Potatoes have gotten a bad rap over the years, particularly in the diet industry. The humble spud has been portrayed as loaded with fat, cholesterol, calories and carbs. In actual fact, the potato in its natural state has only 110 calories, is totally fat, sodium and cholesterol free, and is an excellent source of Vitamin C, iron, fibre and potassium. Of course, slathered with butter, cream or otherwise adulterated, the potato becomes somewhat of a sheep in wolf’s clothing, but nevertheless it’s a vegetable that clearly deserves a better press. Read on to find out how you can win a copy of the new Australian Women’s Weekly recipe book “Potato Favourites” by nominating your potato favourites.
Potato Favourites – the book
Promoted as containing the world’s favourite potato dishes all in one book, this is another in the popular Australian Women’s Weekly cookery series. If you’re anything like me you probably have several of these already in your collection. (I’ve got a grease stained AWW BBQ cookbook that must be just about a collector’s item by now). If so, you’ll know they’re renowned for reliable and easy to follow recipes, as well as beautiful photographs to show you just how your dish should turn out (all things being equal).
This book contains everything potato from wicked wedges to exotic Spanish tortilla. There’s even a recipe for Potato, Olive and Sun Dried Tomato Bread that looks heavenly in the photograph. How better to ease yourself painlessly into the Mediterranean diet? At the back there’s a really useful guide to potato varieties with tips about which are best for which dishes. When I’m too lazy to get myself to a proper market, I struggle to figure this out from the display at the local supermarket. Whether it’s the remarkable versatility of the varieties they stock or the green grocery clerk’s desire to cover all bases, the labels on every variety say they’re good for everything from roasting to potato salad. Not very helpful.
Potatoes and their link to Ireland
I’ve loved potatoes in any form since childhood, so much so that my grandmother used to say on witnessing me polishing off a mound of mash high enough to rival Mount Everest, “That’s the Irish in you my girl”. It was probably just the pig in me, but her version was kinder.
Blame it on grandmother, but for many years I assumed potatoes had originated in Ireland. Not so. They were first cultivated by the Incan inhabitants of the northern Andes in South America, where they were a staple food for several centuries prior to being introduced into Europe. There are various romantic myths surrounding the story of how the spuds reached Ireland, for example that they were washed up on the shores of Cork after the wreck of the Spanish Armada or that Sir Walter Raleigh brought them home to his Irish estate on his return from his American expeditions.
However it arrived, there’s no doubt the potato transformed Irish life. It’s reported the typical Irish peasant ate between eight and 14 pounds of potatoes daily. Because they’re so nutritious, the Irish thrived on this diet, allegedly far outstripping their English counterparts in physical stature. Infant mortality dropped dramatically and between 1780 and 1840 the population of Ireland doubled. However such total dependence on the potato, both for dietary and economic sustenance, meant that the Great Potato Famine which lasted from 1845-1849 totally devastated the country and precipitated the full scale migration of the Irish to other countries, especially the US. The Smithsonian magazine in an article titled “How the Potato Changed the World” tells us just how dramatically this humble looking vegetable has influenced modern life.
Potatoes in South Australia
The South Australian Potato Company has lots of information about potato growing in South Australia, which varieties are popular and suggestions on how they should be used. Described as “an exciting new white potato variety”, the Kestrel potato (the one with the purple eyes) is highly recommended because of its versatility and great taste.
The Perfect Mash
There are as many ways to enjoy potatoes as there are varieties of the spud itself. I have to say I love them all. Mashed potatoes have to be the ultimate comfort food, something you can usually manage even when the thought of just about anything else brings on the dry heaves.
In its basic form, it’s a pretty simple dish to master, which is why I’m still mystified as to why my mother had such a penchant for the culinary monstrosity, Deb. Admittedly she was a busy woman. She had a full time teaching career as well as looking after three kids and my Dad, whose only contribution to the culinary agenda was bubble and squeak on Sunday mornings. The only good thing about the regular appearance of the glue-like glob on our plates was that it put me off convenience food for life.
In his book “The Man Who Ate Everything”, Jeffrey Steingarten devotes a whole chapter (“Totally Mashed”) to the art of the perfect mash. His take on it is a bit anal I have to say and certainly wouldn’t have appealed to my Mum as it requires fastidious preparation, boiling the potato in two stages, a precise mashing technique and carefully judging the temperature and amount of both butter and milk added at the end. Not for the faint hearted.
How you can get your hot little hands on the book
Cutting to the chase at long last – here’s how you can enter the draw to win the book. Just leave a comment on this post with your all time favourite potato dish and any tips you might have for making it great. Or you can simply like my Facebook page. Or you can do both! Simply follow the simple instructions below (she says in all confidence), leave your comments before April 30th and you could soon be holding Potato Favourites in your hands.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
by Anne Green