There are no flies on those clever farmers, the Keoghs of North County Dublin. They may have been growing potatoes for over two hundred years, but behind the times they are not. And luckily they’re not exactly shy and retiring types either.
Not only are they way ahead of the posse when it comes to branding their produce (so vital to the success of Irish fruit & veg, or it’s just another commodity) but they’re bubbling over with bright ideas to promote the humble tuber. In fact they’re on a one-family mission to make us all realise what a fantastic vegetable it is.
Aside from growing about half a dozen types (including organic, and Selenium high anti-oxidant) and developing their own products, one of the Keoghs’ best ideas was National Potato Day, which they started successfully last summer. This year it falls right in the middle of this weekend’s Tall Ships Festival (Dublin, 23–26 August) but, far from letting competition from another event get them down, they decided to take their mission to town – so you can visit their marquee on the north quays over the weekend, and do your bit for the Irish spud!
And this great vegetable needs your help. The popularity of imported foods like rice and pasta means we’re eating less spuds these days, and the perception that potatoes are fattening doesn’t help; in fact they’re nourishing but virtually fat-free so, just like rice and pasta, it’s what you add to them that determines whether they’re a healthy option or not. To add insult to injury, this fantastically versatile crop is even in danger of be re-categorised as a starch, so it mightn’t even be called a vegetable any more!
Time to rally round the Keoghs so, and sign their petition to make it the official vegetable of Ireland. Unofficially it already is of course, as it’s so much a part of our history. So if you’re down at the Tall Ships Festival, drop into the Keogh’s marquee, where there are demonstrations showing the versatility of spuds and you can buy some of Keogh’s superb handmade crisps, or maybe an ‘I love spuds’ T-shirt or a tote bag, and sign the petition while you’re there. If you can’t make it, go to www.keoghs.ie and ‘embrace the potato’ online to help make it “Top of the Crops” in Ireland.
If you’re still not persuaded, think about what Tom Keogh of Keogh’s Farm has to say: “The next time you buy a bag of spuds, not only are you getting a great meal but you are supporting local Irish produce and business. Potatoes are low fat, suit all budgets, adaptable to all palates and a great source of vitamins and minerals – but most of all Irish Spuds are delicious!”
Our most traditional vegetable partners well with pork, which is our most traditional meat (the pig was probably the first domestic animal to be brought to Ireland) and also the most versatile, and perfectly suited to today’s speedy meals.
This delicious salad is great on its own or as a side dish, and would be especially moreish if served warm in colder weather. It’s easy to make and you can have it on the table in less time than it takes to get a takeaway delivered…
1 kg/ 2lb 3oz potatoes, eg Roosters
200g/7oz green beans, blanched
150g/6oz streaky Irish rashers, preferably free range dry-cured, thick-cut and diced
1 red onion, very finely chopped
2 tbsp oil – you could try an Irish oil, eg Donegal Rapeseed, instead of the usual olive oil
1 tbsp vinegar, eg natural Irish vinegar from The Apple Farm in Co Tipperary
1 tbsp Irish wholegrain mustard
Salt and black pepper
Peel the potatoes, cut into large even-sized cubes and put into a saucepan with just enough cold water to cover; salt lightly, bring to the boil and cook for about 5-7 minutes, or until just tender, then drain well.
Meanwhile, cook the diced rashers until crispy and until crispy.
Halve the green beans then blanch briefly in boiling water; refresh under the cold tap and drain well (other green vegetables, eg runner beans, mangetout or sprouting broccoli, could be used if preferred).
Place the potatoes, green beans, onion and bacon in a salad bowl.
Mix together the dressing ingredients; pour over the potatoes and serve warm or cold.