The incomparable John Thorne provided this American with an introduction to champ, an Irish mashed potato dish made with greens cooked in milk. The recipe can be found in Pot on the Fire, which I recommend for general reading about food and food history.

This came out fantastic the first time around, and it’s very simple to make. Take 3 “all-purpose” potatoes (I used Yukon Gold), peel them and put them in a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon sea salt in 1/2 cup water and pour that over the potatoes. Cover, bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes or until the water is gone and the potatoes cooked through. This is not simple (Thorne writes that it will take several tries until you figure out the right proportion of water to potato) – in my case, I ended up raising the heat, cooking for an extra 10 minutes, then adding another 1/4 cup water, boiling again, and cooking for another 4-5 minutes. Much depends on the size of the potato.

Remove from heat and crush potatoes in your fingers until fully mashed and all lumps are gone. Return to pot and cover.

Meanwhile mince 4 scallions – the whole thing including all of the green stalk that isn’t wilted – sprinkle lightly with salt, pour boiling water on top, and drain. Add minced scallions to 1/2 cup milk and gently bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes so that the milk has absorbed the scallion flavor.

Now put the flame to low under the potato pot, and gradually add the scallion milk, beating with a wooden paddle until luscious and creamy. Add more milk if necessary (I added a splash), as well as generous amounts of salt and freshly ground pepper.

Serve immediately with butter at the table. Can be a main course or side.

2 thoughts on “Champ”

  1. That’s mad. I’m sure I posted this on the mbb already, in conversation with tinobeat. But to recap.

    Use floury spuds rather than all-purpose. Floury spuds are the true spuds of Irish cooking. Cut them into small-ish pieces, say about the size of a golf ball. Doesn’t matter how much water you use, just boil (no need to simmer) them until when you poke them with a fork, they don’t resist. I actually steam them, as there’s less potential for them becoming waterlogged.

    Drain and use a masher. No need for your fingers, though a rough consistency is usually favoured.

    Sautée the scallions in butter ’til they’re soft, and tip into the mashed spuds. Then add milk ’til it’s a dollopy consistency (not a dropping consistency – you want it firmer than that).

    And that’s Irish champ, not American champ 😉

    Go Welsh and sub leeks for scallions. Well tasty.

  2. ps I wouldn’t tend to chop the scallions so finely, sliced into 2-3mm lengths is fine. The texture is all part of the dish.

    Also you are going to have to try making boxty… Plenty of recipes out there, just avoid the ones that call for a mix of raw and cooked potato. The best boxty is made with raw spuds.

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