Let’s face it we’ve been blessed this year with a spectacular September. Yesterday, in Co. Kilkenny anyway, we had a day of persistent rain. That was followed by a huge announcement from nature this morning declaring ‘Autumn is here now’!! Crisp, but sunny….cold (I could see my breath for the first morning this season) ,and very fresh after the rain. It was bracing and at the same time promising. That’s what I like about Autumn. Autumn in the garden is the time the plants are ‘getting down to it’…nudge, nudge. This is the time nature plants, when the seeds hit the ground and find a place for themselves so they can reappear in the early winter or spring. In my vivid imagination, I like to think the leaves are turning their deep reds, purples and oranges to remind us we need to warm ourselves up….to follow their example and get the warmth into us. It’s also harvest time, so there is SO MUCH OUT THERE THAT A FOODIE LIKE ME HAS PALPITATIONS OVER WHAT I WANT TO PUT TOGETHER!! (Too much choice)….and there’s a new type of hunger, one where I feel we NEED to eat, not just play with fresh berries (divine as they are), or nibble on this and that. At the first sign of cold my body screams ‘FEED ME’, and the comfort food notions roll out.
There’s nothing new with what I conjured up today. I didn’t re-invent the wheel with what I made, but I did put together a few ingredients that sated both David and myself and set us up for a day of pottering in the garden and rejoicing in the change of season.
Floury potatoes, divine purple kale (from Sinead at the Kilkenny market), Smoked Black Forest Ham, Mature Cheddar Cheese, Scallions from the garden, a homegrown tomato from the greenhouse (I was very late getting the plants going , and was blessed with our Indian summer for a late crop . Thank you, Madelaine McKeever of Brown Envelope Seeds for the most flavour-filled tomato seeds this year), fresh eggs, and ground Wakame seaweed. (Just a little aside here. My facebook friends are probably sick of hearing me going on about using seaweed after having done Sally McKenna’s seaweed course. Her book ‘Extreme Greens’ really inspired me, but it was a subject I felt I needed to have explained to me in person, and I am so glad I attended the course in West Cork…extra bonus was the weather was divine!!
Sally is so passionate and knowledgeable about the subject of seaweed, and she took any hesistations I previously had, completely out of the equation by showing us all, literally, what the different seaweeds are, which part of the sea they reside in, when to harvest them, how each of them tastes, and how to use them. Living inland, I also (usefully) learned how to rehydrate different varieties, how to make savoury , spicy and citrus salts and even made bath bombs! The health properties of seaweed are endless, and it’s easy to incorporate them in our diets. I’m finding it really fun to see which seaweeds compliment other food flavours – they don’t have to dominate, but it’s more fun if you can feel they’re there, and that’s where seaweed gets really interesting. Seaweeds tend to make the eater more aware of texture in their food as they eat them…well, that’s my theory, and anyone who eats my food knows I love texture…so many people forget about it when they cook.)
So back to satisfying those Autumnal cravings…In Ireland we reach straight for the potatoes to comfort ourselves, and that’s exactly what I did. I have to say I’m not obsessed with floury potatoes like a lot of Irish people are. It depends on what’s on the menu for which variety of potato I will use, but In this case, for potato cakes, a floury potato is precisely what is best. I peeled and steamed about 600 grams of Rooster potatoes, and just before they finished cooking I placed some purple kale on top to steam for a couple minutes(saves on the washing up!!). Remove any large stalks from the kale leaves first, I used about 2 cups of leaves. Remove the leaves and then roughly chop them. Press the steamed potatoes through a potato ricer,and stir a good knob of butter into them. Add the chopped kale and the sautéed onions I forgot to tell you about! ( I finely chopped a medium sized onion and gently sautéed it in 2 oz. Butter until it was soft). Stir in 2 oz. Grated Mature Cheddar cheese, aTablespoon of ground, dried Wakame, a couple slices of smoked ham, chopped, 3 or 4 Scallions, finely chopped and an egg yolk and then bring the mixture together with some plain flour. I used about a half cup..but it will depend on your potatoes. Flour your hands and your work surface and shape the potato mixture into 1/2″ thick cakes. Coat them in a dusting of flour and then fry them gently over a medium heat in rapeseed or other oil, or if you happen to have some duck or goosefat then your really rocking. (Both are excellent for frying potatoes). Cook until golden brown on both sides. Place on a baking tray top with a little more grated cheese, and keep warm while you poach or fry an egg to put on top.
Garnish with chopped tomato, preferably homegrown and sweet and savour.
Savour being the perfect word, as this week is Savour Kilkenny week (our food festival). I’ll be doing tastings of my sauces in both The Little Green Grocer (Saturday afternoon), and Glasrai &Goodies (on Sunday). Do drop in to see us. I will also have a heartwarming casserole on offer in Grogan and Brown Artisan Butchers in Loughboy on Saturday, and the recipe will be blogged here so you can try it for yourself ;-).
600 grams steamed floury potatoes, 2 cups steamed and chopped kale leaves, 2 oz butter, 1 medium onion finely chopped , few slices smoked ham, chopped , 2 oz grated Mature Cheddar Cheese, 1 tablespoon ground Wakame seaweed, 3 or 4 chopped Scallions, Diced Homegrown Tomato. =A happy tummy 😉