Walking in the woods, I feel the sun shining again on my pale winter skin. Spring is finally here and there's a great stretch in the evening. I bend to pluck a tender leaf and tear it apart to relish the pungent smell. Wild garlic, and the promise of summer...as well as a delicious pesto!
I'm always delighted to spot the first young, tender leaves of wild garlic of ramsons (Allium ursinum) popping up from the moist wood floor, often in tandem with the greater celandine. Soon a dense carpet will cover the wood, as wood anemones also flower, and later, just around before the bluebells appear in all their glory, the garlic will produce white flowers.
(With the longer days (Allium ursinum) can be found in ancient woodland in Ireland and Britain, and, according to what Wikipedia tells me, Europe as far as the Caucasus region.
DISCLAIMER: The reader is advised that they are responsible for their own safety in foraging. While foraging can be enjoyable and rewarding, it is essential to be fully knowledgeable about what one is doing. The leaves of a number of poisonous plants visually resemble wild garlic.
Wild garlic can be purchased from some farmers' market stalls and has also made an appearance in Irish supermarket Dunnes Stores.
Growing up in my parent's house, potatoes were (and still are) boiled every...single...day.
Farfalle? What's that? Sounds foreign! Rice? That's for dessert! Quinoa? Looks like some manner of pagan spawn!
We were (and they still are) a big household, and there were hangers-on of various descriptions who could turn up at dinnertime, whether they were hungry bachelors, exchange students, or farm-workers or some total randomer. No matter how many had been eating though there always seemed to be leftover potatoes every evening. I say evening...because dinner is in the middle of the day in rural Ireland...ask any Kerry politician!
One of the things my father does with the leftover "poppies", as he'd call them, is make "pandy". This involves peeling the potatoes, crushing them in butter or fat in a pan, then adding leeks or onions, as well as cheese and possibly fried bacon rasher bits. And even more butter of course to serve with lashings of salt and pepper.
You can also use freshly boiled potatoes and mash them to make pandy, which is more or less what is called "champ" in other parts of Ireland.
So, here is a basic recipe...which also tells you the best way to boil potatoes!
The variety of potato matters. You have to use "old" potatoes...not the new season waxy ones dug up over the summer. Kerr's Pink and Golden Wonders are the usual floury varieties here, British Queens also work well. But I'm using an organic potato from the local market. I don't know the name of the variety, but unlike most organic potatoes in the supermarket it turns out floury rather than soapy.
Wash the potatoes....annoying but neccessary. Unless you enjoy a pot of bubbling muck on your hob. Supermarket ones probably only need a quick wash.
Put them in a pot and add water nearly up to the top of the potatoes. Cover with a lid that fits if you can find one (I didn't quite) and bring to the boil.
When the potatoes are about 3/4 boiled (about 20 minutes in though this can vary) drain about a third of the water, then put back on the heat with the lid back on.
You'll know when the potatoes are done by the following signs: the skins will be cracking. Also, a knife will go cleanly through one of the big ones. Don't worry if they're a little bit sloppy though it's better they're not overdone and breaking apart all over the shop.
(I wonder who I should bet on for the Cheltenham Gold Cup? Presenting Percy again, or can Native River do it this time? What will the neighbours think though if I'm seen wandering into the bookie's? Ah feck....I've just overboiled the spuds! Well, they'll have to do!)
Drain the potatoes totally and put back on a low heat (such as the switched off but still hot hob) for a couple of minutes to dry out.
Chop a couple of leeks and fry in butter/oil until soft. You can also use an onion and fry it until golden. Chopped spring cabbage and kale can also be fried up with this mix.
Mash the hot potatoes with salt, pepper, and butter if desired. I also used a handful of wild garlic leaves. Don't overmash the potatoes: you just want to barely achieve a smooth texture.
If using leftover potatoes, peel them and crush them in hot butter/oil in a pan.
Now add the leek/onion/cabbage mixture and grated cheese to whatever potatoes you're using, whether the fresh mash or heated-up leftovers. You could also add peas and/or chopped parsley....whatever takes your fancy!
Mix to combine, and serve in a hot mound with a knob of foaming butter!
Note: for a vegan version, omit the butter or cheese (of course). Stick to good-quality olive oil for frying the vegetables.
If you want to dispose of the potato skins, a wolfhound pup is ideal.