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One potato, two potato, three potato, four ... Celebrating the humble tuber.



Chips, crisps, hash-browns, baked potatoes, croquettes, mash, wedges – these are just some of the many ways you can turn the humble potato into something delicious to eat. So, it's no wonder that this modest little tuber should have a day all to itself. Potato Day celebrated this year on Friday, August 19, pays homage to this versatile vegetable that has been around for centuries!


Potatoes were first cultivated in regions of South America between 5000 and 8000 BC before spreading all over the globe to become one of the primary staple crops of many cultures and a favourite ingredient of global cuisines. There are literally thousands of different forms of preparation to be found in virtually every recipe book printed.


The potato is the fourth largest food crop worldwide, coming in after rice, wheat and maize, and is so nutritious that people can live off it for months at a time without having to supplement their diet with any other foods. In addition, it is cheap and tasty and forms a vital component of many of the world’s favourite foods!


For many, Potato Day is best celebrated by incorporating the vegetable into every dish prepared and eaten on the day: hash browns topped with a fried or poached egg for breakfast; a baked potato smothered in salty butter and topped with cheese for lunch; and a bowl of creamy mash to accompany those juicy sausages for dinner. And who doesn’t love a newspaper-wrapped parcel of slap chips to nibble on between meals?


Potato aficionados are becoming more inventive with their recipes and currently desserts made from the vegetable are bang on trend. Mashed potato truffles, for example, are not only delicious but simple to make and you need only four ingredients: leftover mash, vanilla extract, chocolate chips, and a coating of choice such as cocoa powder, finely chopped nuts or desiccated coconut (or all three!). To make, place the chocolate chips in a small microwaveable bowl and melt in the microwave at 50% power. When they have melted, stir in the mash, add the vanilla and stir well. Place the mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes and once firm, mould tablespoon-sized scoops with your hands, roll in your desired topping and refrigerate before serving.


More potato-themed recipe, courtesy Capsicum Culinary Studio alumnus Charmaine Lehabe and Capsicum Cape Town campus student Imtiyaaz Hart, follow.


Capsicum alumnus Charmaine Lehabe, who now runs her own catering company called The Squared Experience, was recently voted one of Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans.



Here she shares her recipe for Duchess Potatoes.


Ingredients

1kg potatoes

1½ tbsp kosher salt (½ tbsp separate)

60g Emmental cheese, finely grated

3 cloves garlic, minced

90g unsalted butter (split in half)

45ml fresh cream

4 large egg yolks

pinch of ground black pepper

1 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives


Method

Pre-heat oven to 185ºC and line a baking tray with baking paper.Peel potatoes and cut into cubes. Place the potatoes and 1 tbsp of the kosher salt in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer until the potatoes are very soft and can be easily pierced with a fork. When the potatoes are ready, drain through a colander. Place the empty pot back over medium heat and add 45g of butter. When the butter is melted, add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the cream, the remaining ½ tbsp kosher salt, and a pinch of black pepper and bring to a simmer then turn off the heat. Add the cooked potatoes and mash until smooth. Add the Emmental cheese and stir until melted. Add 4 large egg yolks and vigorously stir until they are fully incorporated. Transfer the potatoes into a large piping bag fitted with a star tip (alternatively, add to a large zip-top bag with the corner cut off). Pipe the potatoes into swirls on the wax paper-lined baking tray, 5cm apart. Place the remaining 45g of butter in a small bowl and microwave in 10-second intervals until completely melted. Brush over the tops of the potatoes and bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle over the chives and serve hot.


Imtiyaaz Hart is a student at Capsicum’s Cape Town campus. His deconstructed potato and egg currywill have you coming back for seconds as will his herb-infused stuffed gnocchi. Both recipes below.



Deconstructed Potato and Egg Curry


For the Potato Pavé


Ingredients

1kg russet potatoes

1 cup of heavy cream

4 tbsp unsalted butter

salt & pepper


For Frying

2 sprigs of thyme

2 garlic cloves (crushed with skin on)


Method

Pre-heat oven to 180ºc. Pour the heavy cream into a large bowl and add 1 tsp of salt and ½ tsp pepper. Wash and peel the potatoes, then place a mandolin slicer above the bowl of cream and slicing the potatoes lengthwise into very thin slices. If you do not have a mandolin slicer, slice the potatoes very thinly and drop them immediately into the cream to avoid browning. Brush the insides of a rectangular pan or loaf tin with half the softened butter, then brush the baking paper with the rest and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Start layering. Trim the potato slices so that they form an even layer on the base of the pan. Drop a few tiny cubes of butter and sprinkle salt and pepper over the base layer. Continue with the next layer by laying more potato slices in a direction that would best fill the pan. Continue layering, adding butter, salt and pepper after each two layers. Once completed, fold over the sides of the baking paper to cover the top and cover tightly with aluminium foil. Place into the oven and bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes or until tender when pierced with a skewer. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Cut a piece of thick cardboard slightly smaller than the size of the pan. Wrap the cardboard in aluminium foil (for hygienic purposes) and place it on top of the pave. Place some heavy jars/cans or other weights on top of the cardboard to apply pressure, making sure the weight is evenly distributed. Once cooled to room temperature, place it in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. To serve, run a palette knife around the two longer sides of the pavé to release it from the pan, or invert onto a cutting surface. Trim all sides and cut into 12 equal pieces and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.Heat canola oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes cut-side-down, add the thyme and the garlic, and cook, basting with the liquid in the pan, until browned on the first side, then turn carefully and brown the opposite side. Serve with a poached egg and curry sauce.


For the Curry


Ingredients

1 red onion, diced small

1 cinnamon stick

2 tsp fennel seeds

2 tbsp curry leaves

2 tbsp roasted Cape Malay curry powder

1 tbsp roasted hot masala

2 tsp ground cardamom (or 2 whole)

2 birds eye chillies, chopped

2 tbsp crushed garlic

1 can chopped tomatoes

50g tomato paste

2 tsp sugar

500ml stock/water

salt & pepper

oil for frying


Method

Heat the oil and fry the onions with the whole spices. Add the garlic and chillies and sauté for a further minute before adding the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and roasted spices. Cook for 2 minutes and season to taste. Strain and add blocks of butter in a saucepan and mix well. Serve with the potato pavé and a poached egg.




Herb-Infused Stuffed Gnocchi


Ingredients

700g mashed potatoes (about 4 medium sized russet potatoes)

2 large egg yolks

½ cup cake flour

½ cup bread flour

10g chopped herb of choice (I use basil)

125g basil pesto

¼ cup cream cheese

a pinch of salt

butter for frying


Method

Boil the potatoes with the skin on until tender. While still hot, remove the skins and mash, making sure there are no lumps. Lay the potatoes on a floured work surface and spoon over the egg yolks and herbs evenly. Season and sift over the flour and gently start working it until a dough forms. Try not to overwork it as you don't want it to develop too much gluten as this will result in a tough, chewy gnocchi. Portion and roll into a log. It should still be a bit sticky at this point. Flatten the log. Mix the cream cheese with 2 tbsp basil pesto and pipe onto flattened log, then fold over and seal. Cut into cubes and poke the pockets with your finger to create a well for the sauce once cooked. Place in a pot of salted boiling water and allow to cook for 1 minute. They will rise to the surface once ready. In a pan, melt the butter and fry the gnocchi. It should be crispy so allow it to sit and caramelise. Toss in basil pesto and finish with seasoning.