For me the potato is the best comfort food in the world. I just love this starchy little tuber. They are inexpensive and delicious, not to mention nutritious. To my knowledge potatoes are the world’s fourth largest food crop, and they are an integral part of much of the world’s food supply and over a thousand potato cultivars exist in the world.
Potatoes contain Protein, Fat Carbohydrates, Fiber, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc, Copper, Manganes, Selenium, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, A, E, K1 and beta-Carotene, to name but a few of the good things. Sadly not everyone can eat potatoes as part of their diet for health reasons like diabetes, where one is limited and restricted. I am one of the lucky ones that can eat as many potatoes as I wish, and boy do I ever. I love them prepared in so many ways, oven baked until the skin is crisp and the centers are fluffy and soft, being one. I then slice them in half as soon as they leave the oven and spoon chunks of butter into the center of the fluffy flesh and then stir it in, dust with lots of salt and pepper and tuck in while the butter melts. I love them roasted, fried, sautéed, boiled or steamed.
An important thing to note is how important it is to store potatoes correctly. Keeping them in a dark place is imperative. I never even remove them from the brown paper pocket, because it keeps them dry and in the dark. Never eat green potatoes, as they are toxic. Potatoes should be firm, well-shaped and relatively smooth, and should be free of decay that often manifests as wet or dry rot. In addition, they should not be sprouting or have green coloration, since this indicates that they may contain the toxic alkaloid solanine that has been found to not only impart an undesirable taste, but can also cause a host of different health conditions such as circulatory and respiratory depression, headaches and diarrhea.
The beauty of the potato is that they are available year-round, as they are being harvested somewhere every month of the year. If you must peel your potatoes, do this carefully with a vegetable peeler and only remove a thin layer of the skin so that you retain the nutrients that lie just below the skin.
In the early days many judged potatoes with suspicion since they were not mentioned in the Bible. In fact, potatoes initially had such a poor reputation in Europe that many people thought eating them would cause leprosy. Well I am not superstitious and I eat potatoes daily, and I don’t need much reasoning beyond loving them.
Savoury potato, roasted pepper and mushroom cake
Serves 4 – 6
For Edward Finn, my mad and adorable Irish friend, who would treat this as birthday cake he loves potatoes so much. Eddy the Tuber, I can understand how the Irish survived on potatoes!
1kg peeled and cubed potatoes
300g white button mushrooms, sliced
4 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup cream
½ teaspoon English mustard powder
3 eggs beaten
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
4 red peppers, quartered, roasted and peeled
500g wilted spinach, well drained
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
Extra sliced onion, for topping
Cover the potatoes and cook till soft in lightly salted water; drain, mash and keep warm.
Heat half the butter in a frying pan and cook the mushrooms without salt; remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
In the same pan heat the remaining butter till it foams and add the onions; cook without salt till they are lightly golden, then remove from the pan.
In the same pan add the garlic, cream and English mustard. Warm gently – do not boil – and scrape all the flavour off the bottom of the pan.
Mix together the potatoes and mushrooms, beaten egg and cream mixture, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Spread one layer of mash onto the bottom of a well-buttered oven-proof dish and cover with the roasted peppers. Cover the peppers with the spinach and the remaining mash, and smooth down. Sprinkle the cheese over the top, arrange sliced onion over that and dot with a little extra butter.
Bake in the oven at 200°C for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and golden.
Cut into portions and serve with a gorgeous big green salad of baby gem lettuce, rocket, red onion and Parmesan shavings, dressed with nice, tart vinaigrette.
Tip: This is a superb light vegetarian lunch, or it can be as a side dish with meat, chicken or fish.
© Jenny Morris…Cooking with Jenny Morris 2011-2015