on the table once more, for which we can all be thankful. New spuds herald a time of plenty.
The most common variety of new potatoes is Queens or British Queens. At the start of the season, these have almost see-through paper-thin flaky skins which scrub away to nothing when you wash them. The flesh is dense and buttery. As the season moves on, the skins become thicker and the flesh more floury. Other spuds to look out for this time of year are Homeguard and Premier. All these varieties are favoured by commercial growers.
If you have a farmer’s market close by, with smallholder growers selling their wares, you may find some more unusual varieties which are more resistant to bugs and blight and lend themselves to chemical-free cultivation methods. These can include Cara, Colleen, Pink Fir Apple and Peru Purple – which hail originally from South America and are actually purple! It really depends on the adventurousness of the gardener as to which potatoes you find in your local market or farm shop.
Whichever variety you choose, how will you enjoy your new potatoes this season?
FIVE WAYS WITH NEW SPUDS
1. Steam and serve as they come, dressed simply with Irish butter, sea salt and lots of fresh summer herbs like chopped flat parsley and snipped chives sprinkled over. You will eat the lot and probably won’t need anything to go with them.
2. Steam till almost tender, then lightly crush with a fork and drizzle with Irish rapeseed oil before roasting in a hot oven till golden brown. A great go-with for meat or fish.
3. Serve cold, dressed with sour cream and spring onions, as part of a summer salad buffet.
4. Get spicy with it! Slice cooked new potatoes and fry in butter with a pinch of dried chill flakes and a clove of crushed garlic. Season with sea salt and cracked black pepper, and sprinkle with chopped coriander. Great breakfast or brunch dish with a poached egg on top!
5. Mix cold cooked sliced new spuds with cooked green beans, peas, and broad beans and sliced spring onions. Stir in some chopped thickly sliced Irish ham. Drizzle over vinaigrette and season. Toss lightly then tuck in! All you need is crusty bread for a scrumptious summer salad lunch!
Look out for Irish new potatoes, available from now till late summer in some of our Good Food Ireland food and farm shops.
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