Potato Champ is probably one of the most renowned dishes in Irish history, and is a real mainstay of Northern Ireland home across the land.
Thats not to say it isn't beloved in the south of Ireland, but it is prepared slightly differently, yet just as delicious as I will go through later in this article.
I would say having grown up on potato champ that it is a delicacy, and it is something I would make routinely in my kitchen when preparing any type of dish that required a mashed potato. If it can take scallions, then I would be all for it.
This recipe is one of the best uses of champ, and it takes the most iconic potato dish in potato Champ and puts it into a potato farl, yet another staple of the Irish potato diet.
The History of Potato Champ
I won't go into the potato famine of Ireland as I am sure most of you have heard about it in your time on this earth, other than to send you to this article covering it in detail in Wikipedia.
Before the blight though, Irish people predominantly lived on Potatoes as their main diets, with some often consuming over 6 pounds of potatoes a day.
Therefore it was not uncommon for people to come up with new and pleasing recipes to use up the potatoes that they had grown by their own hand.
Potato Champ was considered a dish that was made in bulk for the above reasons.
The potatoes were boiled in their skins before being left in a pot to steam in their skins.
The flesh was then scooped out and placed into a large pot, which would be placed in a hole dug to the same diameter as the pot. This was commonly called a pothole (yes, that one you all know and love).
It was mashed using a large piece of wood called a beetle. You would then add in the green vegetable of choice. In Potato Champs case, this was scallions (spring onions) but it other cases it would have been other greens instead (see Potato Champ Variants).
It was then put onto a plate, were a well was created in the centre of the potato, and either a large knob of churned butter was placed in it, or the butter was melted and poured in.
Potato Champ was born.
Salt & Pepper
1. Boil the potatoes in a pot until they are completely soft and a knife goes through easily.
Leave the potatoes to drain in there on skins, so they steam a little when left.
The next step is a controversial one; to put in the scallions raw, or slightly cooked. I like my Potato Champ fresh, so I put them into the mashed potato at the same time the potatoes are being mashed.
3. Speaking of which, scoop the potato flesh out of the potato skins, into the pot again, and add in the scallions.
4. Mash the potatoes and scallions with a potato masher, adding the milk to loosen the mix.
5. Add the Potato Champ to a plate, and serve with lashings of butter!
The History of Potato Farls
Naturally the history of the farl falls into the history we read above, in regards to the Irish Potato Famine.
Due to the climate of Northern Ireland especially, it gave way to allowing the growing of softer wheat in the fields, which led to an upsurge in yeast free bread making.
The flour derived from the wheat was then mixed with the mashed potato and then cooked in a circle on the pan.
Why a circle you ask?
Well, the meaning of farl, is quadrant, and each potato farl was a quarter of a potato pancake.
This comes from an old Scottish word fardel.
When the great famine came to Ireland and wiped out the potato crop, potato farls pretty much became extinct, which led to the creation of the soda farl, or as we would know it nowadays, Irish Soda Bread.
Speaking of nowadays, you will mostly find Potato Farls and Soda Bread on an Ulster Fry, the organ clogger of the North, and well worth a go if you haven't tried it yet!
My recipe for the above potato farls uses Potato Champ, and they are as delicious as the champ recipe is on its own.
Ingredients200g Mashed Potato<
100g Plain Flour
50g Butter, melted
Salt & Pepper to taste
1. Mix the champ ingredients together as directed in the above Potato Champ recipe.
2. Add in the flour and mix thoroughly.
3. Mix together, adding a little more flour if you need it, until it becomes a dough.
4. Roll it out flat into a circle on a floured surface, and cut it into quarters.
5. Add butter to a hot frying pan, and cook for 5-10mins on each side, or until it has browned.
Cook on both sides and then plate up this wonderful delicacy!
Potato Champ Variations
This is the easiest of variations, and also works with a very easy to grow vegetable, in kale or cabbage.
It is now mainly eaten in the Autumn/Winter time when Kale comes into season, and is a beloved Halloween dish for the kids.
Best eaten with boiled ham and all the trimmings.
This is a wonderful potato cake that was brought to us by the folks in Mayo and Sligo, along with a slew of other Irish counties, each with their own twist on this classic tale.
It is simply grated potato, with scallions and egg, fried in the pan, almost like a potato cake.
It is then cut into those quadrants (farls) and served with a fried egg on top.
Lets finish off this post with a look at one of the other types of bread covered in this article, Soda Bread, or as we have come accustomed, the Soda Farl!
Irish Soda Bread
An Irish staple, soda bread is just one of those luxuries we get to add to our Ulster Fries.
However, it is much more capable than that, making excellent toasting bread or one of my all time favourites, Paddy Pizzas.
450g/1lb plain white flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp sugar
300ml/10½fl oz of Greek Yogurt
This may seem a bit odd to some, but try adding raisins to the mix.
Also try half plain flour and half wholemeal flour, to get a wheaten bread equivalent!
1. For the soda bread, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
2. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar until well combined.
3. Gradually add the buttermilk a little at a time, mixing well until the mixture comes together as a soft dough. (NB: You may not need all of the buttermilk. Take care not to overwork the mixture.)
4. Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough very lightly in the bowl. Shape the dough into a loose ball and place onto a floured baking tray. Cut a deep cross into the top of the loaf using a sharp knife.
5. Transfer the soda bread to the middle rack of the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the bread has risen and is golden-brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. (Keep the oven on after you remove the bread.