The mighty Irish spud

Before I came to Ireland I knew potatoes were a big deal here. A lot of people in Ireland still eat potatoes with every meal. I’ve heard great stories about people eating a curry with a bowl of mash on the side.

At Ballyvolane, I serve potatoes with every dinner. It feels right, it feels Irish.

A common misconception would be to think that the Irish eat so many potatoes because there is nothing else to eat. That’s rubbish, I think it is simply because they taste so damn good. Now don’t get me wrong I have been a proud advocate of the British maris piper for years but I’ve had many problems sourcing good potatoes in the UK.

The Irish rooster is a thing of true beauty. It’s floury and yet holds together well and is therefore great for all the favourites. The flavour is delicious and add some Irish butter and you really do have something special.

My favourite way to cook a rooster is to simply chop it into cubes and roast it in herb infused rapeseed oil. The spud will soak up some of the oil whilst getting lovely crispy edges. It’s also incredibly simple!

Last night however, I combined it with some of my other favourite ingredients for the starter on my dinner menu.

Roast rooster potato gnocchi, Runner beans, Ballycotton crab & chive butter

Serves 4

For the gnocchi

4 large roosters

roughly 6 tablespoons of 00 flour or plain white flour

4 egg yolks

salt and pepper

Roast the potatoes in a 180oc oven under soft through. Once cooled enough to handle scoop out the potatoes and mash with a ricer or a fork if you prefer. Keep the skins, you can make delicious skins by putting them back in the oven with a little grated cheese!

Mix in your flour and then egg yolks one at a time. You don’t want to over work it as it will go rubbery. You’re looking for a firm dough. Roll into a sausage shape and then cut into individual pieces.

Now comes the bit I do differently to everybody else. Usually here, you could cook them in boiling water. I’ve never really liked this so I found my own way to cook the gnocchi. Add a little oil and a little butter into a medium heat frying pan. Brown the gnocchi on all sides and then transfer to the 180oc oven. If your pan has a plastic handle then don’t do this and transfer to a baking try instead. Cook for around 8 minutes until hot through so that the flour is all cooked out.

For the sauce

For the butter

225g unsalted Irish butter at room temperature

1 head of garlic

Handful of fresh chives

First you need to roast the garlic. Wrap the whole head in tin foil with a little oil. Roast until soft and then leave to cool. Slice the bottom off the garlic and squeeze out the flesh. Add into a food mixer with the butter and the chives and blend until really smooth. Season with salt and pepper

To finish

a big handful of runner beans – you want young beans which snap easily. Older beans will be stringy and the sides and will need to be removed.

Roughly 100g of fresh pre-cooked crabmeat

1 lemon

Top and tail the beans and slice thinly at an angle. Bring salted water to the boil. Add the beans. Once the water returns to the boil, remove the beans and refresh in ice cold water to keep the colour.

Now warm 4 heaped tablespoons of the the butter very gently with the runner beans. You don’t want to let this get to hot or the butter will split. Once warm, add the crab at the very last minute and a good squeeze of lemon. Poor over the hot gnocchi and tuck in!

Back in the UK you can buy them everywhere. They might be called red potatoes or red roosters and if you are lucky you’ll find some Irish ones!