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All hail the ‘tato

While carb dodging influencers have left the humble potato in their wake over the past couple of years, we take a look at this stoic food staple and champion it’s everyday uses that are slowly starting to appear on those trendy hipster menus.
The thing is, we are sometimes too busy chasing the exotic new food trends that we overlook the satisfying integrity of what’s already right in front of us. Yes a proper Mexican molé, an authentic Vietnamese pho, or a correct XLB dumpling can be a thing of beauty, but don’t you dare try to take away the brilliance of a properly well-baked potato.
A knob of butter is the classic start, sure, but in todays climate you need to seriously up the ante. A slow braise of beef shin ought to do the trick, or partner with any smoked barbecue meats such as pulled pork, brisket, chicken or ribs.
Mash is another, almost comical basic food item that screams of school dinners of a bygone era. However, some of the old school pie and mash shops have clung onto a loyal customer following. Mash is actually a golden ingredient, but its make-or-break status is in the hands of what it is served with. A well-made pie with a buttery crust and a well-lubricated filling can be equally at home in an east London hole in the wall, or a Michelin touting restaurant up the Thames. Liqueur is always going to help round things out and kind of highlights just what is so special about mash; its ability to absorb surrounding flavours. Perhaps we could look to Joel Robuchon for the perfect mash recipe, who famously uses an equal amount of butter to potato in his recipe.
Cool brunch spots have started to revive the classic champ and colcannon, invigorating basic mash with shredded spring onion or cabbage respectively. The savvy among you will know this is a great way to pimp up basic plates of bangers and mash, and bring a little more interest to your menu descriptions. Those in the know will also be able to confirm that champ is the potato dish of kings.
As new potatoes come bang into season, they seem to deliver a smarter, more acceptable starchy carb on the plate (the sort of potato that wouldn’t dream of wearing jeans to a casual engagement). Some of the greatest new potato dishes to be found are in Northern Ireland. The variety farmed called Come Earlies are ready a few weeks before most other crops and have a bright light flavour to them and work beautifully slicked with a rich salty butter and finely shredded spring onions. The simple setup will of course empower other new potato varieties, but Northern Ireland is arguably where the benchmark has been set.
It’s a remarkable, yet unsung hero of the food calendar, but the humble potato is one of the most powerful ingredients in the pantry. The cornerstone to any great British meal, we have a lot to thank this little tuber for, and a duty to celebrate it in every way we can.