I would have to say what I love most about Irish food is its honesty. Many of the most well-known dishes consist of a mere handful of ingredients, are rustically prepared and yet deliver the most comforting satisfaction. Until I began to travel to Ireland I did not realize the wealth of natural food sources at their disposal. Seafood such as salmon and mussels, meats including mutton, lamb and beef as well as a wealth of produce abound. I’ve had beautiful meals in Ireland that are only topped by the charming company of the locals.
Surely some of my favorites are those involving potatoes. Boxty, Colcannon and Champ are stars in my book. Boxty is a type of potato pancake. Colcannon is a mashed potato dish that includes kale and scallions leaving the potatoes green in tint. The flavors are springy without any overbearing flavor of the kale.
Champ is a kissing cousin of Colcannon. Potatoes steamed and passed through a ricer to keep them light in texture are combined with scallions simmered in milk and a nice amount of butter (not too much). The flavor is sublime. They have a slightly sweet flavor from the scallions steeped in the milk that tastes like fresh greens of spring.
Like Colcannon, Champ has long roots in Irish history. These were very inexpensive recipes to make as the ingredients were able to be locally grown even in the worst of soil or colder conditions. The filling dishes were a perfect choice during more trying financial times, pair with almost any available protein or may be enjoyed on their own. In Northern Ireland the scallions are swapped out for peas for an equally delicious version.
Though I’m choosing to share this before St. Patrick’s Day, Champ is traditionally served at Halloween. It often includes a coin wrapped in waxed paper and the lucky diner who finds it in their serving is said to have good luck for the next year!
Irish Potato Champ
- 3 pounds (approximately 8 medium) Yukon Gold Potatoes
- 1 ½ bunches Scallions (green spring onions), white and light green portions chopped
- ½ cup Milk
- 4-6 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter , room temperature
- Kosher Salt and Ground Black Pepper to taste
- Peel the potatoes and steam them until the center is cooked through (approximately 20 minutes). Alternatively the potatoes may be boiled just until soft, drained and returned to the heat to dry before processing them further.
- Preferred method of mashing is to put the potatoes through a potato ricer which keeps them light and airy. Alternatively a traditional masher may also be used though typically makes the potatoes more dense when mashed.
- Combine the scallions and milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Pour the mixture along with 4-6 tablespoons of the butter (to taste; more butter will melt on the top when served) into the potatoes and stir in to fully combine. Salt and pepper as needed.
- When served add small pats of butter (from the remaining 2 tablespoons) to the top of each serving. Serve hot.