Bring New Life to Old Spuds

Here’s some magic culinary tips to liven up the last of the winter potatoes. Find out how to make the most of April’s Roosters and Pink Kerrs.

We're on the cusp of a holy host of new ingredients coming into the market as summer kicks in. Very soon, there will be an abundance of superb fresh produce, as the growing season gets in full swing

But right now, we are in what is known by growers everywhere as the 'Hunger Gap' or the 'Hungry Gap'. This is the time of year when the allotment or home veggie patch isn't producing much at all. The last of winter cauliflowers and broccoli are coming to an end. There's some kale left (which never seems to go out of season!). Veggies of the brassica family, like cabbages, broccoli and chard start to 'bolt'. No, this doesn't mean they will hotfoot it out of your garden! Bolting is when they start to produce flowers. This happens because they prepare themselves for survival in the cold spell, and then as soon as they have the extra daylight and the odd bit of sun the early days of April bring, they will shoot up flowers to produce seeds in order to propagate the next generation. When vegetables bolt they become inedible as they put all their energy into seeding.

The end of the Hunger Gap is usually signalled in Ireland by the first of the new potatoes. This event hails a collective sigh of relief among growers and food lovers alike, as the first new spuds signal the time of plenty summer brings. New spuds change the mood completely! Wexford is usually the first county in Ireland to produce the early crops of new potatoes.

So at the moment, we are surviving on the last of the main crop potatoes planted last year. Kerr Pink and Roosters are still in shops to tide us over till those paper skinned Queens and other varieties appear on the market. The question is, how do we dress up the spuds of winter and give them the personality of summer?

Here's a few tips we've come up with for bringing new life to old potatoes:

  1. Instead of mashing with butter and milk as you do in winter, dress your hot steamed or boiled Roosters or Kerr Pinks with a light vinaigrette dressing with a few fresh herbs or spring onion tops chopped and added.
  2. Crush and oven roast par-boiled potatoes with red peppers, courgettes and onions, with Irish rapeseed oil and garlic, to give them a sunny Mediterranean feel.
  3. Make potato cakes with left over mash flavoured with wholegrain mustard and chopped scallions. Shallow fry and serve with a poached egg on top and a peppery rocket salad strewed around each cake.
  4. Place slices of peeled and washed Roosters or Kerr Pinks in a bowl and sprinkle with chopped wild garlic. Season. Layer into a buttered dish and pour over vegetable stock to just cover. Dot the top with butter and bake in a pre-heated oven until they are tender and golden on top. Dress with extra chopped wild garlic and serve with fish or chicken.
  5. Warm cooked Roosters make a great potato salad dressed with lemon and parsley mayonnaise. Serve with pan fried fish like salmon or cod fillet